Discover the Best Things to Do in Canyonlands National Park

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Kelsey is a freelance writer based in Southern Virginia. She enjoys traveling with her family to destinations from national parks to amusement parks and loves sharing tips and stories from along the way.

Canyonlands National Park, located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab and Arches National Park, is a mesmerizing destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Canyonlands National Park spans over 337,598 acres and is divided into three districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, and The Maze.

Each district offers unique landscapes and recreational opportunities. The park’s stunning geological formations, including towering mesas, deep canyons, and natural arches, have been sculpted by millions of years of erosion by the Colorado and Green Rivers.

Make the most of your trip to this incredible park! Check out this list of the top things to do during your stay.

Mesa Arch Trail

Canyonlands Mesa Arch Trail
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Mesa Arch Trail is a short but rewarding hike on the Island in the Sky district. This easy 0.5-mile trail leads you to an iconic natural arch perched on the edge of a cliff.

The arch frames a spectacular view of the surrounding canyons at any time of day, and it’s an especially perfect spot for sunrise photography.

Grand View Point Trail

Canyonlands Grand View Point Trail
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The Grand View Point Trail is a must-do for sweeping panoramic views of Canyonlands. This 2-mile round trip trail takes you along the edge of a sheer cliff, offering breathtaking vistas of the vast canyonlands below.

While this hike is still rated as easy, hikers should be cautious, as there are no guardrails along the trail.

Syncline Loop Trail

Canyonlands Syncline Loop Trail
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The Syncline Loop Trail is a challenging 8.3-mile loop hike in the Island in the Sky district. This strenuous trail takes you through the rugged terrain of Upheaval Dome, a mysterious and geologically unique feature in Canyonlands.

Marvel at the stunning rock formations and enjoy the solitude of this less-frequented trail, but come prepared with plenty of water and be careful; most of the park’s rescues occur on this challenging trail.

Upheaval Dome Trail

Canyonlands Upheaval Dome Trail
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The Upheaval Dome Trail is a 1.7-mile trail that leads you to the edge of a massive impact crater. The origin of this crater is still a subject of scientific debate, making it an intriguing destination for geology enthusiasts.

This short but steep trail offers excellent views of the surrounding landscape and geological features.

Island in the Sky Scenic Drive

Canyonlands Island Sky
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The Island in the Sky Scenic Drive is a 34-mile paved road that traverses the mesa top, offering incredible vistas at various overlooks.

Marvel at the vastness of the canyons, witness the interplay of light and shadows, and spot wildlife along the way. Don’t miss the breathtaking view from the Grand View Point Overlook.

White Rim Road

White Rim
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Consider driving the White Rim Road if you’re up for a thrilling adventure. This challenging 100-mile loop takes you along the edge of the White Rim Sandstone formation.

The road offers stunning views of canyons, buttes, and mesas. A high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle, and a permit are needed for overnight camping.

Green River Overlook

Canyonlands Green River Overlook
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The Green River Overlook is an ideal spot to observe the Green River and take in the sunset from the Island In The Sky district.

As the sun dips below the horizon, the canyons and rivers below are bathed in warm hues, creating a surreal atmosphere. Capture the beauty with your camera or simply enjoy the moment.

Shafer Canyon Overlook

Canyonlands Shafer Canyon Overlook
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For a breathtaking sunrise experience, head to the Shafer Canyon Overlook. As the sun rises over the distant mesas and the canyons awaken, the landscape is transformed into a golden wonderland.

The Shafer Canyon Overlook provides a magnificent vantage point to witness this awe-inspiring spectacle.

Buck Canyon Overlook

Canyonlands Buck Canyon Overlook
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Located in the Needles district, the Buck Canyon Overlook offers panoramic views of the surrounding red rock formations.

The rocks glow with vibrant colors as the sun sets, creating a mesmerizing display. Sit back, relax, and let nature’s beauty unfold before your eyes.

River Rafting and Kayaking

Canyonlands River Kayaking
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The Green River and Colorado River, which flow through Canyonlands, present exciting opportunities for river rafting and kayaking.

Embark on a multi-day adventure, navigating through challenging rapids and immersing yourself in the stunning canyons.

Several outfitters offer guided trips catering to different skill levels and durations.

Gaze at The Stars

Canyonlands Stars
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With its remote location and minimal light pollution, Canyonlands National Park is a paradise for stargazers. As night falls, a dazzling display of stars emerges, painting the sky with celestial beauty.

Pack a blanket, lay back, and marvel at the universe’s wonders.

Watch the Wildlife – From a Distance!

Canyonlands Wildlife
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Canyonlands is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for sightings of bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, and various bird species.

Binoculars can enhance your wildlife viewing experience, allowing you to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat. Remember never to approach wildlife in a national park; if you’re close enough for a selfie, you’re too close!

Take Stunning Photos

Canyonlands National Park
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Canyonlands National Park is a dream destination for photographers. From mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets to intricate rock formations, every corner of the park offers unique opportunities to capture breathtaking images.

Experiment with different compositions, utilize the interplay of light and shadows, and unleash your creativity.

Camping and Overnight Stays

Canyonlands Camping
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To fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Canyonlands, consider camping or staying overnight in the park. One campground, Willow Flat, is located in Island in the Sky, and the Needles district offers one campground and three additional group camping sites.

Permits are required for all overnight trips, but campsite fees are reasonable, at $15-20 per site.

Wake up to the sound of nature, enjoy starlit evenings, and experience the serenity of the canyons under a blanket of stars.

Visitor Centers and Museums

Canyonlands island in the sky visitor center
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Canyonlands National Park has visitor centers and museums that provide valuable information about the park’s geology, history, and ecosystems.

Visit these centers to gain a deeper understanding of the park’s natural wonders and cultural significance.

The exhibits, interpretive displays, and knowledgeable staff will enhance your overall experience.

Gear Up for Adrenaline-Pumping Rock Climbing

Canyonlands Rock Climbing
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Canyonlands National Park is a renowned destination for rock climbing enthusiasts. The sandstone towers at the Island in the Sky and the pinnacles and towers along the White Rim Road attract the most rock climbers.

However, some routes are sometimes closed to climbing to protect wildlife habitats, so checking the park’s website for up-to-date information is essential.

Visitors should also be aware of the changing weather conditions, as thunderstorms can develop quickly, and summer days can reach a scorching 100°F.

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