Southwest Adventures: Canyonlands National Park, Utah

BEST: SPRING AND FALL, ON LOW HEAT

Whoever named the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park had a meager imagination. This 30-square-mile puzzle of sandstone canyons, located 46 miles from the nearest paved road, is one of the lower 48's most inaccessible destinations. Only 4,000 people per year venture here. And that's the beauty of it: unmitigated solitude. Pack a week's worth of dehydrated Alpine Aire, park two miles past the Hans Flat Ranger Station, where backcountry permits are available ($15; 435-259-4351), and hike 14 miles to the Maze Overlook. From there, a scramble down the slickrock canyon puts you in the heart of the Maze. The only water comes from unpredictable springs at the bottom of the canyons, so consult a ranger and go south on whichever of the five trails he recommends. Four of them rise up to the Land of Standing Rocks, where a six-mile detour leads to a vantage point overlooking the Colorado River, 1,200 feet below.

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