If you are visiting Arches National Park, you might as well drive on over to Canyonlands National Park! Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah and is undeniably beautiful. The park is higher in elevation than Arches National Park, so you can see for miles at each lookout. It’s amazing!
Canyonlands National Park consists of four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers. Island in the Sky is the one people usually visit because it is the easiest to access. I’ll talk more about this district in this post. The Needles is 1.5 hours south of Moab and is less visited but very beautiful. If you are looking to do some offroading, this is the place for you! It is known for crazy jeep trails, so make sure to have a high clearance 4x4 if you want to visit here! The Maze district is the least accessible district in Canyonlands. Because it is so remote and the roads are so difficult to travel on, only a handful of the tourists who visit Canyonlands each year get to experience The Maze. Pretty crazy! If you do decide to explore here, make sure you are prepared and give yourself a few days. I would recommend talking to a park ranger and doing your research before heading out here.
Time needed to explore: The time it takes to explore Canyonlands varies depending on which districts you will be visiting. If you are looking to get a few good hikes in and just visit Island in the Sky, I would recommend allocating 1-2 days in Canyonlands National Park. If you are looking to simply drive around and see everything that is easily accessible, you only really need 1 day. If you are looking to add The Needles district, I would allocate another day. If you are looking to explore The Maze… GOOD LUCK. Lol, jk. You would need to do more research on how long to be there for. Alex and I did not explore The Maze, so I can’t give many tips about it!
Where to stay: Similar to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park is not far from Moab. If you decide to spend the night, I would recommend staying in Moab! It’s about 40 minutes from the Island in the Sky park entrance and has plenty of hotel and Airbnb options, an endless amount of restaurants and a great grocery store with decent prices, so you are golden if you stay here!
Things to know before you go: As I explained above, Canyonlands National Park has four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers. Your trip to Canyonlands will depend on what districts you want to visit, so I recommend doing your research on how much time you need to explore!
Tips and Tricks: Similar to Arches National Park, Canyonlands can become very crowded which will lead to limited parking inside the park, especially on weekends. The parking lots are relatively big, so usually you can do a loop and find a spot, however, I would recommend being in the park early. Getting to the park before 9:00 AM will give you plenty of time to see some of the most popular attractions before it becomes too crowded. That’s what we did, and we saw and hiked everything on our list in a 1 day.
Things to See:
1. Shafer Canyon Overlook
Shafer Canyon Overlook is the first stop once in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands and gives you an awesome view of the canyon that Shafer Trail Road runs through. The road is an 18-mile dirt road that is considered dangerous and is not for the faint-hearted! If you have the time (and guts) you can drive on the road and get your adrenaline pumping!
If you are like us and didn’t have the time and maybe not the guts, you can experience the beauty of this canyon from the overlook. It’s only a short walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint, so no hiking is required!
2. Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch is the next attraction in Canyonlands, and it is the most iconic spot in the park! You probably have seen a picture of this arch during sunrise or sunset. To be honest, it’s not impressive midday especially if you already explored Arches National Park, but it is a sight to see during golden hour!
Mesa Arch requires an easy, short 0.6-mile roundtrip hike. You will most likely be one of many ants marching to the arch, so don’t expect it to be easy to snap a picture of the arch without anyone in it! I would recommend seeing Mesa Arch during sunrise or sunset to have fewer crowds and a better view.
Fun fact: We actually didn’t take a picture of Mesa Arch. We went here midday because we had another place in mind for sunset, and there were SO MANY people here. Everyone wanted a selfie…
3. Grand View Point
I am saving the BEST for last! There are a few other overlooks along the way to Grand View Point, including Candlestick Tower Overlook, Buck Canyon Overlook, Orange Cliff Overlook, and a side road that brings you to Green River Overlook, Whale Rock and Upheaval Dome. Those were all okay, but Grand View Point was SO BEAUTIFUL!
Grand View Point is at the end of the park and offers an incredible view of canyons. You can see for miles, and it is absolutely breathtaking! To get to the best view, it is an easy 2-mile roundtrip hike to the edge of the canyon. It is worth every step, I promise!
The parking lot for Grand View Point was packed, however, we had the endpoint of the trail to ourselves. We passed quite a few people on our hike, however, it seemed as if none of them made it to the end. We didn’t mind though because it meant we could take in the beauty in peace! If you haven’t caught that drift yet, we really enjoy the peacefulness. I mean, who doesn’t?
4. Deadhorse Point State Park
A short distance from the Island in the Sky entrance lives a beautiful state park. Deadhorse Point State Park receives a lot of attraction because of its proximity to Canyonlands National Park. Even though it is technically not a part of Canyonlands, I am including it because it is worth the stop. Even though it is not big, it has plenty of things to see and a lot of hiking options! Nothing too long or strenuous, but still good options if you are looking to hike a bit!
The best spot in Deadhorse Point State Park, in my opinion, is Dead Horse Point Overlook. The overlook is at the very end of the park and provides an incredible view of the canyon. It is a similar view to Grand View Point in Canyonlands! There are a few viewpoints at this overlook that are all short and easy walks from the parking lot. This is an AMAZING spot for sunset. Even if it gets crowded, you are sure to find a peaceful spot.
Have you been to Canyonlands National Park? What was your favorite attraction? Make sure to check out my post about Canyonlands National Park neighbor, Arches National Park!