SPECIAL REPORT Uncrowded and unforgettable

Dramatically eroded from 527 square miles of colorful southeastern Utah sandstone by the Colorado and Green Rivers, rugged and remote Canyonlands is a geologic wonder. The park is sliced into four districts, of which the Island in the Sky, an elevated mesa, is the most accessible - you can view the canyon floor 2,200 feet below through Mesa Arch, or gaze into Upheaval Dome from atop kid-friendly Whale Rock. How you explore the rest of this rugged park - by foot, mountain bike, or raft - will be determined by your stamina and sense of adventure.

WHERE: The Island in the Sky district is 35 miles southwest of Moab via U.S. 191 and State 313.

WHEN: Open year-round; the weather is best in spring and fall.

COST: $10 per vehicle.

SERVICES: There's a visitor center in the Island in the Sky district (435/259-4712). Limited camping on a first-come, first-served basis at Willow Flat ($5). Nearby Moab has a full range of motels and eateries; contact the Grand County Travel Council (800/635-6622 or www.discovermoab.com).

ACTIVITIES: The easy 1/2-mile round-trip hike to Mesa Arch, located on the eastern lip of the mesa, begins 6 miles south of the Island in the Sky visitor center. Bulbous Whale Rock - a towering sandstone formation longer than a football field that kids can scamper across - and its 1/2-mile access trail are a 5-mile drive west of the Mesa Arch parking lot.

CONTACT: (435) 719-2100 or www.nps.gov/cany.

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