If you love the outdoors, you’ll find a ton of Canyonlands National Park activities to do year-round like hiking, biking, photography, and more! Canyonlands National Park is an awe-inspiring wonderland hidden within the rugged splendor of southeastern Utah’s wilderness.
It is one of the best national parks in the USA that attracts intrepid travelers year-round. As you explore must-see Canyonlands, you’ll unravel an array of captivating activities and experiences.
From invigorating treks across the Island in the Sky region to gazing at the stars beneath the unspoiled desert heavens, there’s no shortage of Canyonlands National Park things to do.
Canyonlands National Park is an iconic treasure of the Southwest and one of the biggest national parks in Utah. It enchants visitors with its mosaic of landscapes and activities that resonate with the timeless spirit of the American frontier.
We live only a few hours away from Canyonlands so we’ve had the opportunity to visit many times. The tips we share are based on our experiences visiting the area throughout the years during all four seasons!
Check out these Canyonlands Itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 days in the park to help you plan the activities you’ll do based on the time you have to spend at the park!
- Canyonlands National Park One Day Itinerary
- Two Days at Canyonlands National Park
- Three Days at Canyonlands National Park
- One Day at Needles Canyonlands National Park
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A Photo Tour of Canyonlands National Park
Take a visual tour through Canyonlands National Park (and Dead Horse Point) to see the stunning landscape in the parks!
What to Expect When Visiting Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is subdivided along the Green and Colorado Rivers into four unique districts, that are known as The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Rivers, each unique distinct offers captivating experiences that you can enjoy during your Canyonlands National Park itinerary.
Of all the districts, we recommend visiting Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky because it’s the most accessible. It also offers fantastic, panoramic views of the park along the Island in the Sky scenic drive.
Take a short side trip to visit Dead Horse Point State Park near the entrance to Island in the Sky. It is a must-see location!
In contrast, when you visit Needles Canyonlands, you’ll experience a remote, backcountry experience with an assortment of natural geologic formations that can only be reached by using one of the many Canyonlands hiking trails or four-wheel driving trails.
Check out our article explaining Canyonlands Island in the Sky vs Needles!
There are so many fun ways to explore Canyonlands: hiking trails, scenic drive, rock climbing, off-road driving and photography to name a few.
Best Time to Visit Canyonlands
Finding the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park all depends on the activities you want to do, and the type of weather you’ll enjoy in Canyonlands National Park Utah.
The Canyonlands National Park weather varies drastically from summer to winter so you’ll need to be prepared for the temperatures during the time you visit.
Spring Weather at Canyonlands – When visiting Canyonlands National Park in the spring, it’s important to pack for all types of weather because you never know when the weather will change.
- Canyonlands in March: Highs 59 | Lows 30 degrees F
- Canyonlands in April: Highs 67 | Lows 37 degrees F
- Canyonlands in May: Highs 78 | Lows 46 degrees F
Summer Weather at Canyonlands – At Canyonlands National Park in the summer the temperatures will be HOT! Since the temperatures are brutal this time of year, plan your outdoor activities for the cooler mornings and evenings!
- Canyonlands in June: Highs 93 | Lows 60 degrees F
- Canyonlands in July: Highs 100 | Lows 67 degrees F
- Canyonlands in August: Highs 97 | Lows 66 degrees F
Fall Weather at Canyonlands – The weather at Canyonlands National Park in the fall starts to cool down making it a great time to explore the park because it will be cool in the mornings and evenings, and the daytime temperatures aren’t too hot compared to the summer.
- Canyonlands in September: Highs 84 | Lows 51 degrees F
- Canyonlands in October: Highs 70 | Lows upper 30 degrees F
- Canyonlands in November: Highs 55 | Lows high 20 degrees F
Winter Weather at Canyonlands – We love visiting Canyonlands National Park in the winter! But there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. Visitor services are reduced and you’ll need to be more self-reliant in the winter.
- Canyonlands in December : Highs 45 | Lows 23 degrees F
- Canyonlands in January : Highs 44 | Lows 22 degrees F
- Canyonlands in February: Highs 52 | Lows 28 degrees F
Arches & Canyonlands AUDIO TOUR
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the park and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you.”
Canyonlands National Park Activities to Enjoy Year- Round
There are so many fun things to Do at Canyonlands National Park: hiking trails, scenic drive, rock climbing, off road driving, exploring Canyonlands National Park Landmarks, and photography to name a few.
This list is also what we recommend for Canyonlands winter activities, with a few slight adjustments we note below.
There are fun ways to get everyone excited before, during and after the trip with National Park activities:
- Canyonlands National Park Facts
- National Park Activity Pack (FREE PRINTABLE)
- National Park Activity Books for Kids
Canyonlands Visitor Centers
Take time to talk to the park ranger to get information about things you are interested in seeing and doing. Get tips and ideas on other things to do as well! You’ll find exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, picnic area, and general information. Water is available year-round.
There are fun and interactive Canyonlands ranger-led programs where you’ll learn about the natural and cultural resources at the park. Join a ranger for a talk, hike, or evening program. Check the website for the most updated schedule of events.
If you’re visiting Canyonlands National Park With Kids, the Junior Ranger program is a must!
Canyonlands Passport Stamps
Kids, and adults, will enjoy collecting stamps in their National Park Passport book! Passport booklets and stamp sets are “usually” available at the park visitor centers, but we recommend you get the passport book before the trip, just in case!!
We’ve seen sad kiddos when a visitor center is out of passport books. Rangers can stamp a piece of paper, but it’s not just the same experience!
Scenic Drives at Canyonlands
Exploring the Island in the Sky scenic drive is a must-do activity! Stop at all 10 overlooks to enjoy and photograph the never-ending views!
You’ll see different views at Needles Canyonlands as you drive through the park. Stop at all pullouts to enjoy the diverse beauty of the stone spires in this part of the park, and see why it’s called Needles.
When visiting Canyonlands National Park in the winter, you may be limited on the things you can do during and after a snow storm if roads are closed.
Due to the remote location of Canyonlands, always be prepared with water, food and proper clothing so you can be self-reliant. After a snow storm, paved roads may close temporarily so crews can plow. Unpaved backcountry roads may be impassible for longer periods of time so check road conditions before you head out!
Services are limited or closed in the winter. Remember there is no gas, food or lodging at Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky or Needles Canyonlands.
Know what Canyonlands winter services are available as well as road and trail conditions before heading into the parks.
There are two amazing scenic drives near Needles to see different vantage points of both Canyonlands districts:
We recommend the Canyonlands GuideAlong App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.
Hiking at Canyonlands
Exploring the Canyonlands hikes is one of the best activities to appreciate this park. Remember to stay hydrated and carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack. And since most of the trails are fully exposed to the sun, you’ll need sun protection like a sunhat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
Island in the Sky hikes: Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Aztec Butte and Upheaval Dome. And here’s a list of hikes at the Needles district: Roadside Ruin, Pothole Point and Cave Spring.
Canyonlands Needles hikes that are easy: Roadside Ruin, Pothole Point, Cave Spring. There are a few popular difficult hikes as well: Chelser Park Loop and Druid Arch trails.
Before setting out on any Canyonlands National Park winter hikes, we recommend you talk to the Rangers to find out the latest trail conditions. Some hikes may require traction devices due to icy trails.
Photography at Canyonlands
If you love landscape photography, you’re in for a treat with the landscape views you’ll see at Canyonlands!
We focus our Canyonlands National Park photography at Island in the Sky for sunrise and sunset photography.
- Canyonlands sunrise photo spots at Island in the Sky: Grand View Point and Mesa Arch.
- Canyonlands sunset photo spots at Island in the Sky: Green River Overlook and nearby Dead Horse Point State Park!
If you’re looking for the best photo spots at Canyonlands Island in the Sky…
check out our 3-day itinerary to capture amazing sunrise, sunset and night photos, check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide.
Stargazing at Canyonlands
Stargazing at Canyonlands is another must-do activity. On a clear night, the sky is literally filled with stars. Canyonlands National Park is a Dark Sky Park and they have a slogan that says “Half the Park is After Dark”!
From March through October you can see the milky way. Canyonlands is a popular destination for astrophotographers so you won’t be alone in the park at night. Be courteous to other photographers in the area by using a headlamp with a red light!
Off-roading at Canyonlands
Another experience of a lifetime is driving the Shafer Trail! If you have the right vehicle, you might want to try this challenging, unpaved backcountry road in Island in the Sky that connects with Moab.
The 4×4 trails at Needles Canyonlands are pretty technical and may require a permit so check with the Park Rangers before heading out on any trail.
High-clearance 4WD vehicles with a low range gear (4LO) are required on all off-road trails in Canyonlands. ATVs, OHVs, or UTVs are not permitted inside the park.
These trails should not be attempted by inexperienced drivers since there is a high risk of vehicle damage that could lead to towing costs in excess of $1,000!
Biking in Canyonlands
You can ride on any public roadway at The Needles and Island in the Sky. You must ride single file. There are no road shoulders or bike lanes.
You’ll find hundreds of miles of roads for mountain biking for day trips and overnight trips:
- Overnight Trips: must have a Canyonlands overnight backcountry permit. Reservations for White Rim campsites are very competitive so plan to make a reservation up to four months in advance.
- Day Trips: must have a Canyonlands day-use permit for White Rim, Elephant Hill, Lavender Canyon, and Peekaboo/Horse Canyon roads.
If you’ll be riding on 4WD roads, there are no shoulders or bike lanes so be aware of passing vehicles.
Canyonlands Guided Tours
One of the best ways to get to know the park is booking a Canyonlands National Park tour! Whether you’re looking for a half-day or full-day excursion, there are plenty of Canyonlands tours available to fit your needs: guided hikes, canyoneering, photography, and river rafting!
- All-Day Hiking Tour at Canyonlands National Park
- 3-Day Backpacking Tour in Canyonlands National Park
- Sunrise Photography: Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point
- Mountain Bike Tour in Canyonlands National Park
Camping at Canyonlands National Park
You’ll find camping options available at Canyonlands all year. There are some limitations if you plan to do any Canyonlands winter camping.
Island in the Sky Camping: the Island in the Sky Campground is a small campground with 12 sites. It is fully operational all-year-round, but the sites fill quickly.
- The campground has pit toilets, several picnic tables, and fire rings. However, there is no potable water, so make sure you pack water for your stay.
- The campground allows pets.
- The site has a “first come, first served” policy. You can stay for a maximum of seven days.
Canyonlands Needles Camping: there are 26 individual camping sites and three group sites around the Needles district for Needles Canyonlands camping. Be sure to check the NPS website for the most updated nightly fee.
- Fourteen campsites in Loop A are always on a “first come, first served” basis.
- Twelve campsites in Loop B an be reserved in the spring and fall.. and they fill quickly!
- Group sites are open from mid-March to mid-November. They are closed during the winter.
- RVs and trailers are allowed, but there’s a maximum of length of 28 feet.
If you can’t find a spot in the park, there are many RV parks near Canyonlands National Park where you can camp!
To enjoy a more elevated type of camping, check out the options for glamping near Canyonlands National Park!
BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps
Things To Do Near Canyonlands
- Things to do Near Canyonlands National Park
- Arches National Park Activities
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Goblin Valley State Park
- Hovenweep National Monument
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Bears Ears National Monument
Canyonlands Packing List
Use our Canyonlands Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting any time of year! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!