Canyonlands offers a vastly different experience even though it is only across the valley from the more famous Arches National Park. Starting in Moab, we travel to the Island in the Sky District exploring along Grand View Point Rd and Upheaval Dome Rd.
Enthusiastic photographers should get up early if they want to capture Canyonlands’ most famous image – sunrise through Mesa Arch. If we start later in the day, arrange your time so you are still in the Park for a spectacular sunset.
Along the way we’ll examine perplexing elements at Upheaval Dome and how this has led to two different theories behind Utah’s “belly button”.
A view to the Merrimac and Monitor Buttes will have you imagining them as the American Civil War armor plated ships, or ironclads, that they resemble. Gaze down into the depths at Green River Outlook carved by the unrelenting Colorado and Green Rivers.
Those fit and properly prepared should hike the Aztec Butte Trail to view ancestral Puebloan structures called granaries.
For those with limited mobility Canyonlands offers many easily accessible scenic viewpoints, and each one adds to understanding how this is an island in the sky.
Start in Moab. If arriving directly from the north, turn from 191 onto 313 to join the commentary on the way to Canyonlands Park entrance.
Allow a minimum 1/2 day to a full day to enjoy the main sights along the drive and more time if you plan on hiking.
Approx 75 miles return
Visitation in Canyonlands is high from March to October, with Easter, Memorial Day and Labor Day the busiest. Consider visiting in the Winter, taking advantage of off-season rates and generally milder sunny weather.
Allow a minimum of a half day to a full day in Canyonlands National Park to enjoy the main sights along the drive and more time if you plan on hiking.
Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is close to the borders of Utah and Nevada. To get to Canyonlands from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, travel to Moab in Utah which is about 370 miles to the north and from here the popular Island in the Sky, is about 40 minutes west of Moab.
Canyonlands does not get as crowded as Arches, but it does still see its fair share of visitors from March through October. Visit early in the day to avoid lines at the entrance station and traffic along the park road.
You can also return at night to star gaze. Certified as an official International Dark Sky Park, return at night to see the night sky full of stars. Bring your binoculars or join a Stargazer Program with a ranger.
Yes, you can self-drive through Canyonlands and the 34 mile (round trip) Island in the Sky scenic drive provides easy access to viewpoints to gaze down into the ragged canyons.
Other areas of Canyonlands National Park including Needles and The Maze are more remote or backcountry, and require 4×4 vehicles and some technical experience.
The popular Island in the Sky road in Canyonlands offers great viewing from the car. Combined with short paved or gravel pathways to viewpoints, it makes for an enjoyable experience for those with physical or mobility issues.