Canyonlands National Park

Day Hiking
Gorp.com
Mesa Arch (John Clet Jones, Greater West Images)

Canyonlands is divided into three separate districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. Hiking in each district is like hiking in a different park.

Island in the Sky

Both short walks and long hikes lead to some of Canyonlands' outstanding features. Short trails (less than one mile) on the Island and in the Needles will take you to overlooks, arches and other geologic features, and Indian ruins. Some trails have wayside exhibits or brochures, which can be picked up at trailheads or visitor centers. Longer trails penetrate wilder regions. Trails are generally primitive, marked only with rock cairns. They are rugged and require strenuous exertion. The best times for hikes are spring and fall. See the trail map.

Island's trails are the most accessible in the park. There are over a dozen trailheads in Island in the Sky that lead to walks and hikes of varying duration and difficulty. Here are a few of the highlights:

Short Mesa Top Trails

Grand View Trail
Estimated time: 2 miles, 1.5 hrs. round-trip
Level of difficulty: easy
Trail description: has cliffs along rim

Among the most popular hikes in the park with good reason: Check out the truly awesome desert view at Grand View Overlook.

Mesa Arch Loop Trail
Estimated time: 1/2 mile, 30 min. round-trip
Level of difficulty: easy
Trail description: has loose rock

Located at the island's east end, just 5.5 miles from the visitor's center, this loop trail winds through pinon-juniper woodland, rewarding hikers with a beautiful view of the La Sal Mountains.

Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail
Estimated time: 1 mile, 45 min. round-trip
Level of difficulty: moderate
Trail description: steep, loose rock

This hike offers (guess what!) sensational views, this time of 1,500-foot Upheaval Dome, which geologists believe to be either a collapsed salt dome or a meteorite impact crater. In any case, all agree it's among the most peculiar geological features in the world.

Neck Spring Loop Trail
Estimated time: 5 miles, 2-4 hrs. round-trip
Level of difficulty: moderate
Trail description: sandy

Neck Spring gives you views of the Canyonlands. Along the trail, you'll find fascinating remnants of cattle-ranching: the remains of an old corral, drift fence, etc.

White Rim Overlook
Estimated time: 1.5 miles, 1 hr. round-trip
Level of difficulty: easy
Trail description: bare slickrock

This hike offers arguably the best view of the 2000-foot-deep Colorado River canyon in the Island in the Sky district. The White Crack boasts an interesting hiking route below the rim.

Needles

Although it's the most developed area of the park, considerable country is reachable only on foot.

Angel Arch Backcountry Trail
Estimated time: 1.2 mile, 30 min. round-trip
Level of difficulty: easy
Trail description: hard surface

The trail leads to Angel Arch—the symbol of Canyonlands. It features majestic Molar Rock in the foreground.

Cave Spring
Estimated Time: 0.6 miles, 45 min. round-trip
Level of difficulty: easy
Trail description: slickrock, two ladders

Interesting vegetation, and fascinating remnants of late 1800's cowboy line camp.

Slickrock Foot Trail
Estimated time: 2-4 miles, 2-3 hrs. round-trip
Level of difficulty: moderate
Trail description: little shade, slickrock

Long hike, but panoramic views throughout.

Confluence Overlook
Estimated time: 5.5 miles, 4-6 hrs round-trip
Level of difficulty: moderate
Trail description: one ladder, little shade

Big Spring Trailhead's Confluence Overlook (not to be confused with Backcountry Trailhead's Confluence Overlook) offers a view of the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers.

Pothole Point Trail
Estimated time: 0.6 miles, 45 min. round-trip
Level of difficulty: easy
Trail description: slickrock

Aptly named for the potholes that have formed in the slickrock. The potholes range in size from under a foot in diameter to deep depressions.

Elephant Hill Trailhead

Chesler Park
Estimated time: 2.9 miles, 3.4 hrs. round-trip
Level of difficulty: moderate to strenuous
Trail description: loose rock

Elephant Druid Arch
Estimated time:
5.4 miles, 4-6 hrs. round-trip
Level of difficulty: moderate
Trail description: ladder, sandy wash

Druid Arch Trail is the most popular of Elephant Hill's three hikes. Druid Arch is southeast Utah's version of Stonehenge.


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