Guide to the Maze Canyonlands NP

Ben Egbert

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Staff member
Driving the Maze

Canyonlands is divided into three districts:

  • Island in the Sky
  • The Needles
  • The Maze
This trip guide concerns only the Maze. The Maze is by far the least visited section. It has no paved roads and the most interesting places require high clearance 4WD with 4LO. I also suggest adding a locking rear differential if you don’t already have one. A lift of 2-4 inches is also a good idea.

I would never go in alone, a second vehicle is good insurance if your vehicle breaks down or need a tow. Carry tow straps. You also need a spotter and walkie talkies, although the ones I brought were not very reliable.

You will spend most of each day driving so one night at a campsite is pretty short. Next time I will stay 2 nights at the more interesting places.

Bring extra gas, I carried (2) 5-gal jerry cans and needed at least one. I averaged 10.2 MPG in this area when I normally get 16-17.

There are about 30 campsites spread out over the Maze and all require permits which can be obtained 4 months prior to the visit. There is a three car limit per camp site and some only have one campsite.

My list of the most interesting locations in the Maze are in descending order:

  • The Doll house, with 3 camp sites. This is by far the most difficult drive as well.
  • Ekker Butte, with 1 camp site. I am not sure I like the Doll house better.
  • Panorama Point with 1 camp site.
  • The Maze overlook with 2 camp sites.
You are required to have some form of portable toilet and carry your waste out. No pets allowed, even in your vehicle. Don’t be afraid, I am an 80 YO moderately experienced off road driver and made it too all the places listed above over a 4 day trip that was 236 mile from Hanksville to Hanksville, all but 100 miles of that off road. I had no real problems. It just takes a lot of planning.

I printed my own maps from Google maps with the GPS coordinates of each intersection. I also bought a full set of Geological survey maps which I marked for roads.

I have put together a short video showing how I set up my Toyota Tundra pickup for this trip.






In addition to what is shown, I also had air lockers installed to lock the rear differential. I used it numerous times and it was essential on three occasions when I was otherwise stuck.

Here is a video of my Truck crossing a sand wash in which I got stuck until I found the right switch for the lockers. Note how easy I drove out after the lockers were engaged.

Driving across a sand wash in Teapot Canyon.




Here is a link to a NP website that shows a map of the area and times to reach each camp site from Hans Flat Ranger station. Be aware these times are pretty accurate, 2-3 MPH for long stretches is normal.

The Maze and Orange Cliffs Unit (nps.gov)

Get your permit here. I suggest being on the web site at midnight exactly 4 months before your desired date.

Canyonlands National Park Overnight Backcountry Permits, Canyonlands National Park - Recreation.gov



Here are some videos I put together from this trip to show what each place looks like.

Panorama Point



The Doll House


The Maze overlook


Ekker Butte


https://youtu.be/9Jgy-QiUiWA


Here is a public video I found on Youtube that shows the drive from the Doll House to the Maze overlook. There are many more but I thought this one the most informative.

The Maze District, Part 4 - Dollhouse to Maze Overlook - YouTube
 
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JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
This is a very informative travel guide Ben! I might have to look at getting my Jeep raised a couple of inches, as that looks like a fun area to explore and photograph.

So, with just my unraised 4x4 what needs the best place I could go in the Maze would you think?
 

Ben Egbert

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Staff member
As is, I would stay away from the Doll House and teapot Canyon. You could do Panorama Point, And Ekker Butte. Does your Jeep have lockers? If so a lift is all you would need to do the Doll house. Do you have good off road tires? That's another consideration.
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
I would add one item to the NPS guide for things you should have along - a bar of soap. If you puncture a gas tank on the rocks you can smash the soap bar into the hole and the soap will expand to plug the leak. We had to do that on one of our UofU vehicles that we were using for transport to the trailhead that led to the archaeological site we were excavating.
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
As is, I would stay away from the Doll House and teapot Canyon. You could do Panorama Point, And Ekker Butte. Does your Jeep have lockers? If so a lift is all you would need to do the Doll house. Do you have good off road tires? That's another consideration.
Thanks Ben. I don’t have Lockers, but I have the 2nd best off road tires there are, so I am good there.
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
Thanks Ben. I don’t have Lockers, but I have the 2nd best off road tires there are, so I am good there.
Pack some extra fuel. Once you leave UT24 the distances can be highly deceiving when you are staring at maps trying to plan out round trip distances.
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
Hi Jim. Here's a video of a stock Jeep Cherokee making the trip down the Flint Trail to the Dollhouse.
That's a good way to get in some serious trouble out there. That vehicle is not properly prepared for that kind of off road driving and a very good reason why you need to be thinking about where things like your fuel tank is located. He didn't appear to have a skid plate and was dragging his undercarriage in several points during that video.

So do you think Jim could do the Doll house?
No. He'd be fine from UT24 out to the Maze overlook/trailhead but as a solo driver in an unmodified Cherokee my own thinking is that the Doll House would not be a prudent path at all.
 

rfkiii

Well-Known Member
So do you think Jim could do the Doll house?
Sure if he doesn't mind scraping bottom and extending the trip by multiple hours and possibly getting stuck. It doesn't cost that much to get a 3" lift (about half a camera) or even lockers especially if you already have the tires. A winch might be a good item to have if he is thinking of doing this alone.

Lifting a Cherokee

My philosophy before and after the trip was/is to outfit my vehicle so that it renders the trail relatively harmless. That's become pretty expensive but it will open up more trails to me like Elephant Hill to Chesler Park or Lockhart Basin. I won't ever be doing rock crawling or wheeling like these crazy fools https://www.youtube.com/c/LiteBrite/videos but I think I'll be able handle any trails the National Parks will throw at me.

My FJ has lockers built in. It had an off road package when I bought it. I didn't even know about this until last year when we discussed it and you suggested that I read the manual. :) I have a 5 1/2 lift and 35" tires and will soon have 37" tires. I am waiting on a part to come in to regear for these larger tires.
 
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