Visiting Canyonlands National Park in May

Located in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands is known for its deep canyons and mesas carved by the Colorado River for millions of year. Canyonlands National Park in May is a busy time of year to visit so prepare for crowds.

Use this Canyonlands National Park guide with a complete list of things you need to know to plan your May vacation: things to do, what to pack, where to stay, and more!

Canyonlands National Park in May

Below we share tips on how to avoid the crowds, things to do, what to pack, where to stay and more.

Check out these Canyonlands Itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 days in the 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!

Visiting Canyonlands National Park in May

The weather at Canyonlands National Park in May is 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.

There is not much shade to be found at Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky or Needles Canyonlands, so it’s nice to be in the park on a sunny day when the air isn’t stifling! It makes hiking so much more enjoyable!

Check out our article explaining Canyonlands Island in the Sky vs Needles!

Utah National Parks get crowded during the peak seasons of spring, summer and fall. We recommend getting into Canyonlands early or later in the day to avoid lines into the park.

Canyonlands Weather in May

In May you’ll find the Canyonlands National Park weather is “just right” with cooler mornings and evenings, and daytime temperatures not too hot yet. The average highs are near 82 degrees with the lows around 51.

Things to Do at Canyonlands in May

Check out this list of Canyonlands National Park activities and what to expect during the month of May.

Visitor Centers in May at Canyonlands

The Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center and Canyonlands Needles Visitor Center are great first stops to learn more about the park. They are open every day in May. The park rangers are there to give you information about things to see and do. You’ll find exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, picnic area, and general information. Water is available year-round.

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Aztec Butte granaries

Hiking in May at Canyonlands

In May the Canyonlands hikes are so nice because the sun is out and it’s not overly hot. This is quite different from summer when you’re sweating and worrying about heat exhaustion.

It’s important to stay hydrated (water bottles or hydration backpacks) and wear sunscreen because most of the trails are fully exposed to the sun.

Some of our favorite Island in the Sky hikes include 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.

Grand View Point at Canyonlands
Grand View Point

Scenic Drives in May at Canyonlands

If you’re not up to hiking, then enjoy the spectacular views along the Island in the Sky scenic drive. Because this part of the park is on a high mesa, the 10 overlooks and viewpoints provide sweeping views to enjoy and photograph the landscape at this park!

Driving through Needles Canyonlands you’ll see a different type of landscape that features stone spires called “needles”. Again, if you don’t want to hike, be sure to stop at all pullouts to enjoy the beauty in this part of the park.

We recommend the Canyonlands GyPSy Guide App to hear fun behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.

Biking in May 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.

Mesa Arch at sunrise
Mesa Arch at sunrise

Photography in May at Canyonlands

You can’t beat Canyonlands National Park photography at sunrise and sunset at Island in the Sky.

  • Canyonlands sunrise photo spots at Island in the Sky: Grand View Point and Mesa Arch
  • Canyonlands sunset photo spots at Island in the Sky: Colorado River Overlook and nearby Dead Horse Point!

Be sure to stop at all the viewpoints along the scenic drive at Island in the Sky to capture stunning landscapes. You’ll find the morning light best before the sun is too high in the sky and casts harsh light on the landscape.

If you’re serious about photography, check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide and Itinerary. We share the best photography spots at each park for sunrise, sunset and even night time…and give you our favorite 3 day itinerary! 

milky way at canyonlands in the spring
Milky Way over Mesa Arch

Stargazing in May at Canyonlands

If you want to see the most amazing star-filled sky, you MUST spend some time at Canyonlands at night! In May you can see the milky way from 11pm to 4am. Yes, it makes for a late night, but the effort is so rewarding!

Canyonlands National Park is an International Dark Sky Park because of its remote location, accessibility, altitude and clear skies. That’s why it’s one of the best places for stargazing!

Canyonlands is a popular destination for astrophotographers so you won’t be alone in the park at night. Be sure to use a headlamp with red light so you don’t disturb others trying to enjoy the night sky!

Jeeping at Needles Canyonlands
Jeeping at Needles Canyonlands

Off-Roading in May at Canyonlands

If you’ve got the right vehicle, and up for an adventure, then check out the Shafer Trail! It’s a challenging, unpaved backcountry road in Island in the Sky that connects to Moab.

And the 4×4 trails at Needles Canyonlands are also fun to explore, but check to see if you’ll need a permit for the trail you want to drive.

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!

If you prefer a Canyonlands Jeep Tour, here are a few options:

Canyonlands Tours in May

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, photography, and river rafting!

tent camping near Canyonlands
Tent camping near Canyonlands

Camping in May at Canyonlands

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.

  • Fourteen campsites in Loop A are always on a “first come, first served” basis. 
  • Twelve campsites in Loop B can be reserved in May.. and 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!

To enjoy a more elevated type of camping, check out the options for glamping near Canyonlands National Park!

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Things To Do Near Canyonlands in May

Packing List for Canyonlands in May

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

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