Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah has dramatic scenery that is unlike any other. It was created by the Colorado and Green Rivers creating massive canyons below and a mesa above.
Canyonlands is divided into sections because the Island in the Sky mesa is 1000 feet over the canyon below. The lower sections of Canyonlands are The Needles and The Maze.
Island in the Sky is by far the most frequently visited section because of its proximity to Moab, Utah and Arches National Park. The Needles is about 2 hours (107 miles) south and The Maze is practically inaccessible.
Island in the Sky Scenic Drive
Grand View Point Drive is the road that goes through the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. If you just plan to drive it and stop at the overlooks, plan on about an hour.
Shafer Trail Road Overlook
The Shafer Trail Road is an intense road that connects Island in the Sky Mesa with Moab, descending 1500 feet! It requires 4×4, high clearance and a bit of bravery to navigate the sharp turns descending the canyon. It was named after the Shafer Family, a pioneer family who used the road to move cattle from winter pastures below to summer pastures on the mesa.
If you do only one hike in Canyonlands, Mesa Arch should be it! The arch is stunning and only an easy 0.6 miles round trip. If you go in the spring or early summer, you may luck out to see the desert in bloom!
After the Mesa Arch trailhead, the road splits and you can head right or left. To the right is a series of stops that mostly require a short hike:
-Green River Overlook (0.2 easy)
-Aztec Butte (1.6 moderate)
-Whale Rock (0.8 easy)
-Upheaval Dome (1.3 moderate miles – only 0.7 to first overlook).
To the left there are impressive views without a hike.
Buck Canyon Overlook
The Buck Canyon Overlook is impressive with its view down at the layers under the White Rim. This viewpoint is wheelchair accessible and just next to the parking lot.
White Rim Overlook
Grand View Point Overlook
At Grand View Point you can see what looks like fingers in the canyon.
Stats: Distance –34 miles roundtrip drive
Approximate hiking time – 1-2 hours (depending on stops)
Bathrooms – At the Trailheads
Seasons to drive – Year-Round
Permits needed – $30 per car for 7-day pass to Canyonlands (or National Parks Pass)
Pets allowed – No
The Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands is very close to Dead Horse Point. You may also want to check out these nearby trails in Moab. Potash Road Petroglyphs and Dinosaur Tracks, Ken’s Lake and Arches National Park.