Visiting Canyonlands National Park in the Spring

With its rugged terrain and stunning views, Canyonlands has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Visiting Canyonlands National Park in the spring is a wonderful time to go because the weather is “just right” to enjoy outdoor activities.

Use this Canyonlands National Park guide to know what to pack, where to stay, weather, and things to do during the spring months!

Visiting Canyonlands in the spring

Spring is a popular time at Canyonlands so be prepared for crowds! We share tips for ways to avoid the crows at Canyonlands in the spring.

Check out these Canyonlands itineraries to help you plan your vacation!

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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 the Spring

Spring weather draws people to Canyonlands. It’s the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park to truly enjoy the outdoors in this desert landscape.

BUT that means the Utah National Parks are busy in the spring, especially at Canyonlands, Arches and the Moab area.

There will be lines to get into the park, especially on the weekends. And there will be cars circling the parking lots looking for a place to park, and the points of interest will be packed with people. TIP: Enter the park early or go in the late afternoon!

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

Spring Weather at Canyonlands

In the spring the Canyonlands National Park weather will still be cold in the mornings and evenings. But the daytime temperatures will be nice for enjoying outdoor activities.

With the temperatures changing so much throughout the day, it is especially important to dress in layers. 

Mesa Arch at sunrise
Mesa Arch at sunrise

Things to Do at Canyonlands in the Spring

Check out all the fun Canyonlands National Park spring activities you can do!

You’ll find different activities at Island in the Sky and Needles so check out the article we wrote: Canyonlands Island in the Sky vs Needles.

Canyonlands Visitor Center in the Spring

At the Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center you’ll find exhibits, book & map sales, backcountry permits, general information, vault toilets, and park rangers on duty.

You can get drinking water inside (during open hours) or outside (24 hours a day). There’s a 15-minute orientation movie, “Wilderness of Rock,” on request at the visitor center.

At the Needles Visitor Center you’ll find exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, general information, picnic area, and park rangers on duty. The orientation Movie, “Wilderness of Rock” (15 minutes) is also shown on request here.

The visitor center is open spring through fall. When it’s closed in winter, you must self-register for backcountry permits outside the visitor center entrance. Water is available year-round.

Views along the Canyonlands Scenic Drive
Views along the Scenic Drive

Canyonlands Scenic Drives in the Spring

The Island in the Sky scenic drive is a must-do activity! Each of the 10 overlooks offers a different view to enjoy and photograph!

Remember that Needles Canyonlands in about 1 1/2 hours away from Moab. Enjoy the high desert scenery along the way. You’ll get great views of the sandstone “needles” formations as you drive the paved road through The Needles.

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.

Anyone with a high-clearance, low range four-wheel-drive vehicle, there are MANY unpaved roads in Canyonlands to tackle!

off-road jeep trails at Needles Canyonlands
Off-road jeep trail at Needles

Off-road Trails at Canyonlands in the Spring

Spring can be an “iffy” time for exploring the off-road trails at Canyonlands. Many off-road trails may become impassible when it rains! Always check with the rangers for current conditions.

If the Shafer Trail is open, and you have the right vehicle, we recommend this challenging, unpaved backcountry road in Island in the Sky that connects with Moab.

And check out the 4×4 trails at Needles Canyonlands, but again check to see if they’re open or if you’ll need a permit.

At Canyonlands, high-clearance 4WD vehicles with a low range gear (4LO) are required on all off-road trails. ATVs, OHVs, or UTVs are not permitted inside the park. Do not attempt to drive these trails if you are inexperienced since there is a high risk of vehicle damage that could lead to towing costs in excess of $1,000!

Green River Overlook at sunset
Green River Overlook at sunset

Canyonlands Photography in the Spring

You will definitely want to take advantage of all the iconic photography locations at Canyonlands. We usually focus our Canyonlands National Park photography for sunrise and sunset.

Mesa Arch is the most famous Canyonlands sunrise photo spot at Island in the Sky! You will have to get there early to get a spot! We also like Grand View Point at sunrise.

We recommend Green River Overlook for a Canyonlands sunset photo spot.

Check out our Arches and Canyonlands Photography Guide to get a list of ALL the best photo spots at both parks!

Milky way over Mesa Arch
Milky way over Mesa Arch

Canyonlands Stargazing in the Spring

There is a reason why Canyonlands National Park is internationally recognized as one of the best places to stargaze. The skies are clear and with the park in a remote location it allows you to get some of the most incredible views of the night sky that you will ever see. 

Spring is the perfect time to photograph the milky way!! We like these locations in the park for milky way photography:

  • Mesa Arch
  • Grand View Point
  • Green River Overlook

Be courteous to other photographers in the area by using a headlamp with a red light!

The milky way is visible at these times in the spring:

  • March – 3:00 am to 5:45 am
  • April – 1:00 am to 4:45 am
  • May – 11:00 pm to 4:00 am
Needles Canyonlands spires
Needles Canyonlands spires

Canyonlands Hiking in the Spring

There are so many Canyonlands hikes to choose from! There are trails for families, casual visitors who want to explore, and then the avid hikers that want a real adventure. 

Some of our favorite Island in the Sky Hikes: Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, Aztec Butte and Grand View Point!

Needles Canyonlands is really known for its backpacking trails, but you can find a few easy Canyonlands Needles hikes like Roadside Ruin, Cave Spring and Pothole Point.

When hiking at Canyonlands in the spring it is especially important that you take the proper gear and plenty of water. Dress in moisture-wicking layers for the cooler mornings and evenings. 

biking in Canyonlands
biking in Canyonlands

Canyonland Biking in the Spring

The spring months are perfect for riding your bike at Canyonlands on the paved roads at Island in the Sky and Needles.

There are also fun backcountry roads for biking at Canyonlands, many of which require permits:

  • White Rim Road: 100-mile loop around and below the Island in the Sky mesa.
  • Elephant Hill Road: one of the most technical roads in Utah
  • Colorado Overlook Road: can be sandy for mountain bikes
Needles Campground
Needles Campground

Canyonlands Camping in the Spring

There are two ways for spring camping at Canyonlands. Sites fill quickly during the spring months!

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!

Things To Do Near Canyonlands in the Spring

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands

You’ll find hotels, cabins, RV Parks, and vacation rentals in nearby Moab:

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