Visiting Canyonlands National Park in the Summer

Canyonlands is a National Park in Utah with a stunning landscape of canyons, mesas, buttes, and rivers. Canyonlands National Park in the summer is a popular time for visitors, but the temperatures are brutal this time of year!

Use this Canyonlands National Park guide 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 the summer months of June, July and August. 

There are done-for-you 1, 2, and 3-day 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 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!

Summer Weather at Canyonlands

Summer is a HOT time for visiting Canyonlands National Park.

Summer Clothing for Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park in the summer will be hot and dry!

  • UV Clothing: Loose-fitting, light-colored, UV protective wicking clothing is recommended for summer activities at Canyonlands.
  • Sunhat: Sun protection is a must!
  • Fleece jacketsA jacket is perfect for that morning layer when the temperatures are cool.
  • Darn Tough hiking socks: Do not wear cotton socks. Darn Tough Socks are comfortable, breathe well, and prevent blisters!
  • Sturdy hiking shoesHiking shoes or boots should be sturdy with good tread and traction.

Summer Gear for Canyonlands

Here’s the summer hiking gear we recommend for exploring Canyonlands:

summer hiking gear

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!

Summer Ranger- Led Programs at Canyonlands

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.

Grand View Point at sunrise

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.

Check out the FUN Canyonlands GyPSy Guide App to hear cool behind-the scenes stories and local tips that play automatically as you drive, based on your GPS location.

Check out these two scenic drives close to Needles with stunning views of Canyonlands:

Hiking in Needles Canyonlands

Hike at Canyonlands in the Summer

Hiking is a popular activity to do at Canyonlands. You’ll find fun Canyonlands National Park summer hikes to explore the park.

  • Island in the Sky hikes: 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: Chesler 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.

Mesa Arch at sunrise

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.

  • 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!

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! 

Milky Way over Mesa Arch

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. The milky way is visible at these times in the summer:

  • May – 11:00 pm to 4:00 am
  • June – 10:30 pm to 3:30 am
  • July – 10:30 pm 59 3:45 am

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!


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.

Canyonlands Tours in the Summer

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!

camping near Utah National Parks
Canyonlands camping

Summer Camping 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

Summer Packing List for Canyonlands

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

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