Canyonlands National Park Fall Activities

Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands is a stunning location to see breathtaking views and enjoy the outdoors. Here’s a list of the fun Canyonlands National Park fall activities to help you explore this amazing park!

Use this Canyonlands National Park guide to plan an amazing itinerary full of fun fall activities! We also share tips for things to pack, where to stay and more!

Canyonlands National Park Fall Activities

Canyonlands National Park should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Utah if you enjoy fall activities like hiking, biking, scenic drives, photography, and more!

Keep reading to learn more about the districts of Canyonlands, Island in the Sky and Needles, and all the fun activities you can do at each location.

Be sure to use a Canyonlands packing list so you have the right clothing and gear to enjoy all the outdoor activities for your fall vacation! Grab your free printable packing list by clicking the image below!

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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!

Canyonlands National Park in the Fall

Canyonlands is subdivided into four unique districts: The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze and The Rivers.

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 in the fall: hiking trails, scenic drive, rock climbing, off-road driving and photography to name a few.

Fall Weather at Canyonlands

The fall months are considered the best times to visit Canyonlands National Park because the weather is perfect for outdoor activities! You can enjoy being outside from morning to evening!

With the cold temperatures at night, you’ll want to wear layers. You’ll also experience a dry desert environment at Canyonlands so be sure to pack:

Canyonlands National Park Fall Activities

There are so many fun Canyonlands National Park activities you can do in the fall.

In early fall, we recommend you plan the outdoor activities in the early morning, late afternoon, and evenings to enjoy the cooler temperatures.

Fall Ranger-Led Programs at Canyonlands

If this is your first time visiting the park, stop at the Visitor Centers – check the website for operating hours.

Take time to talk to the park ranger to get information about things you are interested in seeing and doing. Find out what Canyonlands Ranger-led Programs are available at the time of your visit.

You’ll find exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, picnic area, and general information. Water is available year-round.

Anticline Overlook scenic drive
Anticline Overlook scenic drive

Fall Scenic Drives at Canyonlands

Stop at all 10 overlooks along the Island in the Sky scenic drive 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.

There are no food or gas services available in the park. Be sure to pack everything you’ll need for your visit to Canyonlands since water is only available at the Visitor Centers.

We highly recommend getting the Canyonlands GuideAlong Audio Tour: use the suggested itineraries in the app tour plan, or divide the commentary to create your own half, full or multi day sightseeing trips. 

Check out these two scenic drives close to Needles with stunning views of Canyonlands:

Druid Arch at Needles Canyonlands
Druid Arch at Needles Canyonlands

Fall Hiking at Canyonlands

Exploring the Canyonlands National Park fall hikes is one of the best ways to explore the park.

  • Island in the Sky hikes: Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Aztec Butte and Upheaval Dome.
  • 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.

Trails are usually marked with cairns (small rock piles) and have signs at intersections. Many remote trails do not receive regular maintenance and may not be adequately marked. All backcountry hikers should carry a topographic map.

Mesa Arch at sunrsie
Mesa Arch at sunrise

Fall 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!

Plus all the viewpoints along the scenic drive at Island in the Sky provide stunning landscapes that need to be photographed!

Check out our 3-day itinerary to capture amazing sunrise, sunset and night photos, check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide.

milky way over Mesa Arch
Milky way over Mesa Arch

Fall 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!

In the fall, the Milky Way is visible at these times:

  • September – 8:30 pm to 11:30 pm
  • October – 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm
  • November – not visible
Biking at Canyonlands

Fall Biking at 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:

If you’ll be riding on 4WD roads, there are no shoulders or bike lanes so be aware of passing vehicles.

Jeeping at Needles Canyonlands
Jeeping at Needles Canyonlands

Fall 4×4 Trails at Canyonlands

If you’re looking for an experience of a lifetime: drive the Shafer Trail! With the right vehicle you can drive 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!

rafting the colorado river near moab
Rafting the Colorado River

Fall River Rafting at Canyonlands

The Colorado and Green Rivers offer miles and miles of flatwater for canoes, sea kayaks and shallow-water boats. Unfortunately, by fall, some water activities could be limited due to low water levels. Check with Rangers or local outfitters for updated conditions.

Private Permits: You must have a Canyonlands river permit for all private river trips. You may reserve overnight permits up to four months before the following seasons and reservations close two days prior to a launch date. Day use permits are available year round.

Guided Trips: There are local outfitters in Moab that offer half-day to week-long guided trips with several nights of camping.

Fall Tours at Canyonlands

With experienced guides on Canyonlands National Park tours, you can explore all the amazing sights the park has to offer and make sure you don’t miss anything.

Whether you’re looking for a half-day or full-day excursion, there are plenty of Canyonlands National Park tours available to fit your needs: guided hikes, canyoneering, biking, and photography!

RV camper in Canyonlands
RV camper in Canyonlands

Fall Camping at Canyonlands National Park

You’ll find Canyonlands National Park camping at both districts:

Island in the Sky Camping: the Island in the Sky Campground is a small campground with 12 sites.

  • The site has a “first come, first served” policy. You can stay for a maximum of seven days.
  • 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.

Canyonlands Needles Camping: there are 26 individual camping sites and three group sites around the Needles district for Needles Canyonlands camping.

  • Fourteen campsites in Loop A are always on a “first come, first served” basis. 
  • Twelve campsites in Loop B can be reserved in the spring and fall, but they fill quickly!
  • Group sites are open from mid-March to mid-November.
  • 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!

For a unique way to camp, check out the options for glamping near Canyonlands National Park!

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Canyonlands Itineraries

Check out these 1, 2, and 3-day Canyonlands Itineraries to help you plan your vacation based on the time you have to spend at the park:

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