Best Hikes In Canyonlands National Park [Maps Included]

When you head out on your Utah National Parks road trip, you won’t want to miss all of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park. Not far from Moab, Utah and Arches National Park in Southeast Utah is Canyonlands National Park.

Shafer Canyon Overlook, best hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is the meeting place of the Colorado River and Green River. It has a beautiful and unique landscape. There are four districts of Canyonlands National Park: Island In The Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the combined rivers (the Green and Colorado).

In our post, we will share the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park so that you have an unforgettable trip! We don’t have a favorite hike here since we love them all. So, we recommend doing multiple hikes when you visit. Enjoy!

If you love National Parks, be sure to check out our National Park Road Trip ideas!

Island In The Sky

Correctly named the Island In The Sky, this part of the park is all up high where you are looking down into the Canyon. Our first two recommendations are not hikes but things to do before hiking to get a good feel for the park.

Island In The Sky Canyonlands

Visitor Center

We always recommend stopping at the Visitor Center to have a look around the small museum area to learn more about the location and landscape; plus, it is always good to check in with the rangers on any hikes you want to do to make sure everything is open and good to go. You can also watch the short park movie to help you understand more about the park.

If you have kids with you (or even without – adults can do it too) you can get Junior Ranger books to complete so the kids can get Junior Ranger badges.

Shafer Canyon Overlook

Shafer Canyon Overlook, best hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Located right across the street from the Visitor Center is Shafer Canyon Overlook – it is a great place to get your first view of Canyonlands. The trail leads to a beautiful overlook. Be sure to check the National Park website for park closures.

Island In The Sky Hikes

There are some great short trails here, so in one visit you can easily do 2-3 hiking trails. There are also a variety of longer hikes that you can tackle too.

Mesa Arch

Best hikes in Canyonlands -Mesa Arch

This is a nice .5-mile loop hike that takes you to the Mesa Arch and only takes about 30 minutes. This is a great short hike to start with since it isn’t very difficult. Just be careful once you reach the arch, as there is a huge drop on the other side!

This is a great location to catch the sunrise. We aren’t early risers, so that wasn’t going to happen for us. . . but it is supposed to be amazing!

Distance: .5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Upheaval Dome

A steep trail that takes you to an overlook. You can stop at the first overlook and a beautiful view into Upheaval Dome or you can continue on for more views of the Dome and Upheaval Canyon.

Distance: .8 to first overlook or 1.8 miles for the whole hike.

Difficulty: Moderate

Whale Rock

The Whale Rock trail climbs the side of a sandstone dome. It is really cool and offers amazing views of the Island In The Sky!

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Grand View Point Overlook

Grand View Point Overlook - Best hikes in Canyonlands National Park

This was a fun hike but a bit scary, mainly because we had kids with us. But if you are afraid of heights, you may want to just stop at the Grand View Point Overlook at the top and not do the hike.

It is a two-mile out-and-back hike that takes you along the rim (hence the name) of Islands In The Sky. The hike itself wasn’t very strenuous; it was just stressful keeping an eye on the kids! There is no running ahead on this hike.

Distance: 1 Mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Aztec Butte

If you are looking for more of a challenge, check out the Aztec Butte trail. There is rock scrambling and ledges, so it isn’t for everyone. But if you are up for the challenge, you will be rewarded with amazing views and two ancestral Puebloan granaries.

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

White Rim Overlook

This is the hike for you if you want beautiful views of the Colorado River, Monument Basin, and La Sal Mountains! You can also sometimes see the jeeps driving on the white-rim road below. We opted not to do it because parking was limited, and we couldn’t get a spot. We will have to go back to try it out.

Distance: 1.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Island In The Sky Overlooks

As you make your way down the road to the next stop, you will see multiple overlooks where you can pull over to check out the amazing views. You also get great views while driving, so it’s up to you to make the stop and get out of the car. This is one of the best views on the Canyonlands National Parks hikes.


Needles - Canyonlands

The Needles district entrance is 90-120 minutes from the Island In The Sky Entrance, so it would be really tough to do both in one day unless you were just driving through.

We spent one day at the Island In The Sky and then one day in The Needles. The Needles district can sometimes close during inclement weather, be sure to check the National Park Website for updated closure information.

Visitor Center

As I mentioned above, it is worth stopping at the Visitor Center to talk to the rangers, check on road or hiking closures before heading out, and stock up on water.

Cave Springs

Cave Springs, Best hike in Canyonlands National Park

This shorter Cave Springs hike had us climbing up and down ladders and brings you past an old cowboy homestead area and prehistoric rock paintings. It is perfect for little legs that like to climb. Our kids always love a ladder hike!

Distance: .6 miles

Difficulty: Easy (but have to be able to climb up and down ladders)


Slickrock- the best hikes in Canyonland National Park

A tougher hike of Slickrock took us over uneven surfaces to awesome 360-degree views! The hike was 2.5 miles and most of it was exposed to the sun, so it was hot and harder with kids for that reason. But it offered a lot of really cool panoramic views.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Medium

Another recommended hike that we haven’t done is Chesler Park Loop. It is a long one, at 10.4 miles, but it looks like some great hiking!


To really get back to the Needles area, you have to do a long 6+ mile day hike. With how hot it is here, we never attempted to do that. But we were happy with what we did do and see in Needles and feel it was well worth a visit. If you hike into the Needles, be sure to check out the slot canyons and sedimentary gorges.

The Maze

The Maze is a very remote area of Canyonlands. On both of our trips here, we never made it to that area. You do need a 4X4 vehicle for most of the roads, so it just hasn’t been a fit for us.

It does sound amazing and is called one of the nation’s most remote areas!

Horseshoe Canyon

This is also where you can check out Horseshoe Canyon. It has some amazing rock art that has life-sized figures with intricate designs.

It would be an adventure to get there. Since it does sound amazing, maybe we will do it in the future! You can learn more about it here.


Here are some other awesome activities to consider while you are in Utah!

4WD Tours

If off-roading is more your thing, check out these four amazing tours of Canyonlands by 4WD:

Utah National Parks Tour

Are you in love with the idea of seeing ALL 5 of Utah’s amazing National Parks? This National Parks tour might be for you! Not only do you get to see and hike Canyonlands National Park on your guided tour, but also Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Capitol Reef National Parks.

The six day tour includes your lodging and breakfast, lunches at trendy local restaurants and even a couple of dinners! You are driven to the parks and given plenty of time to hike and explore as well as given driving tours of the various parks. This is a fantastic way to see all 5 of Utah’s National Parks in just 6 days, while a local guide to give you lots of history on the parks and take you to the best local places to eat to boot!

More To Do In Utah

While you are in Utah you are going to want to also do all the cool things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park, the best hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, the top things to do in Zion National Park, fun things to do in Arches National Park (with a stop in Moab for all the fun things to do in Moab) and things to do in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

And though technically not a part of Utah but very close you should also add all the fun things to do in Page, Arizona to your list!

Dead Horsepoint State Park

Not in Canyonlands but Dead Horsepoint State Park is well worth a stop when you are in Utah! There will be an entrance fee to get into the park so be prepared for that.

If you have extra time there are some hikes you can do in the park. Or if you are like us and were hoping to make it in time to relax and watch the sunset, just head to the back of the park.

Park your car and head over to find a rocky area to have a picnic dinner (you will need to pack this yourself – we love our Yeti coolor since we can pack it in the morning and it is still cold by the end of the day!) and watch the sunset. We even brought some wine – we were assuming that was OK??

Check out our video on Canyonlands and Deadhorse State Park:


Where To Stay


RV – The Island In The Sky and The Needles both have campgrounds that are first come first serve and no hookups. That is an option but know you most likely won’t have cell or internet service.

RV – There are also a lot of RV parks and BLM land (free boondocking – no hookups) throughout the area and by Moab. If you are interested in boondocking Moab is a great place to do it – the Mavericks gas station has free sewer dump and water!

Or check out these campgrounds within a few miles of Canyonlands National Park:

Canyonlands RV Resort & Campground (Moab)

Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground (Moab)


After a day of dusty hiking, who doesn’t want a classy, clean hotel to come back to? Check out the Hyatt Place Moab for an evening of relaxation after enjoying Canyonlands hikes!

Moab honestly has so many artsy, kid friendly places to stay!

If you are looking for a MUCH more rustic experience, check out this remote bungalow!

Interested in more awesome places to hike with kids? Check out these posts:

12 Epic Things To Do In Page, AZ

How To Plan A Trip To All 5 Utah National Parks [Map Included]

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In this post we share the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park. We know you will enjoy Canyonlands beautiful and unique landscape on these awesome hikes!
In this post we share the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park. We know you will enjoy Canyonlands beautiful and unique landscape on these awesome hikes!

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