Named for the spires of orange-and-white sandstone jutting skyward from the desert floor, the Needles District is so different from Island in the Sky that it's hard to believe they're both in the same national park. The Needles receives only half as many visitors as the Island since it's more remote – though only 90 minutes from Moab – and there are fewer roadside attractions (but most are well worth the hike).
The payoff is huge: peaceful solitude and the opportunity to participate in, not just observe, the vastness of canyon country. Morning light is best for viewing the rock spires.
Needles Visitor Center lies 2.5 miles inside the park boundaries and provides drinking water. Hold on to your receipt: admission includes entry to Island in the Sky.