Canyonlands National Park Things to Do

  • View of arch through tree line
    View of arch through tree line
    by BruceDunning
  • Eroded flat surface in water flow area
    Eroded flat surface in water flow area
    by BruceDunning
  • Eroded buttes are plentiful
    Eroded buttes are plentiful
    by BruceDunning

Best Rated Things to Do in Canyonlands National Park

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    White Rim Overlook In Island In the Sky

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Jul 16, 2004

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    White Rims

    Located in the Island in the Sky district, this is an easy, one and a half mile hike across slickrock and sand with an elevation change of only 25 feet (8 m). What a beautiful place, arid with the average of 10 inches of precipitation a year, yet walking the trail was like walking through lovely gardens. The view at the end of the trail in my husband's words was "awesome." The LaSal mountains raise their snow peaked points high above us in the distance at a height of about 12,700ft. We stood on a broad, level mesa with the Green river hidden two levels below us. 1,200 feet below us is the nearly continuous White Rims sandstone bench, which is cut into red spires, pinnacles, and towers along with water cut canyons, which themselves are another 1,000 feet below the White Rims. These canyons stretch canyon after canyon 100 miles to the horizon giving the whole scene below us a craggy look. The tops of the red sandstone spires, pinnacles, and towers in the White Rim area have a harder white sandstone cap as though someone had frosted the tops with heavy, white cake frosting.

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    Upheaval Dome Trail in Island In the Sky

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2004

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    View from Upheaval dome

    There are two trails here. The main overlook trail is a moderate trail, somewhat steep over loose rock. This main overlook section has a 50 ft elevation change in 1mile/1.5km of trail. The 2 mile/3 km trail to the second overlook is also over loose rock, and has an elevation of 200ft/61m, again it is rated moderate. The 200 ft. elevation gain was in the last half mile of this second overlook. Upheaval Dome was a cup shaped dome at one time that had rock within that was pushed up. The pushed up areas were then eroded into a rugged white rock terrain. There are two theories about the cause of this feature. One theory is that an old salt bed from an ancient sea had shifted causing the original crater. Another and more recent theory is that a meteor at one time struck the area. Both theories have equal supporting views within the scientific communities.

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    See Sunrise at Mesa Arch

    by windsorgirl Written Dec 9, 2004

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    sunrise at Mesa Arch

    If you have an interest in photography, you will definitely want to photograph the sunrise from Mesa Arch. For a few moments the rising sun will illuminate the underside of the arch in an orange glow, as pictured here.

    Through the arch you have a perfect view of Washerwoman Arch in the distance and the snow capped La Sal Mountains beyond.

    It is a short 500 yard walk from the parking area to this viewpoint. The staff at the Moab Tourist Information will advise you what time sunrise will be and how long it should take you to get to the arch in time. We arrived to find a group of photographers already there, but they were more than happy to make room for one more tripod.

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    Mesa Arch in Island In the Sky

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Jul 16, 2004

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    Mesa Arch

    Mesa Arch is an easy, short half mile hike (.8 km) along loose rock with an elevation change of 100 ft./30m. This arch is a picturesque, long, somewhat narrow arch, which framed a beautiful series of canyons, and the LaSal Mountains. As you look below you to a lower level, you will see an arch appropriately named Washerwoman Arch, as it looks like a woman doing hand laundry.

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  • Mesa Arch

    by CoAir13 Updated Feb 24, 2004

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    Mesa Arch

    Mesa Arch trail is fairly easy and has a great photo-op if you have the guts to climb on it. It is an arch that sits right on the edge!! Scary when it's windy....which is always! Trails, in general, are primitive...marked with rocks. Always carry a map and compass (or GPS).Primitive campsites, open all year. There are some sites along the 4 wheel-drive trails which require a permit. There are rafting and canoeing excursions offered through many companies in Moab.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Whale Rock in Island In the Sky

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2004

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    Zoom Photo of Candlestick Tower

    The hike to the top of Whale Rock is a one mile trail with a 100 foot/30m elevation gain during half of the hike. This is rated moderate and carries you over bare slickrock. In two steep areas of the walk handholds similar to a railing are placed in the slickrock. From the top of Whale Rock we had a grand panoramic view of Candlestick Tower and the valleys around it.

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    Hike to Grand View Point

    by windsorgirl Written Dec 9, 2004

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    walking on the edge

    This is a fabulous hike along the cliff's edge to Grand View Point. The hike is 2 miles return and should take one hour, there is virtually no change in elevation.

    It is very dramatic to walk along the rim of the canyon looking down 1000 feet to the Colorado River and its canyons below.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Slickrock Foot Trail

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2004

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    Slickrock Trail Map

    Unfortunately I did not take many photos in the Needles section as the bright sun and lack of shadowing prevented me from being able to get anything even close to a good example of the beauty of this area. If I had been a VT member, I would have snapped some anyhow, so that I could show you some examples of what to expect. Slickrock Trail is a 2 and 4 tenths mile loop trail where cairns lead you across slickrock to four short spurs that lead to wonderful viewpoints. You will view the La Sal and Abajo Mountains, Upper Little Spring Canyon, Lower Little Spring Canyon, and Big Spring Canyon. This is a grand view where you will see buttes rising a thousand feet above the canyon area.

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  • windsorgirl's Profile Photo

    Hike to White Rim Overlook

    by windsorgirl Written Dec 9, 2004

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    White Rim Overlook

    I enjoyed this 1.8 mile return hike out to the White Rim Overlook. As you can see in the photo, the canyon below is rimmed with a layer of white sediment.

    The hike was completely level and took less than an hour. We passed some interesting rock formations along the way (see photo on my intro page) as well as small lizards among the desert plants. The view here is looking eastward, and there is a picnic area near the parking lot.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Cave Spring in the Needles

    by KimberlyAnn Written Jul 16, 2004

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    Anchestral Puebloan Rock Art

    In Canyonlands small stacks of stone called cairns mark the trails, making it as close to a wilderness experience as you can get without a compass, GPS, or detailed map. Some of your hikes will take you over slickrock, which is a name for the bare rock surfaces that can be often found throughout the park. Cave Springs, in the Needles District, is another short loop trail of only six tenths of a mile. This is a primitive trail that will take you over slickrock, and has two pole ladders along the way so that you can climb the rocks to the next level. This area is called Cave Spring as there are alcoves carved out by seeping water which form cave like rooms with no front walls. Within one of these we found many vine like plants and moss growing on the wet back wall so that it was decorated with green hanging plants. In one of these alcoves you will see an old cowboy camp, which had been used from the late 1800?s to 1975 when cattle ranching was discontinued in the park. In another of these cave like alcoves there were soot blackened ceilings and handprints painted on the walls as well as other figures from the ancestral Puebloan Indian period. Within this alcove was a boulder with grinding marks where something had been ground with a stone by these same ancient people. Indians occupied these canyons during certain seasonal times of the year from 1000AD to 1300. They lived in the alcoves and planted crops. Please to not touch or mark the rock art, as this will damage them. Be aware it is also a federal law that pictographs must not be defaced.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Aztec Butte in Island In the Sky

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Jul 16, 2004

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    My Husband by a Granary at the High Butte

    This area contains two trails, the first is an easy, 1mile/1.5km trail over loose sand with a 25 ft/8m elevation change. There is also a 1mile/1.5km spur trail that comes off of the easier trail, and will take you to the summit. This summit trail is rated strenuous as it will take you up along steep slickrock with a 200 ft/61m gain in the last quarter mile. At the top of one butte along this trail you will see a pair of almost twin Ancestral Puebloan Granaries that were in excellent condition, and to which you could climb completely up to, so that you could peak in through the small openings in the fronts. We felt like we earned our mountain goat standing as we tackled the more strenuous 200 ft climb of the trail to the taller butte. It was so steep in places that I had to climb with both hands and feet to proceed forward. Slickrock is quite smooth and offers very little to no handholds, so it was quite a challenge for me. In some spots on the return trip I had to work my way down in a sitting position. Circling the top of the butte with varied views of the valleys below, we again viewed an ancestral Pueblean Granarie up close. This one was also very interesting; however not in as excellent condition as the previous ones we had seen at the lower butte. This was because the first two were built into an overhanging rock cove, therefore protected from the elements. The one on the high butte was built in the open, fully exposed. Even so, except for the missing roof it was in surprisingly good shape. This strenuous rated climb was marked with rock cairns to show you the path to take both up and down, as well as the circle route at the top of the butte.

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  • windsorgirl's Profile Photo

    Green River Overlook

    by windsorgirl Written Dec 9, 2004

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    Green River Overlook

    There is no hiking necessary to enjoy this viewpoint. It is located on the west side of the mesa, opposite to the White Rim Overlook. However, the canyons of the Green River are also rimmed by the same white sediment that was seen at White Rim Overlook. In fact, it is even more prominent here.

    This overlook is said to be a good spot for viewing sunset.

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  • Upheaval Dome

    by CoAir13 Written Mar 6, 2004

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    Upheaval Dome

    The most outstanding geologic feature in Island in the Sky!! It's not actually a dome, but a crater measuring 1,500 feet deep. There are many theories as to how this crater was created. Was it a meteor? Or was it slow moving underground salt deposits that pushed sandstone upward? Whatever the origin....it's interesting. There is a trail around it.

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    an adventure park

    by richiecdisc Written Jul 5, 2009

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    look close and see the four-wheel drive tracks

    While Canyonlands is indeed a National Park it seems more like a National Recreation Area with regard to its more lenient usage and lack of accessibility. Two paved roads enter the park at opposite ends of the park but four-wheel drive unpaved tracks not only enter from a few other vantage points but cross it near both the Colorado and Green Rivers. Hiking trails are steep and unforgiving as the terrain of the canyon dictates. Backcountry camping can be via foot or vehicle or a combination of both. This is an adventure park in every way and limited only by your ability of self-reliance and tools. Being prepared is tantamount in a place as remote as this and one thing you must carry is ample water. Drinking water is available in only three spots in the park. If traveling with a four-wheel drive vehicle, large containers are essential for not only water but perhaps gasoline if you trip is to be extended. You will not find fuel anywhere in the park and you could be days away from a gas station depending on how deep you go into the backcountry.

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  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    Grand Views Point in Island In the Sky

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Jul 16, 2004

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    This is an easy, two mile walk along the rim with views thousands of miles below us. Stairs made of natural rock, will take you over the elevation changes on this trail. The altitude gain here is only 50 ft/14m. This was the most developed trail we had been on since arriving in the Moab area, where we visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

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Canyonlands National Park Things to Do

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