The Dangerous US National Park Trail That Is Not For Amateur Hikers

With its breathtaking landscapes and rugged terrain, Canyonlands National Park in Southeastern Utah offers a multitude of trails for beginner and adventurous hikers alike. Among these trails lies the treacherous 8-mile-long Maze Overlook Trail, an unforgiving out-and-back path that poses significant dangers to amateur hikers. The trail, however, is also wildly beautiful (emphasis on the wild). 

All hikers on the trail need basic climbing experience to navigate the sections of slickrock and nerves of steel to survive the steep descents (if you have a fear of heights, consider exploring other areas of Canyonlands). Maze Overlook itself offers sweeping views of towering spires and narrow canyons, as well as the famous Chocolate Drops rock formations. If you're carrying a pack, you'll need a 25-foot length of rope to navigate some parts of the trek. Hiker Mark Nekic wrote on AllTrails that the route got "too spicy" at a vertical 6-to-8-foot drop along the trail. Remember, even if you can get down, you're also going to need to get back up. Approach the trail with caution.

Navigation and weather

Another thing that makes the Maze Overlook Trail a challenge is the navigation. Trails are unmarked in the Maze district of Canyonlands, so you need a map, preferably a topographic one, according to the National Parks Service (NPS). The Maze Overlook Trail itself is marked by cairns, which help with navigation, but once you get to the bottom of the canyon, things start to get more tricky.

If you lack the skills to read a map, head back up the trail. For those of you who still possess some scout skills, carry on and explore more of the canyon. It's glorious. 2.9 miles from the bottom of the Maze you can find the Harvest Scene Pictograph panel that is between 2,000 and 3,000 years old.

The weather also makes all of the trails in Canyonlands challenging. Temperatures in the summer can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sudden storms can cause flash flooding. Meanwhile, in the winter, temperatures can drop as low as 30 degrees and even a little snow or ice can make trails impassable. Come in spring or fall if possible and always drink plenty of water.


The Maze district is the least visited area in Canyonlands National Park, not because no one wants to go there but because of the rugged terrain you need to cross to reach it. To begin the Maze Overlook Trail, you drive to Hans Flat Ranger Station, which is 2.5 hours from Green River (we suggest checking in at the ranger station to ask about conditions and the availability of water in the district). It's then another 3 hours on roads that require a four-wheel drive to get to the canyons. The NPS strongly recommends using maps in the area, not GPS. Seriously, brush up on those map skills.

This isolation means that visitors to the area must be self-sufficient and prepared for self-rescue. In case of injuries, medical emergencies, or other mishaps, rescue operations can be significantly delayed, and there may not be a lot of other hikers around. The NPS writes that many visitors spend at least three days in the area, self-sufficiently, enjoying the various hiking routes and off-road trails.

If you're an experienced hiker, you'll likely enjoy the challenge of hiking the Maze Overlook Trail, and the payoff in terms of views and tranquillity makes it worth the scrambling. Go prepared and travel with others and enjoy this extremely special area of Canyonlands National Park.