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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

127 Hours had audiences glued to the screen, in agony over the main character’s, Aron Ralston, plight. We were in awe at the expansive landscapes and feeling cramped in the crack. This biographical film about an American mountaineer who spent more than five days trapped between two boulders in Utah shows us the best and the worst of the Great American landscape.

Canyonlands National Park, where the film unfolds, is one of the most spectacular American parks for mountaineering, climbing and white water rafting. The park is full of colourful canyons, mesas, buttes and history, great for exploring on foot or by 4-wheel drive.

The closest city to the park is Moab, a mecca for outdoorsy adventurers and often times the departure point for tours and expeditions into Canyonlands. There are flights to Moab from London with Lufthansa, Continental and United Airlines.

Top things to see/do in Canyonlands

islands in the sky

Island in the Sky – an awe-inspiring place to really see the landscape. Island in the Sky is a rock mesa which rests on sandstone cliffs more than 300m above the ground. It’s the easiest spot to access for short-term trips. It is a 40 minute drive from Moab. Suitable for both long and short hikes.


Needles – this part of the park is famous for its sandstone spires. There is an extensive network of trails which range from one hour, full day and even multiple days to complete. The best lookout is from Big Spring Canyon Overlook and if you want a closer look at the Needles, head to Chesler Park.


Maze – as the park’s most remote and difficult district, it’s best to be prepared for anything when venturing all the way out here. It requires more time to visit and more than average hiking, climbing and survival skills. Plan 3+ days to visit the Maze. Canyons are difficult to navigate without the proper maps, so come prepared!

horeshoe canyon art

Horseshoe Canyon – home to the biggest collection of rock art (both pictographs and petroglyphs) in North America, called the Great Gallery. In spring, it’s lush with wild flowers and blooming cottonwood groves. Artefacts recovered from the canyon date back to 7000 BC when Paleoindians hunted mammoths.

But please, do us all a favour and tell someone your route, when you are going and when you plan to be back. It is strongly not recommended to take on trails in isolated areas on your own.

If you wish to camp overnight, permits are required unless you stay the night in a designated camp ground.

Want to hear Aron Ralston’s first-hand account of the story? Read it in his book Between a Rock and a Hard Place or just see the film. What did you think of the film?


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