Visiting Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center

Your list of Canyonlands National Park vacation ideas must include a stop at the Visitor Center!

Remember that Canyonlands is divided into districts: Island in the Sky, Needles, and the Maze. Island in the Sky and Needles both have visitor centers.

In this article, we’ll detail all the resources and services available at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center since this is the most popular district and the one closest to Moab, Utah.

NOTE: It’s always recommended to visit the park website for current information about closures, hours and services available!

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To get the most out of visiting this park, you must be prepared with the right clothing and gear.

DOWNLOAD our Canyonlands National Park packing list for summer and winter.

Hiking Shoes – Injuries from improper footwear is a common problem that casual visitors and hikers encounter. To make your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible, avoid smooth-soled shoes and only wear sturdy shoes with ample tread.  → Check out the Merrell Moab hiking shoes we use.

Hydration and Food – Due to the high desert and altitude in Southeastern Utah, you should drink at least one gallon of water per day, and always carry water with you during all hiking activities. Eat plenty of healthy snacks and food. → We use Camelbak hydration packs or carry Hydroflask bottles in our packs.

Lip Balm and Lotion – Utah’s high elevation and dry air can be hard on your skin. You’ll want to carry lip balm with sunscreen and hydrating lotion to apply as needed when you’re out exploring the trails.

Clothing – Summers in the park mean soaring temperatures, unrelenting sunlight, and low humidity. To keep cool, wear light colored, loose fitting clothing that does not absorb sunlight. Also avoid sun burn by wearing a wide brimmed hat and by generously applying sunscreen to any parts of your body that are exposed to the sun.

During the winter, wearing the right clothing is important to stay dry and warm. Take note that snow and ice can accumulate and make popular trails quite slippery. That’s why trekking poles and traction devices for your shoes are essential. It’s also just as easy to become dehydrated in the cold as it is in the heat. It’s important to carry plenty of water during the winter, and not just during the summer.

During spring and fall, it’s all about layers! The mornings and evenings will be cool so have a fleece jacket handy!

National Parks Pass – Before you visit Arches National Park be sure to pack your The America the Beautiful Annual Pass.

Other items we recommend – US national parks packing list

But above all else, always make sure to carry enough food, water, and other essentials since Canyonlands is a remote park with few services and reliable sources of freshwater. 

How to Get to Island in the Sky Visitor Center

To get to the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands, drive 10 miles north of Moab or 22 miles south of I-70 on US 191. Turn onto UT 313, and then drive southwest 22 miles.

Driving time to the visitor center from Moab is about 40 minutes.

Island in the Sky Visitor Center Hours and Services

The visitor center at Island in the Sky is open seven days a week during spring through fall. During the winter, it is only open five days a week. Hours vary by season.

Check the website for “today’s hours”, “standard hours” and “closures & seasonal exceptions” so you’re prepared in advance.

The Island in the Sky Visitor Center offers these services:

  • exhibits
  • book & map sales
  • backcountry permits
  • general information
  • park orientation video
  • public, unsecured Wi-Fi
  • vault toilets
  • picnic area
  • park rangers on duty

Drinking water is available inside (during open hours) or outside (24 hours a day).

There are NO electric outlets!

photograph canyonlands in the spring

Things to Know Before Visiting

Canyonlands Island in the Sky is a remote and rugged place. There is no lodging (except several campgrounds), food, or gas services available in the park. However, you can find a range of full services in several nearby towns, like Moab.

It’s always important to pack everything you’ll need for your visit to Canyonlands since water is only available at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center (except during the winter).

Extremely limited cell phone service is also available within the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, at scenic drive locations where the La Sal Mountains are visible, along the east side of the White Rim Road, and along the Orange Cliffs Mesa where the La Sal Mountains are visible.

Ranger Programs

Ranger-led programs are available at Island in the Sky every day from spring to fall.

These programs include discussions about the trails and the overlooks, stargazing, and other events. Check the current schedule before you go!

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