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A Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park is the largest national park in Utah and it is located on the southeast corner of Utah 32 miles away from Moab. This remote national park has three main sections: Island in the Sky, the easiest section to reach, the Needles and the Maze.

Its naturally stunning landscape has been formed over millennium of rain, wind and the Colorado River. Canyonlands is open year-round 24 hours a day and the entrance fee is of $25 per vehicle good for up to 7 days.

The Island of Sky is the most accessible portion of the park, just a 30 mile drive from Moab. The visitor center is your last stop for water, as there are no services further into the park. The park offers many hiking trail from less than a mile to up to 17 miles or plenty of spots to just relax and enjoy the beautiful sunset.

We recommend to wake up really early to avoid crowds and stay late for the breathtaking sunsets Canyonlands has to offer. The first thing you should do is drive the 20 mile scenic road from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, where you will have many pulloffs with panoramic views of the canyon.

Along this route we strongly suggest hiking some of the most iconic and shorter trails in the park including Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome. If you are more avid hiker there are other beautiful and longer hikes you can enjoy such as the Neck Spring Trail.

Camping in or near Canyonlands

There is camping available at the Willow Flat Campground, with 12 sites available on a first come first served basis and the fee is $15 per campground. Keep in mind that there are several BLM public campgrounds available before entering the national park along with several other commercial campgrounds.

The best hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch is one of our favorite hikes in the park as you get an stunning framed overlook of the canyon. It is an easy half mile hike with 100 feet elevation. This is a prime spot to enjoy sunset or sunrise.

Murphy Point

Murphy Point trail is a slightly longer trail at just over a mile, but still easy. The main feature along the hike is an amazing panoramic view of the Henry Mountains.

White Rim Overlook

The easy 1.5 mile hike along White Rim Overlook provides great views of potentially water filled potholes and the White Rim road below.

Grand View Point

Grand View Point is the perfect easy going hike to enjoy panoramic views along the cliff edge. Stroll along this two mile hike and feast your eyes on the sprawling views laid out before you.

Neck Spring

Neck Spring is one of the longest one day hikes in the park. It is a moderate 5 mile trail with a elevation gain of 300 feet. Going from the beautiful red landscape, you will make your way through several lush green springs.

Aztec Butte

The Aztec Butte is a moderate 2 mile hike with a 225 feet elevation gain and requires you to traverse some steep slickrock to top. The most interesting part of the hike is when you pass two historic granaries built right into the side of the rocks.

Whale Rock

Whale Rock is one of our favorite moderate hikes. At only 1 mile with a 100 feet elevation gain it is the perfect challenge for any hiker. From the top you can enjoy amazing panoramic views and bare slickrock.

Upheaval Dome to Main Overlook and Second Overlook

If you go to Canyonlands you have to hike the overlooks of Upheavel Dome. The views to the crater are absolutely stunning. The first part of the hike to the main overlook is not hard at all, only one mile in and 50 feet elevation gain. The second part of the hike is a little bit more steep and strenuous, but trust us the view you will get is worth it! The second part is an additional 2 mile hike with an elevation of 200 feet.

Must stop overlooks along the scenic route

The best part of Canyonlands is the breathtaking overlooks of the sprawling canyons and vistas. These overlooks are right off the main road with paved parking and gravel or paved walkways. Some of them even have a vault toilets, the only services in the park beyond the visitor center. Our favorite overlooks are the following:

  • Shaffer Canyon Overlook
  • Green River Overlook
  • Buck Canyon
  • Grand View Point

Into the wild of Canyonlands

For those who are more skilled and more adventurous head to the Needles district or the remote and rugged Maze region. These require high clearance four wheel drive with proper planning and knowledge. Do not enter these regions without a full tank of gas, proper supplies and someone who knows where you are going. You must be well prepared for rough conditions.

One of the best hikes in the  Needles district is the 6-mile round trip scenic hike to Chesler Park ViewPoint, overlooking sandstone spires and endless desert vegetation. A more challenging hike is the 11-mile round trip Chesler Park Loop/Joint Trail with beautiful panoramic views of the Needles formations.

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