Guide to Canyonlands National Park in One Day
Offering incredible canyon views, Canyonlands National Park makes you feel like you are on a different planet. The canyons were formed by millions of years of erosion of sedimentary rock. The Green River and Colorado River carved into the rock and thunderstorms eroded the softer rock creating the canyons you can see today.
Canyonlands National Park is located in southeast Utah, 40 minutes west of Moab. Canyonlands is open all year, 24 hours a day. The best time to visit is during the spring or the fall as it gets crowded and hot in the summer. This guide focuses on the Island in the Sky district, a mesa that is about 1,000 feet above the surrounding land. This is the easiest region to get to and allows you to visit the park in just one day.
Canyonlands is made up of three districts separated by rivers. There are no roads that directly connect the three districts.
- Island in the Sky: Closest to Moab and the most popular.
- The Needles: This district has more options for backcountry hiking. It is about 1 hour and 20 minutes away from Moab.
- The Maze: This is the most remote district, with the visitor center located 4 hours from Moab. Here a four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle is needed.
$30 per vehicle for 7 day pass
OR $80 for America the Beautiful annual pass (accepted at all US national parks)
How Much Time is Needed in Canyonlands
I would recommend spending about 6 hours at Canyonlands in order see majority of the the overlooks and short trails in the Island in the Sky District. On the way back to Moab from Canyonlands National Park you should take a slight detour to stop at Dead Horse Point State Park for viewpoints 2,000 feet above a gooseneck in the Colorado River. If you have more time in Moab I recommend visiting Arches National Park where there are over 2,000 documented natural arches.
Amenities in the Park
There is no food or gas in the park so make sure to fill up gas before and bring snacks with you. There is water available at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. You can find toilets at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and at hikes and overlooks throughout the park.
Where to Stay
Moab is a city about 40 minutes from Canyonlands with many accommodation options including hotels and Airbnbs. There are several restaurants in Moab and cafes with quick breakfast and lunch options. We stayed in Grand View Cottages Airbnb in Moab which we highly recommend.
Tip: If you book ahead of time (2+ months in advance) you can find great Airbnb options. If you have never booked with Airbnb before, follow this Airbnb link to get $40 off your first stay.
Best Hiking Trails At Canyonlands National Park
One of the best things to do at Canyonlands National Park is hike on the unique trails. The hiking trails offer the opportunity for incredible views of the canyons.
Grand View Point Overlook Trail
Grand View Point Overlook trail is one of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park. This trail is an easy walk that is a total of 2 miles out and back. The hike follows the canyon edge for the majority of the time and offers incredible views. It does get very crowded on this hike so try to hike either really early or late in the day. Make sure to bring plenty of water as there is barely any shade on this hike and it can get hot.
White Rim Overlook Trail
White Rim Overlook Trail is an easy 1.8 miles out and back trail. There are not many views along the way but the hike ends at a viewpoint where you can see the Colorado River and La Sal Mountains. This hike is very quiet so it is a perfect place to enjoy the views without crowds.
Upheaval Dome (First Overlook)
Follow the short 0.8 miles out and back trail with some incline to get to an overlook of Upheaval Dome. This is an incredible geological feature hypothesized to have been caused by either a meteorite impact or a salt dome uplift.
Mesa Arch is a very popular half mile hike leads to an arch with views of the canyons. It can get very crowded so try to do this hike on the early or late part of the day. This is one of the top things to see in Canyonlands National Park and can’t be missed.
Best Quick Overlooks At Canyonlands National Park
Grand View Point Overlook
With one day at Canyonlands National Park, overlooks offer the perfect opportunity to see more of the park in a short amount of time. Follow the short trail from the parking lot to Grand View Point Overlook for a great view of the canyons.
Green River Overlook
Green River Overlook is another great viewpoint to visit during your one day at Canyonlands National Park. Take a short walk from the parking lot to see this view of the Green River.
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