Canyonlands National Park

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Canyonlands National Park - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Cave Spring Trail


    One of the best and most interesting trails in the park takes you past a historic cowboy camp, precontact rock art, and great views. Two wooden ladders and one short, steep stretch may make this a little daunting for the extremely young or old or those with mobility issues, but it's also a short hike (0.6 miles round-trip) with some shady spots. Moderate.

    Utah, 84535, USA
  • 2. Grand View Point Trail

    This 360-degree view is the main event for many visitors to Island in the Sky. Look down into the deep canyons of the Colorado and Green Rivers, which have been carved by water and erosion over the millennia. Many people just stop at the paved overlook and drive on, but you'll gain a breathtaking perspective by strolling along this 2-mile round-trip, flat cliffside trail. On a clear day you can see up to 100 miles to the Maze and Needles Districts of the park and each of Utah's major laccolithic mountain ranges: the Henrys, Abajos, and La Sals. Easy.

    End of main park road, Utah, 84532, USA
  • 3. Joint Trail


    Part of the Chesler Park Loop, this trail follows a series of deep, narrow fractures in the rock. A shady spot in summer, it will give you good views of the Needles formations for which the district is named. The loop travels briefly along a four-wheel-drive road and is 10.7 miles round-trip; allow at least five hours to complete it. Difficult.

    Utah, 84535, USA
  • 4. Mesa Arch Trail

    If you don't have time for the 2,000 arches in nearby Arches National Park, you should take the easy, ½-mile round-trip walk to Mesa Arch. After the overlooks, this is the most popular trail in the park. The arch is above a cliff that drops 800 feet to the canyon bottom. Through the arch, views of Washerwoman Arch and surrounding buttes, spires, and canyons make this a favorite photo opportunity. Easy.

    Off main park road, Utah, 84532, USA
  • 5. Upheaval Dome Trail

    This mysterious crater is one of the wonders of Island in the Sky. Some geologists believe it's an eroded salt dome, but others think it was made by a meteorite. Either way, it's worth the steep hike to see it and decide for yourself. The moderate hike to the first overlook is about a ½-mile each way; energetic visitors can continue another ½-mile to the second overlook for an even better perspective. The trail is steeper and rougher after the first overlook. The round-trip to the second overlook is 2 miles. The trailhead has restrooms and a picnic area. Moderate.

    End of Upheaval Dome Rd., Utah, 84532, USA
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  • 6. Aztec Butte Trail

    Island in the Sky

    The highlight of the 2-mile round-trip hike is the chance to see Ancestral Puebloan granaries. The view into Taylor Canyon is also nice. Moderate.

    Utah, 84532, USA
  • 7. Cowboy Camp

    This fascinating stop on the 0.6-mile round-trip Cave Spring Trail is an authentic example of cowboy life more than a century ago. You do not need to complete the entire trail (which includes two short ladders and some rocky hiking) to see the 19th-century artifacts at Cowboy Camp.

    End of Cave Springs Rd., Utah, 84535, USA
  • 8. Green River Overlook

    From the road it's just 100 yards to this stunning view of the Green River to the south and west. It's not far from the Island in the Sky (Willow Flat) Campground.

    About 1 mile off Upheaval Dome Rd., Utah, 84532, USA
  • 9. Hans Flat Ranger Station

    Only experienced and intrepid visitors will likely ever visit this remote outpost—on a dirt road 46 miles east of Highway 24 in Hanksville. The office is a trove of books, maps, and other documents about the unforgiving Maze District of Canyonlands, but rangers will strongly dissuade any inexperienced off-road drivers and backpackers from proceeding into this truly rugged wilderness. There's a vault toilet, but no water, food, or services of any kind. If you're headed for the backcountry, permits cost $36 per group plus $5 per person for up to 14 days. Rangers offer guided hikes in Horseshoe Canyon on most weekends in spring and fall. Call the ranger station for road conditions leading to Horseshoe Canyon/Hans Flat as rain can make travel difficult.

    Jct. of Recreation Rds. 777 and 633, Utah, 84525, USA
  • 10. Horseshoe Canyon Trail

    Horseshoe Canyon

    This remote region of the park is accessible by dirt road, and only in good weather. Park at the lip of the canyon and hike 7 miles round-trip to the Great Gallery, considered by some to be the most significant rock-art panel in North America. Ghostly life-size figures in the Barrier Canyon style populate the amazing panel. The hike is moderately strenuous, with a 700-foot descent. Allow at least six hours for the trip and take a gallon of water per person. There's no camping allowed in the canyon, although you can camp on top near the parking lot. Difficult. Call Hans Flat Ranger Station before heading out because rain can make the access road a muddy mess. Also, make sure to use a map as GPS can be unreliable here.

    Utah, 84525, USA
  • 11. Island in the Sky Park Road

    Island in the Sky

    This 12-mile-long main road inside the park is bisected by a 5-mile side road to the Upheaval Dome area. To enjoy dramatic views, including the Green and Colorado River basins, stop at the overlooks and take the short walks. Once you get to the park, allow at least two hours—and ideally four—to explore.

    Utah, USA
  • 12. Island in the Sky Visitor Center

    The gateway to the world-famous White Rim Trail, this visitor center 21 miles from U.S. 191 draws a mix of mountain bikers, hikers, and tourists happy to see the area by car. This is a great stop to use the restroom, stock up on water, and buy maps and books for the journey ahead. Check the website or with the center for a daily schedule of ranger-led programs.

    Off Hwy. 313, Utah, 84532, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Tues. and Wed. in Jan.–mid-Feb.
  • 13. Needles District Park Road


    You'll feel like you've driven into a Hollywood Western as you roll along the park road in the Needles District. Red mesas and buttes rise against the horizon, blue mountain ranges interrupt the rangelands, and the colorful red-and-white needles stand like soldiers on the far side of grassy meadows. Definitely hop out of the car at a few of the marked roadside stops, including both overlooks at Pothole Point. Allow at least two hours in this less-traveled section of the park.

    Utah, USA
  • 14. Needles District Picnic Area

    Needles | Viewpoint

    The most convenient picnic spot in the Needles District is a sunny location on the way to Big Spring Canyon Overlook. There are picnic tables, but no other amenities.

    Canyonlands National Park, Utah, 84535, USA
  • 15. Needles District Visitor Center

    This gorgeous building is 34 miles from U.S. 191 via Highway 211, near the park entrance. Needles is remote, so it's worth stopping to inquire about road, weather, and park conditions. You can also use the restroom, refill water bottles, and get books, trail maps, and other information. Note that during part of the winter, it's only open Friday and Saturday.

    Off Hwy. 211, Utah, 84535, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.–Thurs. in Dec.–mid-Feb.
  • 16. Pothole Point Trail

    Microscopic creatures lie dormant in pools that fill only after rare rainstorms. When the rains do come, some eggs hatch within hours and life becomes visible. If you're lucky, you'll hit Pothole Point after a storm. The dramatic views of the Needles and Six Shooter Peak make this easy, 0.6-mile out-and-back hike worthwhile. Plan for about 45 minutes. There's no shade, so wear a hat and take plenty of water. Easy.

    Off main road, Utah, 84535, USA
  • 17. Shafer Trail

    Island in the Sky

    This rough trek that leads to the 100-mile White Rim Road was probably first established by ancient Native Americans. In the early 1900s the local Shafer family started using it to drive cattle into the canyon. John "Sog" Shafer is credited with improving the narrow and rugged trail, and it was further upgraded during the uranium boom, in order for miners to haul ore by truck from the canyon floor. But make no mistake: it's still a harrowing descent. Check out the road's winding, 5.2-mile route down canyon walls from the Shafer Canyon Overlook before you drive it to see why it's mostly used by daring four-wheelers and energetic mountain bikers. Off the main road, less than 1 mile from the park entrance, it descends 1,500 feet to the White Rim. Check with the visitor center about road conditions before driving the Shafer Trail. It's often impassable after rain or snow.

    Utah, 84532, USA
  • 18. Slickrock Trail


    Wear a hat and carry plenty of water if you're on this trail—you won't find any shade along the 2.4-mile round-trip loop. This is the rare frontcountry site where you might spot one of the few remaining native herds of bighorn sheep in the national park system. Nice panoramic views. Easy.

    Utah, 84535, USA
  • 19. Whale Rock Trail

    Island in the Sky

    If you've been hankering to walk across some of that famed, pavement-smooth stuff they call slickrock, the hike to Whale Rock will make your feet happy. This 1-mile round-trip adventure, which culminates with a tough final 100-foot climb and features some potentially dangerous drop-offs, takes you to the very top of the whale's back. Once you get there, you are rewarded with great views of Upheaval Dome and Trail Canyon. Moderate.

    Utah, 84532, USA
  • 20. White Rim Overlook Trail

    The cliffs fall away on three sides at the end of this level, 1.8-mile out-and-back hike until you get a dramatic view of the White Rim and Monument Basin. There are restrooms at the trailhead.

    Grand View Point, Utah, 84532, USA

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