Ah, Canyonlands National Park, in a state full of state and national parks, this one should be at the top of your list. Set in remote southeastern Utah, Canyonlands is divided into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers. Yes, that’s rivers – plural. Thousands of years ago, the Green River and the Colorado River were carved deep through the rock layers formed here, creating the canyons that the park is known for today. This geologic masterpiece is stunning. However, most visitors only get to visit one district, The Island in the Sky, which is most accessible via road. On a river or bike trip, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the park from a whole new perspective (or perspectives, if you join us for a bike & raft combination trip).
So, what’s the best way to experience Canyonlands?
If you ask us, we’ll tell you that an immersive experience in the backcountry with fully supported logistics is the best choice! Read on to find the perfect trip for you. All of our trips are professionally guided. We handle the timelines, camping logistics, and the menu, leaving you free to explore and enjoy the best of Canyonlands by river or bike.
Colorado River Rafting through Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. 5 or 6 days. May – Sept.
Cataract Canyon. A fellow guide turned to me once and said, “we’re in God’s country, now.” And whether you’re religious or not, you can’t deny the grandeur of this canyon, and the stretches of calm, flat water leading up to it. Holiday River Expeditions got its start in 1966 with Dee and Sue Holladay’s first commercial trip through Cataract Canyon. To this day, we’re the only company still running it without motors. Spend the first few days listening to the gentle rhythm of your guides’ oars propel you downstream. Or take matters into your own hands on an inflatable kayak or stand-up paddle board. We’ll stop to hike to stunning overlooks, and learn the history of the indigenous peoples who have called these canyons home for thousands of years. Just as you’re getting settled into river life, we’ll approach the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers and see the “Danger Hazardous Rapids 2 Mi!” sign (a worthy photo op). Welcome to Cataract Canyon, where thrill seekers and daredevils come to play. But don’t worry, your professional guides are well prepared to give you the ultimate ride. All you have to do is just hold on! Back when the Lake Powell Reservoir was full, the lake filled all the way up to the last major rapid. But these days, as the Colorado River is re-emerging, there are ‘new’ returning rapids every year. Not to mention exciting side canyons that are recovering after years buried under the water of Lake Powell. This trip has it all – the hikes, the history, the whitewater.
Mountain Biking Trip on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. 3 or 4 days. Spring & Fall.
What’s better than kicking back with a refreshing evening beverage after a gourmet dinner? Throw in a stunning desert sunset backdrop, and relax a little harder, knowing your full day of pedaling has brought you here. Named for the large section of White Rim Sandstone the trail winds across in the Island in the Sky District, this ride is widely considered a bucket list experience for mountain bikers of all skill levels. Sure, some people can bike the 86 mile trail in a day, but we take a slower approach so you can really bask in your time out here. Our three and four day White Rim Trips allow for full days of biking, fully catered meals, luxury camping, and optional side rides or hikes to steep canyon overlooks and indigenous cultural sites. You’ll bike alongside one of our guides, while the other drives our rugged 4×4 cargo van – top off on cold water or gatorade and pedal away carefree, knowing that all your camping goodies will be waiting for you at camp. Each day we’ll break up the biking with several breaks. Take the opportunity to stretch your legs and hike to see the Goosenecks of the Colorado River Overlook, Musselman Arch, Monument Basin, Vertigo Void, an Ancestral Puebloan Granary, and the Fort Bottom tower, to name just a handful! The White Rim Trail began as a Jeep track, and boasts flowing doubletrack, fun descents, and just a couple steep climbs!
Combine the White Rim Trail with Cataract Canyon for the Ultimate Adventure. 7 days. Spring & Fall.
Sometimes one perspective just isn’t enough. That’s why we offer our signature Combo Bike/Raft trips! Start off pedaling your bike down the Shafer Trail on the White Rim. A rolling descent eases you into 65 miles of biking over the next three days. Ride the White Rim Trail all the way down to the Green River, where you’ll ditch your bike for a ride on one of our 18 foot rafts. Take a day to relax on the raft and recover from your pedaling as you take in the vistas of Stillwater Canyon. After a day of lounging, get ready for action! Hold on tight and cheer as your guides expertly navigate Class III & IV rapids: Brown Betty, Ben Hurt, the Big Drops, and Imperial. As the rapids come to an end, we’ll spend the last day or so floating through Narrow Canyon, an area of constant change as this hidden gem emerges from the receding Lake Powell. If you only have one week to give to Canyonlands, this combo trip is the best mix of exercise, exhilaration, and enjoyment.
Mountain Biking Trips in The Maze, Deep in Canyonlands National Park. 4 or 5 days. Spring & Fall.
Welcome to The Maze. Canyonlands’ western most district. Rugged. Remote. Beautiful. Maybe you’ve already “done” the classic Canyonlands National Park trip through the Island in the Sky district. You’re looking for something different, a place even more challenging to get to, but oh so rewarding once you make it. The Maze is for you. A pedal powered excursion through these sinuous canyons is the perfect balance – fast enough to cover miles of sights, and yet slow enough to truly absorb the desert tranquility. Travel by foot is challenging here; a bike gives you the best opportunity to see and experience this foreign landscape. Each day you’ll be able to take side excursions to overlooks with panoramic views, see a 4,000 year old pictograph panel, peer down onto the Colorado River as it traces its way through Cataract Canyon, and hike the Golden Stairs. What could make this trip a logistical nightmare – permits, campsites, navigation, and nutrient-rich food – are all handled with ease through Holiday. All you need to do is show up and pedal! (Bring your bike if you like, if not, rent one of our full-suspension Specialized Alloy Stumpjumpers for $240). We’ll carry all the gear in our 4×4 van. If your buddies are constantly rolling their eyes (but openly in awe) at what adventure you’ve cooked up next, then this is the trip for you.
12-day Extended Hiking & Rafting Trip in Canyonlands National Park. 12 days. Sept 16-27, 2024
Let’s go big! Spend 12 days floating the Green River to the confluence with the Colorado River, down through Cataract Canyon and beyond. This hiking special trip is the perfect fall escape. This is the only way to traverse Canyonlands National Park. You’ll launch on the Green River, just south of its namesake town. We’ll float the flat water stretches of this river, and cross the unmarked border into the park. Explore the side canyons of Labyrinth where the rich riparian zone is in full display. River runner history comes to life as we follow in the footsteps (oar strokes?) of those who came before us, and stumble upon their marks on the canyon walls. The sandstone canyon walls continue to rise high above us as we enter Stillwater Canyon on our way to meet the Colorado River. Just a few miles downstream of the confluence, Rapid Number 1, Brown Betty, awaits us! Over 30 rapids await us, so sit up and hold on for an exhilarating ride! Cataract Canyon’s infamous rapids will take us all the way out of Canyonlands National Park, and into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. With such majestic canyon walls, it’s easy to view this area as enduring and never changing. However, Narrow Canyon tells a different story – a story of constant change and evolution. As the water in Lake Powell drops, the Colorado River extends farther into Narrow Canyon. Side canyons that have been buried under decades of water are now recovering and with some luck, you might get to explore one! Down here, the canyons and side streams are dynamic, shifting silt layers and recovering flora mean you never know quite what you’ll discover. These canyons can elicit powerful emotions as you get to experience just how resilient Mother Nature is. How lucky are you to get to spend 12 days immersed in such an astonishing setting?
Dark Sky Stargazing Trips in Canyonlands National Park
Cataract Canyon 6 days July 28-Aug 2, 2024 & White Rim Trail 4 days Sept 28-Oct 1, 2024
Have you ever heard of an International Dark Sky Park? Experience Canyonlands after dark! No, we won’t be running rapids or mountain biking by moonlight (but you can ask our star expert about that!). You’ll still experience the awe of a Cataract Canyon rafting or White Rim biking trip with all the adrenaline and striking beauty of the park during the day, AND stick around after sunset to see what happens when you can stargaze in a truly dark park. Did you know that most adults have never seen the Milky Way? In order to be an officially recognized International Dark Sky Park, which Canyonlands is, one has to be able to see the Milky Way with their naked eye. Grab your bike, or your swimsuit, and join your favorite Holiday guides for a special stargazing trip. Not only do we bring the gear, the grub, and the games, but we also bring along our resident “Star Lord,” Tom Beckett. Not only has Tom been guiding since the ‘70s, but he’s also on the Advisory Board of the Clark Planetarium. Let Tom regale you with constellation stories, planet sightings, and center yourself on where we are in the universe. These trips are simply out of this world!
Women’s Mountain Biking Skills Clinic on the White Rim Trail Sept 9-11 & Sept 25-29, 2023
What’s better than mountain biking with a group of ladies and two stellar guides? How about bringing along two coaches from Women in the Mountains? Now in their 8th season of coaching, Women in the Mountains coaches have the sharpest eyes and the most precise language to guide you on to your next level of biking. Join us for our inaugural partnership with Women in the Mountains. If you’re already feeling like a seasoned rider and just want to spin with minimal coaching input, hop on our three day White Rim trip. Or, maybe this is the final nudge you need after running out of excuses to put off your dream trip. Join us on an extended 4.5 day trip where you’ll have ample workshop and skills clinic time with your coaches. Bring your own bike, or rent one of ours, just get here and get out with us! Gourmet meals, spectacular vistas, optional side hikes, indigenous history, and geology lessons are of course included!