Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

One Day in Canyonlands National Park Hikes

Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park you will not want to miss!

Are you looking for the best Canyonlands National Park Hikes?  If you only have one day in Canyonlands National Park you’ll want to pick a few of the best things to do there.  That’s why I’ve put together the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park that you will not want to miss.

Canyonlands Hikes

There are three sections where you can go on Canyonlands Hikes – Island in the Sky, Needles, and The Maze.  Island in the Sky is the most popular part of the park followed by the Needles.  The Maze is a bit harder to get to and the least visited.

Island in the Sky is the closest section to Moab, Utah.  Island in the sky looks like an island as there is a rim around this section of the park and the rest is thousands of feet below.

The Needles section has a lot of popular hiking trails through the desert and the land is decorated with rock spires.

The Maze section is very isolated and it is known for its solitude.  There are no rangers stationed in this part of the park.


Mesa Arch – the most popular of all Canyonlands Hikes

You simply can’t go to this national park in Utah without seeing the Mesa Arch. Easy access is provided to this trail with a road that goes off the main park rock. For that reason, it remains the most visited hike in Canyonlands National Park.

Mesa Arch Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

This is a pretty easy hike and suitable for people of all different skill levels and ages. The short walk will take you to an arch on top of the rim of the canyon and you will be greeted with the most amazing views. This spot is ideal for watching the sunrise in the morning and sunset in the evening.

Mesa Arch is a popular location for hikers especially during these times of the day. You can take some amazing photos and also just soak up the experience in the moment.


Grand Viewpoint

For the best views in the island district, the grand viewpoint doesn’t have its name for nothing and you have to see it for yourself to truly believe it. The trail to get here is about 2 miles in length and takes around an hour and a half to complete.

Grand Viewpoint Canyonlands Hikes

It is not a difficult trek to do and the result is definitely worth it. Look out over the green river in this breathtaking spot that you don’t want to miss out on during your time in Utah.

Buck Canyon Overlook

This trail is so short that it can’t even really be called a hike at just 0.1 miles, but the stunning views still give it a place on this list nonetheless.

This is a back trail located near Moab and it perfect for bird spotting and to see unexpected wildlife. It is a very nice viewpoint and is ideal if you do not have much time but still want something nice to do during your time in the park when in Utah.

White Rim Overlook

This is a relatively short trail of just 1.8 miles and is perfect to do during the early evening and particularly during the warmer months of the year. The elevated views allow you to look 300 degrees amongst the canyon below.

This is an amazing peninsula in the sky and it is fairly easy to get to. There is a picnic area around a mile from the end of Giants View Road, from here you need to hike east before turning left at the junction. There is then a single track to the right and this is the one you need to follow to take you all the way to the White Rim Outlook.

Upheaval Dome

Upheaval Dome is a hike that has two possible outlook points. It’s actually quite an intriguing place in Canyonlands National Park because, despite its beauty, nobody knows how it came to be.

There are two possible theories by experts and you will learn about these as you walk the trail. This hike is around 1.7 miles and it is not too difficult to trek, although the view at the top might take your breath away. You will be right at the rim of the crater which is 1000 foot deep. Don’t look down if heights leave you feeling a little queasy.

To reach the first outlook point. take the wide track to the right before turning uphill in the direction of the crater. You will then need to climb some steps up to an ascent of 150 feet. Turn right and you will arrive at the first outlook point which is pretty spectacular. Look into the crater and see what geologists theory you agree with regarding how the crater was made. The next overlook point is fairly easy to get to from here.

Whale Rock

If you’ve always wanted to walk over a rock that looks like a whale, well now is your chance. You will start this adventurous hike near the end of Upheaval Dome Road.

You should be able to see the rock from the start point which resembles the appearance of a beached whale, hence the name of the hike. Follow the sandy trail to the east side of the rock and then you will see the route upwards which include convenient handrails. It does not take long to climb and then you can walk along the whale rock quite easily.

Around halfway across the rock, you will have some amazing views and are going to want to take some photos at this point. You can travel as far across this trail as possible, retrace your footsteps when you want to end the hike. This is a 1-mile trip and it is super easy for people of all skill levels and families.

Aztec Butte

This is a proper historical hike that will allow you to see structures left from the Ancient Ancestral Puebloan people who lived here many years ago.

In addition to the interesting rocks along the way, the end result of this easy 2-mile round trip hike is magnificent views over the surrounding area of canyons.

You should start this trail at the Aztec Butte Parking Area which is at Upheaval Dome Road. From here the trail is signposted and super simple to follow. The hike ends up the summit and you can take the same route back. The hike doesn’t take long and is ideal if you just want to do a little more exploring of Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Elephant Hill Trailhead

If you are up for quite a long walk and want more of a challenge when you are hiking in Utah, you might want to give this hike a go.

At 6.4 miles in length, you need to dedicate a little more time to the hike and you will need to take plenty of water with you on this one because it can get strenuous.

It is at a back of the trail near Monticello and offers the most scenic views throughout the hike. There is a lot of rugged terrain along this hike and it is really recommended to people who have at least a little experience with hiking.

You need to start the hike at Needles District, and there are a few different places you can end up. One amazing reward at the end of this trail in springtime is the most amazingly colorful wildflowers that you could ever imagine.

Cave Spring

Some of you will be happy to know that Cave Spring is one of the shortest hikes in Canyonlands, Utah but still has some amazing scenery and views into the past.

There is even some Native American rock art along the way which is incredible! The hike is in the Needles District of the National Park and you can find the beginning by following the main road into Needles area.

Keep walking and when you come to a fork, stay to the left and you will then see signs to the trailhead. It is best to hike in a clockwise direction to the cowboy camp, which is a really cool location. After this, you can continue back to the trailhead. If you climb some wooden ladders to the Slickrock above the camp, this is where you will have amazing views over the countryside which is surrounding the area.

Conclusion – Canyonlands Hikes

If you only have one day in Canyonlands National Park you can still see quite a bit of the park.  I would suggest going to the Island in the Sky section as this is closest to Moab and it is also just down the road from Arches National Park.

If you have a National Park Pass and want to just one or two things in Canyonlands I would recommend visiting Mesa Arch and also taking in the Grand View overlooking Canyonlands.

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Nicole LaBarge is a travel expert who has been traveling internationally for over 25 years and she has visited over 115 countries all while working a 9-5. She has lived in England, Scotland, Japan and New Zealand. Check out her detailed destination guides and travel product guides.

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