Visiting Canyonlands National Park in the Fall

Canyonlands National Park is one of our favorite getaway destinations. We try to visit every chance we get! This means we have a cool list of Canyonlands National Park vacation ideas!

We love the photography at Canyonlands as well as the amazing hikes throughout the park.

Canyonlands National Park in the fall is the perfect time to go. There is so much to do, see and photograph at Canyonlands in September, October and November. 

Here’s our guide to visiting Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Canyonlands Needles in the fall.

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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. 

Fall Weather at Canyonlands

Fall is the perfect time to visit Canyonlands National Park. The temperatures during the day range from 55 degrees to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. The lows will dip down into the 20s to the 50s. 

SEPTEMBER: If you are visiting Canyonlands in September you can expect to see temperatures range from 84 degrees being the highs to 51 degrees being the lows. 

OCTOBER: Once October hits, the temperatures begin to fall even more. The high for most days is about 70 degrees with the lows fall into the upper 30s. 

NOVEMBER: November tends to be quite cool at Canyonlands. The highs are around 55 degrees and the lows can be in the high 20s. 

With the cooler temperatures at night, you will definitely want to bring a fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves for the nights and early mornings. 

Dressing in layers is especially important as it gets warmer throughout the day. 

Things to Do In Canyonlands National Park in the Fall

Canyonlands is located in Southern Utah located near the fun outdoor adventure town of Moab

There are so many things to do at Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Needles Canyonlands in the fall.

There are hiking trails, scenic drives, and stunning viewpoints and photo spots! 

Stop at the Visitor Center

Make the Island in the Sky Visitor Center your very first spot! It is open every day in the fall.  

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! 

Scenic Drive

Stunning views is what you’ll find when visiting Canyonlands Island in the Sky.

There are 10 overlooks and viewpoints along the Island in the Sky scenic drive to enjoy the vast and spectacular landscape at this park!

You’ll definitely want to have your camera ready to capture the beauty you’ll see!

Driving through Needles Canyonlands, be sure to stop at all pullouts so you can experience the diverse beauty of the stone spires in this part of the park.

Take a Hike

Hiking is one of the popular activities to do at Canyonlands. There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails to explore the park.

Both Island in the Sky and The Needles have short walks, day hikes and backpacking 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.

Experience Ranger- Led Programs

There are fun and interactive ranger-led programs where you’ll learn about the natural and cultural resources at Canyonlands National Park.

Join a ranger for a talk, hike, or evening program.. Check the website for the most updated schedule of events.

sunrise at Grand View Point Canyonlands

Photography in the Fall

It’s no surprise we love to photograph Canyonlands, especially in the fall. 

Take advantage of the more moderate temperatures, to get some truly epic pictures of Canyonlands throughout the day. 

Our favorite sunrise spots at Island in the Sky are Grand View Point and Mesa Arch. But all the viewpoints along the scenic drive at Island in the Sky provide stunning landscapes that need to be photographed!

If you’re serious about photography, check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide and Itinerary. We share the best photography spots broken down by the time of day, and give you our favorite 3 day itinerary! 

Enjoy Stargazing

Did you know that Canyonlands has some of the best stargazing? There’s a saying that says “Half the Park is After Dark”.

Take the time to stay in the park on a clear night and you’ll see why!  

Our favorite locations to photograph the stars and milky way at Canyonlands Island in the Sky is Mesa Arch and Grand View Point.

If you’ll be camping at Needles, then you’re in for a treat. Due to the remote location of this park, you’ll experience amazing dark skies without much light pollution.

You can still photograph the Milky Way in the fall, right after sunset. Our Photography Guide provides all the amazing milky way locations at Arches and Canyonlands!

Drive 4×4 Trails

The Shafer Trail is a challenging, unpaved backcountry road in Island in the Sky.

But if you’re up for the challenge, it’s an experience of a lifetime!

You’ll also find fun 4×4 trail at Needles Canyonlands, 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!


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

Here are 4 places we recommend:

  •  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 town – 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!

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Needles

There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there is one campground.

You can visit Needles and stay in Moab, and most people do that.

The town of Monticello is a bit closer to Needles, but the lodging, food and shopping options aren’t as good. It’s a much smaller town than Moab.

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