Are you looking for the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park? In this guide we round up the best and easy hikes in the Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky area with trailhead descriptions and top tips to make the most of your time hiking in the park.
Note: Canyonlands National Park is actual split into three distinct areas. They are Island in the Sky, Needles and Maze. The Maze is the most remote and challenging region and only really suitable for very experienced hikers. As we were travelling to Canyonlands with kids we decided to only tackle the Island in the Sky edition as in this section of the park there are a good mix of hike lengths and many are easy and are suitable for less experienced hikers and those travelling with kids.
Best hikes in Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky Edition
Mesa Arch Trail Hike – easy hikes in Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch has to be the number one thing to see in Canyonlands National Park and the great thing about the trail to get to it is that it is a super easy hike. In fact it is only half a mile in length! The only downside to this is that the trail and the arch can get super busy at peak times. Therefore we recommend heading to the trail for sunrise. This way you beat the heat – which is definitely an issue if you are travelling to Moab in the Summer and although there are likely to still be people there as Mesa Arch at sunrise is one of the best photo spots in Moab it will definitely be better than going in the middle of the day.
While this hike is only short and a really easy hike in Canyonlands, be sure to budget at least 30 minutes for this in your Canyonlands itinerary as you will need to allow time to navigate potential crowds at the viewpoint and allow yourself plenty of photo taking time.
And although only a very short hike one of the things I enjoyed about the Mesa Arch Trail is that is is circular so you don’t have to repeat the same views on the way there and back.
Things to Note about Mesa Arch Trail:
- The trail is located around a ten minute drive from the Islands in the Sky Visitor Centre.
- There is a car park right next to the trail on Grand View Point Road
- Best viewed at sunrise
- Please note: there is a sheer drop behind this arch so please use common sense when taking and posing for photos at this viewpoint.
Grand View Point Hike
After the Mesa Arch Trail hike I would say the Grand View Point Hike is the next popular hike in Canyonlands National Park. The hike is only around a 2 mile round trip and takes in some of the best panoramics in the Island in the Sky area of the park. Though the view doesn’t change much as the hike progresses it is certainly worth doing to escape the crowds that seem to congregate at the trailhead but don’t proceed the full length of the trail.
The trail is relatively wide and flat and we completed this one with our toddler easily.
Things to Note about Grand View Trail:
- Find it at Grand View Trailhead
- Allow around 1.5 hours
Upheaval Dome Hike
If you are a geology nut like most of my family the trail that you will be most interested in is Upheaval Dome. The reason for this is because it is somewhat of a geological mystery with no one quite agreeing on how the crater was formed.
The nice thing about this trailhead is that you actually have the choice of hike length as there are two observation points on this trail. The first observation point is only a .3mile hike. The second is an additional half a mile. As always at national parks I find that adding that bit of extra effort to get to the second observation point is well worth it if you have time in your Canyonlands itinerary as it offers a different perspective and again the crowds thin out slightly.
Things to note about the Upheaval Dome Trailhead
- The hike is not flat and there are more uneven surfaces. Therefore we recommend making sure you have proper hiking boots on for this trail and if you have kids it is definitely a carrier not a stroller trailhead.
- Allow roughly 1.5hours in your Canyonlands itinerary for this trailhead.
Top Tips for Hiking in Canyonlands National Park
- Take plenty of water – Moab can get hot especially during the summer.
- Avoid hiking in the midday sun (12-4pm) if you are travelling to Moab during the summer months.
- Always let people know where you are going hiking and please note that there is very little cell phone signal in the park.
- Always follow trails and cairns
- There’s no food outlets in Canyonlands National Park so be sure to pack adequate supplies before heading out on the trails.
- Add sunscreen and a sun hat to your packing list especially if you are visiting during the summer.
For more tips on visiting and hiking national parks with toddlers check out this post.
Essentials for Hiking in Canyonlands National Park
As there is very little in terms of amenities in Canyonlands National Park it is really important to pack your day pack correctly before heading out on any hikes. In this section we will tell you everything we consider to be an essential for hiking in Canyonlands National Park
- Water Bottle
There are no amenities for catering in Canyonlands National Park therefore it is essential to pack plenty of water especially if you are planning to hike in Islands in the Sky in Summer.
- Packed Lunch
If you want to do any longer hikes then it is essential that you have enough food for the day with you.
- Head Torch
One of the must do things to do in Canyonlands National Park is Mesa Arch and the best time to visit some of the arches in Canyonlands is at sunrise and sunset. While these offer stunning views and photography opportunities there is also some danger given the sheer drops that you will find on some of the trails in the park. Therefore if you want to hike at sunset or sunrise in Canyonlands be sure to take a head torch with you.
The sun gets super strong in Canyonlands National Park especially in summer. While I recommend trying not to hike in the heat of the day, it is best to take a sun hat with you whatever time of day you go hiking.
For the same reasons as the above.
- Zip off Trousers
Although the sun gets really hot in Canyonlands, if you are heading into the park for sunrise it can get chilly. I find the best trousers for these situations are zip offs so you can convert them to shorts later in the day.
- Hiking boots
While not all the trails require hiking boots many do so I recommend taking and using hiking boots on all the trails in Canyonlands.
Have you been to Canyonlands? What do you think are the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park?