Decorated with countless canyons, craters, spires, and mesas, Canyonlands National Park is a vision of a picturesque landscape. With 527-square miles to explore, Canyonlands is the largest and wildest of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks. Carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers, the park has four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers. Know where to experience the best of Canyonlands with this list of top things to do.
Visit the Island in the Sky Overlooks
The towering 1,000-foot tall Island in the Sky mesa offers some of the best views in Canyonlands. It’s an easy 45-minute drive from Moab with magnificent views. Once you’ve ascended the mesa, there is a paved scenic drive with pullouts where you stop and stare at the splendor below.
Start your journey at the Visitor Center to grab a map of Canyonlands. Then head to the nearby Visitor Center Viewpoint for an incredible first impression of the park. Not far from the Visitor Center you get an up-close view of the Shafer Road switchbacks and see Dead Horse State Park in the distance from Shafer Canyon Viewpoint. Make your way to Grand View Point Overlook, one of the most impressive viewpoints in Canyonlands. At 6,080-feet, the views of the canyons extend to the horizon.
Hike the Trails in Island in the Sky
Take your pick from several short hikes, each with its unique features.
Upheaval Dome is a mysterious and gigantic crater thought to have been formed by a meteorite impact. There are two overlooks along the trail, one at a 0.6-miles round trip and the other at a 1.6-miles round trip, both with otherworldly vistas.
Skirt along the edge of the lofty mesa on the 2-mile round trip Grand View Point Trail to reach the Grand View Point Overlook for impressive panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see hundreds of sandstone spires in The Needles.
The Whale Rock hike is unlike any other in the park. The 250-foot tall sandstone slab looks like a whale in the middle of the desert. It’s a fun 1-mile hike up slickrock and provides a great view of Upheaval Dome from the top.
Discover ancient Puebloan granaries on the Aztec Butte trail. Along the 1.5-mile round trip, you’ll see man-made caves carved into sandstone walls by early inhabitants.
Watch the Sunrise at Mesa Arch
Capture stunning views of the Mesa Arch, a photographer’s dream. During sunrise, the bottom of the arch is illuminated by the sun’s warm glow making the natural window to the White Rim and La Sal Mountains even more magical. It’s one of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park and is only a 0.5-miles round trip making it perfect for all ages and abilities.
Drive the White Rim Road
This off-the-beaten-path adventure offers solitude and incredible views. There are 100-miles of dirt road that loops around the Island in the Sky mesa waiting to be explored. Driving the entire route would take 2-3 days, but you can get a taste of the off-road life by driving part of it. Expert guided tours take you into the depths of the park in places not everyone can explore.
Explore The Needles
Picture hundreds of sandstone spires wrapped in bands of orange and red. This unique feature is unlike anywhere else in Utah. Weave through the clusters of “needles” for scenic views of this natural phenomenon. The Needles are a 1.5-hour drive from Moab and are less busy than the Island in the Sky district. The area is small and easy to visit with several short trails including Slickrock Trail, Chesler Park, and Druid Arch.
Fly in a Helicopter
Take to the desert skies for awe-inspiring views. This bird’s eye perspective shows the immense size and grandeur of the park’s landscape. It’s a great way to see more remote areas of the park and create lasting memories.
Feel the Rush on a White Water Raft
The Colorado and Green Rivers are the master sculptors of the Canyonlands landscape. Today, the two rivers meet at the Confluence, where adrenaline-seekers can embark on a white water rafting adventure in Cataract Canyon. The half-day or full-day trip is ideal for families, couples, and groups with moderate rapids that are suitable for first-time rafters. Enjoy a riverside BBQ lunch by the river where you can kick back or swim before hopping back on the raft.
Gaze at a Star-Filled Sky
Witness a wealth of stars in one of the darkest night skies in the U.S. On a moonless night, you can see infinite stars with the naked eye. With a pair of binoculars, you might spy Saturn’s rings. The national park is open 24 hours for you to visit on your own or check the calendar for Ranger-Led Programs for guided stargazing.
Let Under Canvas Moab be your home base for exploring Utah’s Canyon Country. We offer luxurious safari-style tent lodging, nightly campfires complete with s’mores, and camp programming to make your outdoor adventures even more unforgettable. Our Guest Experience Coordinators are always available to help you plan the best things to do in Moab during your stay.