After exploring Arches National Park for five days and hiking the majority of its trails, it was time to hit the road and head to Canyonlands National Park. There are three main districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze. With only a couple days, we decided to focus on Island in the Sky, the most easily accessible. There is one campground in the district: Willow Flat Campground (also referred to as Island in the Sky Campground, but that’s kind of boring).
It was our intention to backpack in Island in the Sky. But we looked for backcountry campsites too late, and most of the good ones were already taken. Also, once in the park, we decided we’d rather explore a bit before jumping into backpacking. With that in mind, we wanted to stay one night at Willow Flat.
Island in the Sky…that is what we are
After driving into the park, we made a quick stop at the Visitor Center in hopes that a backcountry site had opened up. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), none had, so we headed to Willow Flat. It’s a small first-come, first-served campground, with only 12 sites. We usually reserve campsites ahead of time, but this time, we winged it (though we made sure to arrive early). And…it turned out fine. There were 3-4 sites available when we got there at 10:20 am.
We grabbed site 8 for only $15/night. Thankfully we had some cash on us. Each campsite has the usual amenities – fire pit and picnic table – as well as a nice ramada which provided some shade. You can’t go wrong with any campsite, but it’s worth noting that site 6 is accessible (ADA) and reserved at all times for people with disabilities only.
Willow Flat has few amenities. There’s no water available, but the nearby visitor center does have potable water. We brought plastic water jugs just in case too. The campground has two pit toilets, and thankfully they were clean. While setting up our tent, we noted how scenic the campground is. Afterward, we headed out to hike.
Later that day, we relaxed at our site and enjoyed the surrounding beauty. We didn’t have any firewood to cook dinner (you’ll need to bring your own, as it’s not sold in the campground), so we relied on some dehydrated meals we had brought for backpacking. After dinner, we headed a short distance down the road to Green River Overlook. The view from the overlook is spectacular, and I recommend it even if you’re not staying at the campground.
Back at our campsite, we got ready for bed. The campground was so quiet and peaceful. In the morning, we scavenged for breakfast, and then packed up. At this point, the campground was full – some other visitors arrived and asked if they could take our spot. I guess we got lucky the previous day. Even though we only stayed one night in Willow Flat, we really enjoyed it and would have loved to stay longer. It’s a perfect place for exploring the park. And it certainly beat driving in from Moab every day.
Willow Flat Campground | 12 Campsites
Date Visited: March 29, 2018
Location: 10 miles from the park’s main entrance (Google Maps Directions)
Amenities: Fire Pits & Barbecues | Picnic Table | Ramada | Vault Toilets | Trash and Recycling (Note: Firewood is NOT sold here)
Dates Open: Year Round (Most popular spring through fall)
Prices: $15/night for individual tent campsite (bring cash or check). You can also pay with credit card at the visitor center, if open.
Reservations: None. All sites are first-come, first-served.
Highlights: Views, Located in the Park
Best Sites: You can’t go wrong with any site.
Notes: No potable water. Check-out time is 10:00 am. Campsite #6 is ADA and reserved at all times for people with disabilities only.