Island in the sky is the most visited area of the Canyonlands and it's filled with amazing overlooks and some great short hikes that you can do while you are there.
Having a full day is the perfect amount of time to explore this section of the Canyonlands. You'll be able to access the best overlooks and hike some of the national park’s most iconic trails as well.
Getting around the park is simple too. There’s a 34 mile round trip scenic drive which will take you to all of the overlooks and the hiking trails.
So What Are The Best Viewpoints To Visit?
Visitor Center Viewpoint
As soon as you arrive through the gates of the park, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the visitor center and then catch an incredible view right across the street from it.
Buck Canyon Overlook
Buck canyon overlook is another great vantage point to view the canyon from. This panoramic vista provides you with a clear view of the White Rim Road.
Grand View Point
The grand view point is one of the top views in Island in the sky. It's your last stop on the Grand View point road and is one of the most popular viewpoints in the park.
Some honorable mentions include Orange Cliffs Overlook, Green River Overlook, and Shafer Canyon Overlook. If you have some time, make sure you check out these three as well.
Best Short Hikes
Mesa Arch Hike (0.5 miles round trip 30 mins)
The Mesa Arch hike is a short and easy loop that brings you right to the Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is one of the most photographed spots in the Canyonlands and it’s famous for the unique lighting it gets during sunrise.
If you visit the Canyonlands during peak season then it’s likely that this trail and arch will be packed during sunrise and throughout the day. But, if you visit in the winter like we did, then it’s likely that you’ll have the arch all to yourself.
Grand View Point Hike (2 miles 1 to 1.5 hrs)
From the Grand View Point Overlook, that we mentioned earlier, you can do a 2 mile hike that will take you on a trail that travels along the edge of the mesa. It’s a really easy walk that provides you with great views across the canyon.
White Rim Overlook (1.8 miles 45min to 1hr)
Another short hike just under 2 miles is the White Rim Overlook hike. This hike will provide some of the most picturesque views in the whole park and may be the least crowded area during peak season.
Upheaval Dome (1.8 miles 1 to 1.5 hours)
The Upheaval Dome is another short hike at just under 2 miles, on a trail that goes through small hills. Some people think that the crater here was caused by a meteorite impact. There are two overlooks where you can see the Upheaval Dome crater. If you decide to go to the first one, it’s just a 0.8 mile round trip.
Best Time To Visit
Winter is undoubtedly the best time to visit the Canyonlands. The park was nearly empty when I visited in February and there was so much parking all around me. Hiking was super easy because the temperature was cool. It wasn’t very cold at all, and I was simply wearing a sweater and I was fine. Visiting the Canyonlands in the spring, summer or fall will be significantly busier especially if you want to visit popular locations like Mesa’s Arch and Grand View Overlook.
Also in the winter, your accommodations will be cheaper if you decide to stay overnight. And if you're flying into Utah from out of town, your flight will be cheaper in the winter as well.
Where To Stay & Eat
Canyonlands is a 45 minute drive from Moab.
If you get hungry while exploring the Canyonlands you’re in luck because Moab has some great choices for you to indulge in.
There are a diverse range of restaurants here and the ones we visited were all really great.
If you read our Arches National Park guide you can see exactly where we ate during our time in Moab.
Also, if you want to make your Canyonlands adventure an overnight one, then Moab is the best place to spend the night as well. There are a variety of hotels, motels, RV parks, and campsites around Moab for you to decide from.
As noted previously, because we visited in the winter, we were able to get very reasonable prices during our stay in Moab. Our hotel cost $158 for two nights total.
Additionally, we were able to get some extra hotel discounts with our GAFFL Unlimited Memberships. As a GAFFL Unlimited member you can save up to 60% off select hotels around the world. These rates are private for GAFFL Unlimited members and not available to the general public. Click here to learn more about a GAFFL Unlimited Membership.
So now you know how to spend your day in the Canyonlands. Hope you enjoyed this guide, and have a great trip of your own.
And remember if you need to find a travel buddy for your next trip, be sure to check out GAFFL.