Access and Resources
ANNUAL VISITS: 367,078 (high: May, 58,935; low: January, 4,093)
CONTACT: 435-719-2100, www.nps.gov/cany
MILES FROM NEAREST MAJOR AIRPORT: 110 (Grand Junction, Colorado)
DON'T MISS: Melonsjuicy, sweet, and the preferred late-summer thirst quenchergrown around the town of Green River, off I-70.
GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
ANNUAL VISITS: 85,000
(high: April, 13,088; low: December, 927)
CONTACT: 435-564-3633, www.stateparks.utah.gov
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK RENAISSANCE FUNHOGS, BRACE YOURSELVES: This trip, combining three days of MOUNTAIN BIKING with five days of WHITEWATER RAFTING on the Colorado River, may be the tastiest pairing since chocolate and cabernet. It takes you straight into the heart of Canyonlands' high-desert rock garden, defined by the goosenecking canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers and an almost hallucinogenic symphony of spires, buttes, mesas, hoodoos, fins, arches, and slickrock. Phase one: a two-wheeled thrill ride on most of the 100-mile White Rim Trail, a celebrated track that requires a four-wheel-drive support vehicle to tote food and gear. Aim counterclockwise, along the Green River in the Island in the Sky district, and take a side trail at Lathrop Canyon or Potash to your prearranged meeting with your rafting guides. Here you embark on phase two: epic Southwest whitewater. A few miles below the confluence of the Green and the Colorado roars Cataract Canyon, a chain of about 25 Class IIIV rapids that some claim trump those in the Grand Canyon, at least in the high-water months of May and June. O.A.R.S. Moab guides raft trips ($1,227, return flight from Lake Powell included; 800-342-5938, www.oars.com/htdocs/utah).
GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK
Now for the soft side of your adventure: NARROWS HIKING. While you might feel hoodooed out, you'll be awestruck anew by the whimsical sandstone gargoyles and skull-shaped gremlins of this state park. Goblin Valley, less than two hours from Canyonlands via U.S. 191, I-70, and U.S. 24, noses up to the southern end of the San Rafael Swellan oval-shaped 3,000-foot fold of sandstone and shale wedged onto the northern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The land is so fantastic that it's siphoning Moab loyalistsfast. These are the salient geological features: a 75-mile-long by 30-mile-wide rock dome, riddled with red-wall canyons, which meets a reef, a ring of nearly vertical eroded strata studded with slot canyons. Your hike into this alien land: the seven-mile Ding and Dang Loop, which in some sections carves through the reef via a slot that's only as wide as a person. There's plenty of scenic camping to be had all along the swellif you travel light and can squeeze your backpack through the narrows. A more comfortable alternative is to do the route as a day hike and then set up your tent at the park's 24-site campground (for reservations, call 800-322-3770).