Canyonlands National Park Things to Do Tips by Karnubawax

Canyonlands National Park Things to Do: 141 reviews and 275 photos

White Rim Road - way down below - Canyonlands National Park

White Rim Road - way down below

White Rim Road (Island in the Sky)

For a truly awesome road trip, consider taking the 100-mile White Rim Road. This dirt road skirts the edge of the interior canyon and offers unbelievable scenery. I peered down enviously from the overlooks, cursing my rented Dodge Neon and wishing I had my old Jeep with me!

4WD may not be necessary, but your vehicle should be fairly high clearance and in good working order. You do NOT want to break down here (though it is pretty well-traveled, a tow would be very expensive and take a couple of days at least!). Definitely get in touch with the NPS to inquire about current conditions, and if your vehicle is up to snuff.

I believe this pic was taken from the Shafer Overlook.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Feb 25, 2006
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Grandview Overlook - Canyonlands National Park

Grandview Overlook

Island In The Sky (an overview)

This is the most easily accessable area of Canyonlands National Park - but that doesn't mean that it's the most boring! Making the drive into this area will reward the visitor with some of the most awesome scenery in the USA. Any trip to the parks of Utah would not be complete without a stop here! DO NOT MISS IT!

As you reach the end of the main road, you will come across the Green River Overlook. A huge, lush canyon within a dry, arid canyon totally mesmerizes you, and you say to yourself "well, it CAN'T possibly get any better than this." You would be wrong.

Continue to the end of the line, and you get to the Grandview Overlook. In my experience, only the Grand Canyon itself compares to the view here. Indeed, it's a lot like the Grand Canyon, in the sense that you can see the whole thing in 5 minutes, or spend a week and barely scratch the surface. With a good pair of binoculars, you can peer down into the canyon and begin to get a sense of the awesome scale of what you are witnessing.

If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you should definitely consider doing the White Rim Drive. This is possibly one of the most scenic drives in the USA, and, if your vehicle is up to it, you shouldn't pass up the opportunity.

The Island is also home to the Upheaval Dome Trail, which I believe to be somewhat overrated.

There is a VERY small campground (only 12 sites) which will more than likely be full. Don't plan on staying here unless you're willing to get here early to fight for a spot. And I mean that literally; I almost got into an altercation with an RVer who insisted he had got a spot before I did (and essentially accused me of stealing it). I let the baby have his bottle, and continued on (as I was sort of planning to do anyway).

Directions: Tip: go the the GRO first. The view will floor you, and set you up for the even more spectacular Grandview.

Note: photographs do not do this place justice, particularly MY pics! I must have had my camera on 'suck' mode when I took these pictures!

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Feb 20, 2006
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Upheaval Dome (Island in the Sky) - Canyonlands National Park
Upheaval Dome (Island in the Sky)

To be honest, I found the Upheaval Dome hike somewhat of a letdown after the gorgeous overlooks, but it is kind of unique nonetheless. The trail is about a mile or so each way, and about 4 miles round trip to see it from the south side, where the view is better. Take lots of water, of course, and if you don't feel up to it, don't feel too bad about skipping it.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Feb 20, 2006
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Grandview Overlook (Island in the Sky) - Canyonlands National Park
Grandview Overlook (Island in the Sky)

The Grandview Overlook is one of the most awesome sights in the Southwest. Please don't judge it based on my lousy photographs! In my experience, only the Grand Canyon itself can compare to the views here. The stunning scenery stretches for miles, and you really have to sit with it a while to let the awesome scale of the place sink in. If you're planning a trip to Arches or even Zion, consider a detour here for a day. It's well worth it.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Feb 20, 2006
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Green River Overlook (Island in the Sky) - Canyonlands National Park
Green River Overlook (Island in the Sky)

Coming from the north, pull into the parking lot and check out this incredible view!!! Some of the most awesome scenery in the Southwest awaits you as you peer down into this canyon within a canyon. This is an incredible sight in itself, but it's only the beginning! Spend a little time here, maybe have a snack and try to wrap your mind around this spectacle before going on to the even more incredible Grandview Overlook!

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Feb 20, 2006
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The Needles (an overview) - Canyonlands National Park
The Needles (an overview)

The Needles is a rugged, remote area in the eastern portion of Canyonlands National Park. "The Needles" are large spires made of sandstone, thrown up in a massive uplifting some 50 - 80 million years ago. The area is gorgeous even from a distance, but hikes into the landscape will reveal some of the most gorgeous scenery in the southwestern USA.

To really see the Needles District you will have to do some hiking and spend at least a day or two. Day hikers and those who don't wish to undergo major treks can do the Pothole or Cave Springs Trails. But the real draw is the famous Chesler Park Loop, featuring a lush meadow surrounded by castle-like formations of the needles. The Joint Trail is at the midway point of the Cheslar Park Loop.

The park has an excellent Visitor's Center, and 26-site Squaw Flat Campground. Just outside the park boundary is the Needles Outpost - the only services for about 40 miles - that has its own campground.

The Needles is a very rugged place with very few services and even day trippers should take care of themselves. Make sure you gas up your car before heading onto Hwy 211 (the long 40 mile road leading into the park). You should have plenty of water in your vehicle, just in case. The Needles Outpost has a good store and gas, but they aren't always open, so it's best to be prepared.

Website: http://www.nps.gov/

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  • Updated Feb 1, 2006
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Joint Trail (Needles) - Canyonlands National Park
Joint Trail (Needles)

The Joint Trail is a less than a mile long (though you'll have to hike more than a few miles to get to it!). Many folks do it as part of the popular Chesler Park loop. Not a slot canyon, the trail winds its way through a crack in a giant rock slab - sometimes less than 3 feet across! It's a cool hike, but getting there is, in this case, more than half the fun, as you'll be doing the not-to-be-missed Chesler Park hike!

There are some steep steps to negotiate (though not many), and the end of the trail winds up in a large cave with some surprising (though man-made) rock formations. This is where I got lost on my hike, so make sure you're paying attention when you come out and get the right trail!

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jan 31, 2006
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Pothole Trail/Cave Springs (Needles) - Canyonlands National Park
Pothole Trail/Cave Springs (Needles)

These are two fairly easy hikes right off of the main road. If you're only in Needles for a day, and don't feel like doing the 11 mile Chesler Park loop, then consider doing these little hikes. You'll see some very beautiful scenery for not a whole lot of effort.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jan 31, 2006
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Chesler Park (Needles) - Canyonlands National Park
Chesler Park (Needles)

One of the highlights to a visit to the Needles district is the famous Chesler Park loop hike. It's a tough one - 11 miles total - but those who do it will be richly rewarded with some awesome scenery.

Park at the Elephant Hill trailhead, MAKE SURE you have plenty of water and food, and hit the trail. Along the way you'll get great views of the park, which is a large meadow surrounded by the picturesque spires that give the Needles its name. Most postcards you see from Canyonlands are taken here. The Chesler Park loop also includes the Joint trail - a narrow path running through a crack in the rocks.

Some things to remember - NEVER hike in Canyonlands (or, ideally, anywhere else) without a map and a compass! Signposts are few and far between, and it's easy to get lost in this remote area. I know this because it happened to me, turning my 11 mile hike into a somewhat stressful 14 miler. In particular, be careful coming out of the Joint. There are jeep roads surrounding the area, so if you do get lost, you can get one of these and it should lead you - eventually - back to the trailhead. There is no water along the trail, so bring what you need. If you have backpaking experience, you should look into staying in some of the backcountry campsites along the way.

Although I did get lost I thoroughly enjoyed this hike! Just be prepared.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 31, 2006
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