Excellent views! This is a very easy 1.5 mile out and back hike. The trail is well maintained and in recent years many stone steps have been put in place to make it even easier. The view to the south is much better than on the other side of this peninsula. At the end of the trail is the island in the sky, a large lonely mesa. Hiking out to the end, stay on you left for the great views. Be careful here, there are no guard rails and it is a 2000 ft. drop.
Mesa Arch is another of the best sites in the park. This 50 foot arch is one of the most popular and photographed places in the park so your chances of getting a photo with no other people in the photo are slim to none. Make sure you get a photo of the spectacular view on the other side of the arch. You can also hike to the other side of the arch.
There is a small (only 40 foot) strip of land that allows access to the Island in the Sky. The neck is slowly eroding and will someday disappear altogether ending its use to access the main part of the park.
Buck Canyon shows the affect human habitation and construction can have on the terrain. Cattle grazing here altered the vegetation which changed the terrain and roads were constructed in the 50s to look for oil and uranium.
In addition to the Green River Overlook, this is one of the must see stops on Island in the Sky. This is the southernmost stop on the scenic drive. From here you can see parts of The Maze and The Needles portions of the park, along with the Colorado River. Check out the White Rim Sandstone.
The Orange Cliffs are an excellent place to view the different rocks that form Canyonlands like the Kayenta Formation; Chinle Formation; Navajo Sandstone; Wingate Sandstone; different trees and other formations.
The Green River Overlook is accessible via a short spur road almost directly across from the access road. The view of the Green River and its surrounding canyon is quite nice, as is the white mesa formations. There are also several nice formations visible in the distance like Ekker Butte and Turks Head (which has a visible cap of the white rock). If you only have time to stop at a few overlooks, this should be one of them.
On the Northwest end of the scenic drive is one of the more interesting features in the park. Unlike much of the more orderly scenery, Upheaval Dome, looks more jumbled and displaced. Another thing that makes Upheaval Dome interesting to me is the controversy. Some geologists trace the origin of this 2-mile wide crater-like formation to the impact of a meteorite some 60 million years ago. The earth then recoiled partly refilling the crater and years of erosion have left the formation as you see it today. Other geologists disagree with the meteorite theory and say the formation came about much more slowly and naturally. They say that a vast area of salt was deposited by an inland sea that occupied the area some 300 million years ago before dissipating and leaving behind the salt. Slowly the salt was covered over by sediments brought in by wind and rain. Pressures from below push the less dense salt up through the rocks causing a dome that slowly eroded over the millions of years to form the feature you see today. Either way, this is a pretty interesting feature; the colors differences are neat and the view of the surrounding area is great. There are two viewpoints to see the dome, both trails are steep in some places. I felt it was worth the hike.
The next stop is Whale Rock which is an appropriately named slick rock formation that looks like a beached whale. You can get a good view of the formation by walking a short distance down the trail. If you continue the rest of the way down the trail you get a great view of the surrounding area from the top of the rock.
You really need to explore the less accessible areas to fully appreciate the park but there are also quite a few nice overlooks available along the 20 mile scenic drove on Island in the Sky. The drive TO the park is pretty impressive too.
Alcove Spring offers a nice view of an intermittent stream and a nice canyon showing the erosion caused by the stream through the years and the different rock strata that form the Canyonlands area. This stop also has a long trail leading to Taylor Canyon and connecting to other trails. Great view.
After I drove down the access road to the Scenic Drive, I turned right/north. The first place I stopped was the Aztec Butte Parking Area. Aztec Butte was visited by Ancestral Puebloan Indians who hunted and gathered in the area and built stone granaries to store the grains and food. The ruins of these structures are still visible on the butte today.
Just about directly across the road from the visitors center is the Shafer Canyon Overlook. This is a good introduction to the beautiful scenery you will see at the other overlooks and viewpoints along the Island in the Sky Scenic Drive. The trailhead for the Neck Spring Interpretive Trail (which I did not take) is here too.
There are a wide variety of trails available in Canyonlands National Park. They range from very short easy trails that are handicapped accessible to long, difficult backcountry trails. I will give details on a few of these trails in the Sports Tips Section.
Before you get to the visitors center is a pull off for two mesas that are close to each other, and look like they are facing one another. These formations are called the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac" after two ironclad ships that fought a famous battle during the Civil War. They look kinda shiplike to me too. There is a trail leading closer to them.