Plan Your Trip to Canyonlands National Park in the Summer

Canyonlands National Park in the summer is a popular time to go.

Use our Canyonlands National Park guide and the resources below to plan a summer vacation. We share things to do, what to pack, where to stay and more to plan a trip to Canyonlands in the summer.

canyonlands in the summer

There is so much to do, see and photograph at Canyonlands in June, July and August. But the temperatures are brutal this time of year!

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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 Summer

Canyonlands is subdivided along the Green and Colorado Rivers into four unique districts, that are known as 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!

Is Summer a Good Time to Visit Canyonlands?

Summer is NOT what we consider the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park because it’s so HOT! But if you enjoy landscape and milky way photography, then you’ll be out taking pictures during the cool times. You can chill and nap in the hotel AC during the day!

Our favorite seasons to plan a Canyonlands vacation are:

golden glow under Mesa Arch at Canyonlands

Summer Weather at Canyonlands

Summer is a HOT time for visiting Canyonlands National Park.

With the hot summer temperatures, you’ll want to protect yourself from the sun by wearing a sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.

It’s important to stay hydrated and carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack.

Things to Do In Canyonlands National Park in the Summer

There are fun things to do at Canyonlands National Park like hiking trails, scenic drives, stunning viewpoints and photo spots! 

Canyonlands Visitor Centers in the Summer

Make the Visitor Center your very first stop! Both the Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center and the Needles Visitor Center are open every day in the summer. 

Both Visitor Centers include: book shop, permits, picnic area, general information, wireless internet, and park rangers on duty. Water is available year-round.

The park rangers are so willing to help you learn about the park and plan what to see and do!

Ranger- Led Programs at Canyonlands in the Summer

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.


Canyonlands Scenic Drives in the Summer

Stunning views is what you’ll find when visiting Canyonlands National Park. 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.

Hike at Canyonlands in the Summer

Hiking is a popular activity to do at Canyonlands. There are hundreds of miles of Canyonlands hikes to explore the park.

Here’s a list of good Island in the Sky hikes: Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Aztec Butte and Upheaval Dome. And here’s a list of hikes at the Needles district: Roadside Ruin, Pothole Point and Cave Spring.

Here’s a list of fun 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.

In the summer you’ll find no shade along the hiking trails. And the reflected heat from the sandstone makes the temperatures rise even more! Plan your outdoor hiking during the cooler morning and evening hours. Yes, you can do those things during the day, but you’ll need to be prepared for the heat and sun!

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.


Photography at Canyonlands in the Summer

In the summer you’ll definitely want to take photos at sunrise and sunset to avoid the harsh light during the day.

We focus our Canyonlands National Park photography at Island in the Sky for sunrise and sunset photography. Our favorite sunrise spots at Island in the Sky are Grand View Point and Mesa Arch. We like the Colorado River Overlook at sunset.

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

Arches and Canyonlands photography guide

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! 

Summer Stargazing at Canyonlands

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 Arches and Canyonlands Photography Guide provides all the amazing milky way locations at both parks!


4×4 Trails at Canyonlands in the Summer

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!

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Summer 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.

river rafting

Boating in the Summer at Canyonlands

The Colorado and Green Rivers offer miles and miles of flatwater for canoes, sea kayaks and shallow-water boats. There are also sections for whitewater river rafting! Summer is the perfect time to enjoy the river section of Canyonlands!

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.

More Canyonlands Activities

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

Things To Do Near Canyonlands

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!

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