Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park – Islands in the Sky District



Itinerary Suggestions



Enormous, gorgeous, and underrated big time. 

We spent about three days here.

Has three districts – only The Needles District and Islands In The Sky District are accessible by car.

Islands in the Sky District and The Needles District each deserve a day but are too far apart to be done in one day.

Islands in the Sky is a high plateau surrounded by two levels of red rock canyons carved by the Colorado River.

The Needles district has otherworldly geologic features carved by through the many colored layers of rock.

Add a day for a White Rim 4×4 Tour in the Islands in the Sky District – recommend taking it first before seeing the rest of the Islands in the Sky District.


Islands in the Sky District

  • Closest to Moab
  • Many overlooks a short walk from parking lots
  • Numerous other attractions are a short walk/hike.
  • White Rim
    • Halfway’ down the canyon from top to Colorado River.
    • Follows rim of the canyon.
    • Accessible by permit only.
    • Navtec 4×4 White Rim Tour is excellent – if you do this, do it before visiting the top as then you’ll have an idea of what you are looking at an where you’ve been.
  • Shafer Trail Overlook
    • Watch the vehicles go up/down the crazy switchbacks in to the canyon.
    • Part of Navtec 4×4 White Rim Tour
  • Mesa Arch
    • Must see
    • Get their early morning for best view as distant mountains are lit and framed by the arch.
    • Small area, will get crazy busy during day.
  • Upheaval Dome/Syncline Trail
    • Crater impact site
    • Colorful geology
  • Grand View Point
    • Probably the best view in the park.
    • Probably better lighting in later afternoon, or if storms are to the east.
    • A ponderous and enormous view of the canyon and geology.
  • Grand View Point Overlook
    • Easy hike/walk to this gorgeous overlook.
    • Highly recommended.
  • Green River Overlook
    • Not a shabby overlook either.
The Needles District

The Needles District

  • Mainly an area for gorgeous hiking and backcountry 4x4ing.
  • Some gorgeous ‘Cars’ movie like scenery (mesas?) on Bureau of Land Management land on drive to this section.
  • It is gorgeous later in the day because you are driving out with the sun at your back and it lights up the buttes and mesas as you drive out.
  • We hiked six miles from Elephant Hill toward Chesler Park.  The terrain and geology is very foreign looking and boggling.  We didn’t make it to the best part, Chesler Park.  I highly recommend this (but there are many different routes to choose from.)
  • The road from the campground to Elephant Hill is gravel and dirt, but it was easy passable in a car when dry.  I wouldn’t try it in a car when wet.  This section alone is worth the drive if you don’t have time to hike because it weaves through the ridges.
  • Drive from Moab is easy on good road with low traffic. Most is not overly scenic.

Itinerary Suggestions

Islands In The Sky District Day Tour  – roughly in this order

  • Mesa Arch – short walk/hike, morning
  • Upheaval Dome – short uphill (or as long as you want) hike
  • Green River Overlook – short walk
  • Grand View Point – short walk
  • Grand View Point Overlook – short walk/hike
  • Shafer Trail Overlook – very short walk
  • Dead Horse State Park – short walk, sunset

Canyonlands National Park – National Park Service

Navtec Expeditions – 4×4 tours