Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Canyonlands National Park in May

The weather is amazing for a trip to Canyonlands National Park in May! But it’s also a busy time of year so prepare for crowds.

And check out our Canyonlands National Park guide with a complete list of things you need to know to plan your May vacation.

Canyonlands National Park in May

We’re sharing tips below on how to avoid the crowds, things to do, what to pack, where to stay and more.

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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.


The weather at Canyonlands National Park in May is “just right” with cooler mornings and evenings, and daytime temperatures are still moderate.

The average highs are near 82 degrees with the lows around 51. Keep in mind the weather can be unpredictable if a storm rolls through with rain.

Dress in layers when visiting Canyonlands in May. We recommend a fleece jacket and waterproof hiking boots.

canyonlands national park


Check out this list of things to do at Canyonlands National Park, and what to expect during the month of May.

Visitor Centers at Canyonlands in May

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 the spring. 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.

Hiking at Canyonlands in May

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.

Remember to stay hydrated, carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack, 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.

Aztec-Butte-Canyonlands-National-Park-Utah-Photo-Jeepers (1)

Scenic Drives at Canyonlands in May

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.

Photographing Canyonlands in May

You can’t beat Canyonlands National Park photography at sunrise and sunset at Island in the Sky. For sunrise we like Grand View Point and Mesa Arch; and for sunset we like the Colorado River Overlook.

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! 

Arches and Canyonlands photography guide

Stargazing at Canyonlands in May

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.

milky way at canyonlands in the spring

Off-Roading at Canyonlands in May

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!

More Canyonlands Activities


Is Canyonlands National Park Open in May?

Canyonlands National Park is open 24/7. Visit the NPS site to get the updated operating hours.

Is May a Good Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park?

Looking for the best time to Visit Canyonlands National Park?

May is a terrific time for visiting Canyonlands National Park! But it’s also a popular vacation month so be sure to enter the park early, leave when it gets crowded, then go back in the afternoon.

What Park Activities Can You Do May?

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands

There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there are campgrounds:

  •  Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Moab – we enjoyed our stay and highly recommend this hotel due to its location close to Canyonlands.
  •  Purple Sage – our all-time favorite place to stay in Moab – walking distance to shopping, full kitchen, and only 8 units so you don’t feel lost in a large hotel.
  •  Red Cliffs Lodge – rooms up to 6 people – located 17 miles from Moab, this lodge is known for its beautiful location, winery and activities like horseback riding, fishing and more!
  • Townhomes south of Moab – we really like the townhomes in Spanish Valley with kitchen, washer and dryer in the unit and a swimming pool/hot tub (just a 5 minute drive south of Moab).
  • Rent an RV – have it dropped off at your vacation destination!

Plan Your Canyonlands Vacation

Things To Do Near Canyonlands

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