12 Incredible Things To Do In Canyonlands National Park Utah


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When it involves exploring the very best scenes of nature in Utah, look no additional than Canyonlands National Park. This expansive desert panorama is the place you’ll discover flat mesa’s, towering rocky pinnacles (referred to as Needles) and Native American rock work.

Needless to say, there are many issues to do in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, you’ll be happy you made a cease right here.

people standing on boulders

We loved two days exploring this nationwide park, and really feel we uncovered a lot of its high sights and locations to see.

In this information, we share our high tips about the very best issues to do in Canyonlands National Park together with the very best hikes, scenic drives, how you can get there, the place to remain, and extra!

Where is Canyonlands National Park?

Canyonlands National Park is one in every of 5 nationwide parks in Utah. The closest city is Moab, which is located about 30 miles away from the Islands of the Sky District, and 60 miles from The Needles District.

The added bonus of its location is that additionally it is close to Arches National Park, which implies you may cross off Arches and Canyonlands National Park that are two extremely numerous nationwide parks on the similar time!

Canyonlands is a rugged, untamed land with largely unpaved roads and primitive trails. If you search journey, yow will discover it in abundance right here.

Directions to Canyonlands National Park

It takes slightly below an hour from Moab to get to the Islands of the Sky District. It takes over an hour (relying on the place you depart from in Moab) to get to the Needles District.

Moab to Canyonlands is 30 miles and takes 40 minutes to drive. From Arches National Park to Canyonlands, it’s 26 miles and takes half-hour to drive.

3 Districts of Canyonlands National Park

woman standing on edge of cliff with canyon views
Islands within the Sky District – view from Mesa Arch Trail

Canyonlands is exclusive in that it’s separated into three districts stretching throughout 527 sq. miles.

These three districts are created by the Colorado and Green Rivers carving their means via the canyon.

They meet up on the confluence and proceed transferring down south.

The Green and Colorado Rivers type a Y via the nationwide park creating:

  • Islands within the Sky within the north
  • the Needles District within the Southeast
  • and the Maze District within the Southwest.

There is not any strategy to recover from the rivers to maneuver between every district from throughout the park, it’s important to drive via the backcountry. This provides a problem to your go to because it means it’s important to exit and drive the good distance round to get to both part.

The Maze Canyonlands is known as for the puzzle the oddly formed towers, aztec butte, craters, and mesas create.

Here you will discover solitude, silence and loads of journey and challenges to beat. In the Maze Utah, you’ll discover Horseshoe Canyon which has a few of North America’s most important rock artwork at The Great Gallery.

So plan your journey accordingly.

woman taking photos of canyonland vista
The Needles District

Things to do in Canyonlands National Park: Islands within the Sky District

Below are among the greatest issues to do in Canyonlands National Park within the Islands within the Sky District.

1. Hike The Mesa Arch Trail

people looking at mesa view
  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Rated: Easy

One of the very best issues to do in Canyonlands National Park Island within the Sky is the Mesa Arch hike. It’s solely 0.5 miles return and is gorgeous, fascinating and straightforward!

I cherished the arch and the view behind it into the canyon and in the direction of the La Sal Mountains. Being common, chances are you’ll must line as much as get your photograph taken in entrance of the arch – it’s one of the common Canyonlands hikes!

Be certain to securely lean over the rock for a sheer drop view into the canyon. To the proper sits a big rock I like to recommend climbing up for views above and over Mesa Arch.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch is supposed to be the factor to do. If you’re tenting at Canyonlands it can make dawn at Mesa Arch simpler.

2. Hike Grand View Point Trail

group of people looking at views of canyonland
  • Distance: 2 miles spherical journey
  • Rated: Easy

The Grand View Point Overlook Trail begins with shut up views of the White Rim, which is a sandstone bench 1,200 ft beneath the Island.

Another 1,000 ft beneath this are the rivers. You gained’t have the ability to see them shadowed by the canyon cliffs.

Be certain to step away from the sting and watch younger youngsters on the path as there are not any protecting fences and also you comply with the mesa edge virtually all the means.

At the tip of the path you may see distant into the Maze and Needles district, making it the most effective Canyonlands National Park hikes to do!

We did this stroll within the afternoon on the incorrect time of the day so it was hazy with the solar proper in our eyes. I’ve seen photographs with the solar shining on the view and it’s spectacular.

So the morning will in all probability be higher, in the event you can time it that means!

3. Hike Visitor Center Overlook

family looking at canyon views

If there’s one viewpoint to not miss when visiting Island within the Sky it’s the customer heart overlook.

Thankfully, it’s a simple one to examine off at first of your journey. Just stroll throughout the street from the Canyonlands National Park customer heart and there it’s. It’s a spectacular view!

4. See Buck Canyon Overlook

woman reading information board at canyonlands

Along the principle drive you may pull over for a fast take a look at Buck Canyon Overlook.

You might get the sensation that each one the views look the identical. If you could have time, it’s value trying and seeing how every viewpoint has its personal distinctive perspective.

5. Walk Schaffer Canyon and Trail Overlook

shafer canyon trail winding down the cliff face

I totally suggest stopping to get a superb take a look at the switchbacks of this well-known 4 wheel drive street.

I don’t know why however it impressed us to come back again one other day and drive down it. The Beast (our F250 truck) simply couldn’t be stopped.

6. Admire Green River Overlook

woman taking photos of river running through canyon

Green River is supposed to be an incredible place to go to for sundown.

If you solely have time for one sundown, I like to recommend skipping this and going to Dead Horse Point as an alternative (see tip beneath).

Islands within the Sky, Canyonlands journey video

7. Drive The Islands within the Sky Scenic Drive

We solely did one a part of the Islands within the Sky scenic drive street as we ran out of time – we did the Grand View level part from the customer heart.

To do each scenic drives via Island within the Sky Utah is 34 miles in whole. There’s additionally the 100-mile White Rim Road main that round and beneath the Island within the Sky.

Be cautious, somebody went over the sting of their automotive whereas we visited. We have been held up within the customer heart whereas the helicopter got here in to rescue them.

Pretty scary stuff, because it’s a pleasant paved street.

Here are a few viewpoints we noticed on the Islands of the Sky scenic drive.

8. Drive the Shafer Canyon Road

A car parked on the side of a rocky mountain

Driving down the Shafer Canyon switchbacks into the quiet of the canyon ground was an unimaginable expertise.

If you could have time, and an adventurous spirit, I extremely suggest it as one of many high issues to do in Canyonlands National Park!

Check circumstances on the Visitor Center as chances are you’ll want a 4WD. You might no less than drive the switchbacks in a 2WD all the way down to the underside. I wouldn’t suggest taking the remainder of the path again to Moab in a 2WD although.

It can get fairly tough.

people walking in a canyon

Although, simply after I commented about how quiet and serene it was as soon as we reached the ground of the canyon, a convoy of kombis got here roaring up the path from Moab.

There have been over 30 vans on an adventurous mission, recreating the expertise of excursions which ran excursions via this space means again earlier than it was a nationwide park.

The 90+ 12 months outdated unique proprietor was main the kombi lovers. We have been okay with it breaking the serenity because it was tremendous cool to see and listen to about it.

Once you get all the way down to the ground you may both return to the Shafer Canyon Viewpoint, drive deeper into Canyonlands National Park (allow required), or take the street alongside the rim to Moab.

I cherished driving this street and popping out to Horseshoe Bend the place solely a few days earlier than we sat above watching the sundown right here. It’s an impressive spot.

woman standing next to a canyon

We then drove previous a random salt farm, whose vibrant blue waters was a distinction to the desert purple. The street then spills out to the Colorado River which you hint again to Moab.

It took us about 3 hours to finish the Shafer Trail and that was with loads of images stops. The switchbacks at the start have been lots of enjoyable and never as scary as I used to be anticipating.

We had accomplished an analogous switchback drive solely every week or so earlier than within the Valley of the Gods so felt slightly higher ready.

Drive safely and look ahead to automobiles coming the opposite means you’ll have to go.

Off street autos and bikes are permitted on the 100-mile White Rim Trail (permits wanted) which is supposed to take about 2 days to do.

Hot Tip: Plan your journey to Canyonlands Islands within the Sky for the afternoon. Then head straight to Dead Horse Point State Park for sundown!

Shafer Trail, Canyonlands Video

Things to do in Canyonlands National Park: Needles District

needle rocks in canyon

The drive to the Canyonlands National Park Needles District is sort of lovely beside enormous orange and purple mesas, and plateaus of the parks border.

Purple wildflowers have been in bloom, cows have been grazing within the emerald inexperienced valley, and within the distance there have been even a couple of buttes rising up reminding us of Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods.

Be certain to search for on the escarpment partitions on the way in which via – there are a couple of our bodies crawling up these partitions.

woman looking at a large rock

The drive then opens up and within the distance you see the white and pink pinnacles standing collectively that give the park it’s identify – the Needles!

In Needles Canyonlands, you’ll discover sculptured rock spires, arches, canyons, upheaval dome and potholes.

Names like Devil’s Kitchen, Whale Rock, Elephant Hill and Caterpillar Arch beckon you to come back go to.

9. Walk the Slickrock Trail

A group of people standing in a rocky area
  • Distance: 2.4 mile loop
  • Rated: Moderate

The Slickrock Trail was a singular path over the rock face alongside the rim of a canyon.

The depths into the canyon are nowhere close to as deep as Islands within the Sky, however nonetheless take warning.

The path follows cairns so be looking out for them as you stroll. We noticed a great deal of lizards alongside the way in which.

You get lovely 360 diploma views out over the canyons and throughout to the Needles within the distance on the way in which again, making it one other the most effective hikes in Canyonlands National Park.

10. Hike Pothole Point Trail

people walking on rocks
  • Distance: 0.6 mile loop
  • Rated: Easy

This is a pleasant simple path over slickrock and passing although numerous pothole communities.

There have been solely a pair that have been stuffed with water. Be certain to not step in them as they’re stuffed with microscopic types of life.

I cherished among the rock formations to the proper. You do get a better view of the Needles from right here, though nonetheless distant.

11. Cave Spring Trail

people standing on wooden logs
  • Distance: 0.6 mile loop
  • Rated: Easy

The children will benefit from the Cave Spring Trail, particularly whether it is scorching.

It’s a brief loop that goes below the rock rim into caves, previous an historic cowboy camp, and prehistoric rock work. It completed with two ladders as much as the highest of the caves for views out over the park.

Some of the opposite trails I’d like to do in The Needles District are:

  • Chesler Park Viewpoint and the Chesler Park Loop
  • Confluence Overlook.

12. Drive to Elephant Hill

The scenic drives continues for six.5 miles past the customer heart ending at Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

There are a number of pullouts for trailheads, viewpoints, and one picnic space.

dirt road through a desert

We have been slightly not sure whether or not to drive the 2wd gravel Elephant Hill Drive after studying the park brochure that mentioned “steep inclines and sharp switchbacks to test the skill of even the most accomplished drivers.”

How might a 2WD street be that excessive?

We nervously pressed on the pedal to seek out virtually nothing excessive in any respect. There have been a couple of slender roads and blind corners, however it was a cinch.

I now notice the outline was for the Elephant Hill 4WD observe I discussed above!!

You will take this tamer 2WD Elephant Hill street to get to a lot of the longer hikes within the park amongst the needles.

The drive is scenic and value going to no less than to get to the Needles.

I want nationwide park brochures had means higher data. They are terrible to be trustworthy with barely any data in any nationwide parks brochure on trails and what to anticipate and many others.

I like writing these posts for you so we may also help you propose a greater journey.

We took the Elephant Hill drive not understanding what it was or the place it went. There was no data within the brochure in any respect.

Most of the data is in regards to the historical past, geology and natural world of the park, however not the related stuff: what expertise every path and drive will provide and what you are able to do there.

If I had of identified I might have gotten out of the automotive on that drive and walked slightly extra into the needles to discover them higher.

I like to recommend you do this.

Is the Needles District value exploring?

What I cherished most in regards to the Needles District is that it was so quiet. We barely noticed one other individual, which is absolutely not typical of America’s nationwide parks.

If you need solitude, The Needles District Canyonlands is the place to come back! It is extra distant than the Islands within the Sky, which is why fewer guests come right here.

people standing on boulders

I used to be disillusioned that we couldn’t actually discover the needles themselves, solely capable of view them from afar.

The Needles Utah is what makes this a part of the Canyonlands park particular, so I feel the power to discover them makes it a worthwhile journey.

The downside is that the very best mountaineering trails in Canyonlands National Park that discover the Needles space are 6-miles or longer, which isn’t good for households with youthful youngsters.

The roads in additionally require 4WD excessive clearance and slightly experience to drive. Even although we had expertise a couple of days earlier than rock crawling with a Jeep with a information, we nonetheless don’t really feel comfy happening skilled routes but on our personal!

We did look at first of the 4WD Elephant Hill Track, however noticed the slender street climbing up over the rock formations and mentioned no – it’s the most technical 4×4 street in all of UTAH. Wow!!

We actually loved the walks we did, the longest was 2.4 mile return, and it was fairly, however I’m not 100% certain it was value it. I don’t remorse visiting The Needles although, which is all the time a superb signal and subsequently makes it value a go to.

The Needles District, Canyonlands NP journey video

Tips for Canyonlands National Park

  • It can get very popular in Canyonlands NP in the summertime. Be ready for the warmth and pack loads of water. Do all of your mountaineering early within the morning and don’t overdo it.Add in blurb about igloo and Hydro flask from Arches NP
  • Fill up your water bottles (put additional within the automotive) on the customer heart.
  • There aren’t lots of fences so watch out close to the perimeters of the canyon.
  • Protect your self if a thunderstorm rolls via.
  • If you propose to go to different nationwide parks, get the nationwide parks go. We have a National Parks Pass, which provides limitless entry to all federal lands. It has saved us a TON of cash on entrance charges. Otherwise, there’s an entrance price of $30 per automobile.
  • Rangers provide night applications and overlook talks April via to October. Check on the customer heart for schedule.
  • There are not any bogs within the nationwide park.
  • Pack a picnic and head to White Rim Overlook picnic pavilions for a pleasant place to take a seat and eat with picnic tables.
  • Have your children take part within the Junior Ranger Program. Pick up the booklet from the customer heart and return when completed to say the pledge and get your Junior Ranger badges.
  • Plan for two days to see all of it. It will make for a really lengthy day in the event you attempt to do it within the someday. Otherwise plan for a day (or half a day) exploring the Needles and Islands of the Sky individually. For intrepid explorers and skilled 4WD, you may go to The Maze individually.

Best Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park

people walking up rocks

The spring and fall months are the very best time to go to Canyonlands National Park by way of cooler climate and fewer guests.

Snow is probably going within the winter and temperatures will probably be chilly.

Summer will probably be baking scorching and the crowds will arrive making discovering a spot in among the small automotive parks troublesome – begin early in the event you go to throughout the summer season.

Where to Stay at Canyonlands National Park

Camping in Canyonlands 

For Canyonlands National Park tenting, the Islands within the Sky Campground is close to Green River. The 12 websites are first come, first served. There are not any water or hookups.

The Needles campground is in a stunning setting on the base of the rocks main as much as Elephant Hill.

For campgrounds close to Canyonlands National Park, there are lots of choices across the Moab space. See right here and right here. 

Hotels close to Canyonlands

For motels close to Canyonlands National Park look no additional than Moab. There are many choices of locations to remain in Moab at a number of worth factors. Here are some extremely really useful locations to remain:

Our Experience Visiting Canyonlands National Park

My first reminiscence of mine and Craig’s journey to Canyonlands National Park Utah again in 2006 was dominated by one of the epic pure experiences of my life.

It was so electrical and vivid I can nonetheless really feel and see it 13 years later. I’m not exaggerating on the electrical half both.

We arrived into the Needles District simply because the darkish storm clouds rolled in, the rain began to pelt, and the lighting started to strike!

It felt safe-ish within the automotive, however actually weren’t too certain protected was an actual phrase when speaking about lighting strikes.

We headed straight to the Canyonlands Visitor Center to attend it out, however on the way in which there was when probably the most epic pure factor of my life occurred.

islands in the sky canyonlands
Islands within the Sky District

About 100 ft off to the aspect of the automotive a lightning bolt struck the bottom.

The air round us crackled and sizzled and lit up. We noticed the bolt shoot off in numerous instructions on impression, simply as you see in animated exhibits. The vitality of bolt went via the automotive into us (fortunately we weren’t mountain biking).

What? Did that simply occur? How might you be so thrilled and terrified on the similar time?

The customer brochure will not be joking when it says, ““Lighting is a critical menace. If a thunderstorm is close to, keep away from overlooks, get again in your automobile and shut the home windows!’

So, I used to be pleased to return and go to Canyonlands National Park – this time exterior of storm season and with our children.

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I hope this information helps you propose your journey? If you could have any questions, depart a remark beneath. We look ahead to exploring extra someday, and possibly even doing a little white water rafting in Cataract Canyon!

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