Canyonlands National Park Spring Activities

There are a variety of Canyonlands National Park spring activities to help you explore this amazing park in Southeastern Utah: hiking, biking, scenic drives, river rafting, and more!

The weather at Canyonlands National Park in the spring is perfect, but it’s a popular spring break destination so expect crowds. There will be more people on the trails, busy campsites, and crowded scenic viewpoints with photographers.

Canyonlands spring activities

We live only a few hours away from Canyonlands so we’ve had the opportunity to visit many times during every season. This list of Canyonlands National Park activities is based on our experiences throughout the years, and specifically for the spring months of March, April, and May! 

Use this Canyonlands National Park guide to plan an amazing itinerary full of fun spring activities! We detail the specific activities you can do at the various districts of Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Canyonlands Needles.

We’ve created some done-for-you itineraries for visiting Canyonlands depending on the time you have to spend at the park. Click the graphic below to get a free travel bundle that includes printable daily itineraries. Or click the links below to see detailed itineraries of the best things to do at Canyonlands!

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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!

Spring Vacation at Canyonlands National Park

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!

There are so many fun ways to explore Canyonlands in the spring: hiking trails, scenic drive, rock climbing, off-road driving and photography to name a few.

Spring Weather at Canyonlands

The Canyonlands National Park weather and temperatures in the spring will vary month to month. Check the forecast for the time you’ll be visiting so you’re prepared for the right clothing and gear.

Dress in layers when visiting in Canyonlands in the spring and pack at a minimum:

Canyonlands is a dry desert environment so be sure to also pack lip balm and lotion!

Canyonlands National Park Spring Activities

Canyonlands is a rugged and remote Utah National Park with a landscape perfect for hiking, camping, and off-road adventures. 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.

There are so many fun things to do at Canyonlands National Park in the spring.

Spring Ranger-Led Programs at Canyonlands

If this is your first time visiting the park, stop at the Visitor Center – check the website for operating hours. Take time to talk to the park ranger to get information about things you are interested in seeing and doing.

Ranger Programs at Canyonlands usually begin again on April 1, but be sure to check the website or with the rangers for the most updated information. At Island in the Sky the programs are: Geology Talk, Patio Talk, Evening Program, and Full Moon Hikes/Stargazing. At Needles the programs are: Cave Spring Guided Walk and Evening Program or Constellation Tour.

If you’ll be visiting Canyonlands National Park with kids, there are fun ways to get everyone excited before, during and after the trip with National Park activities:

sunrise at Grand View Point Canyonlands
Sunrise at Grand View Point

Spring Scenic Drives at Canyonlands

Exploring the Island in the Sky scenic drive is a must-do activity! Stop at all 10 overlooks to enjoy and photograph the never-ending views! Plan a few hours to drive the 34 miles round trip with stops to capture capture Canyonlands National Park photos! Add more time if you plan to do any hiking.

You’ll see different views at Needles Canyonlands as you drive through the park. Stop at all pullouts to enjoy the diverse beauty of the stone spires in this part of the park, and see why it’s called Needles. From the Visitor Center, the scenic drive continues 6.5 miles and ends at Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

There are also two more amazing scenic drives to see different views of Island in the Sky and Needles if you have the time!

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.

Needles Canyonlands hiking trail with ladder
Needles Canyonlands hiking trail with ladder

Spring Hiking at Canyonlands

Exploring the Canyonlands National Park hikes in the spring is one of the best ways to explore the rugged landscape that has been transformed into a multitude of canyons, mesas, buttes, and arches by the erosion of the Green and Colorado rivers.

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: Chelser Park Loop and Druid Arch trails.

Water, electrolytes, salty snacks, sunscreen, and lip balm should be on your day hike packing list for Canyonlands in the spring.

Mesa Arch at sunrsie
Mesa Arch at sunrise

Spring Photography at Canyonlands

If you love landscape photography, you’re in for a treat with the landscape views you’ll see at Canyonlands! We focus our Canyonlands National Park photography at Island in the Sky for sunrise and sunset photography.

The golden hours of sunrise and sunset produce a glow on the red rocks that cannot be missed. Here are our favorite photo spots for those times of day:

  • Canyonlands sunrise photo spots at Island in the Sky: Grand View Point and Mesa Arch.
  • Canyonlands sunset photo spots at Island in the Sky: Green River Overlook and nearby Dead Horse Point State Park!

Mesa Arch is an iconic photo spot at sunrise so you won’t be the only one there. You’ll need to plan ahead and arrive WELL BEFORE sunrise in order to get a good spot. The area for taking the famous sunrise shot is small.

Our best tip for photographing Mesa Arch: stay after sunrise! The golden glow on the under side of the Arch continues for quite a while, and you can capture awesome photos when all the other photographers have left.

In early spring you may still want photographer gloves and rechargeable hand warmers for the colder mornings and evenings.

Check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide and Itinerary if you’re serious about getting the BEST photos! We share the best photography spots at each park for sunrise, sunset and even night time…and give you our favorite 3 day itinerary! 

milky way over Mesa Arch
Milky way over Mesa Arch

Spring Stargazing at Canyonlands

Stargazing at Canyonlands is another must-do activity. On a clear night, the sky is literally filled with stars. Canyonlands National Park is a Dark Sky Park and they have a slogan that says “Half the Park is After Dark”!

From March through October you can see the milky way. Canyonlands is a popular destination for astrophotographers so you won’t be alone in the park at night. Be courteous to other photographers in the area by using a headlamp with a red light!

In the spring, the Milky Way is visible at these times:

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

Spring Off-roading at Canyonlands

If you’re looking for an experience of a lifetime: drive the Shafer Trail! With the right vehicle you can drive this challenging, unpaved backcountry road in Island in the Sky that connects with Moab.

The 4×4 trails at Needles Canyonlands are pretty technical and may require a permit so check with the Park Rangers before heading out on any trail. You also want to find out current road conditions before hitting any of the off-road trails in early spring.

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!

If you don’t have the right vehicle, or don’t feel confident driving, we recommend you book a Canyonlands 4WD Tour. A professional guide will will highlight arch formations and other towering landscapes as you drive through the red-rock areas of the park.

Biking on Shafer Trail
Biking on Shafer Trail

Spring Biking at Canyonlands

For biking enthusiasts looking to turn the adventure up a notch, Canyonlands National Park offers some of the most breathtaking and challenging mountain biking trails in the United States.

Some of the backcountry roads for biking at Canyonlands require a permit so be sure to check in advance:

  • 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

You can also ride your bike at both Island in the Sky and Needles on the paved roads.

Spring Tours at Canyonlands

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.

In the spring you’ll find half-day and full-day excursions to explore Canyonlands: guided hikes, canyoneering, biking, and photography!

Colorado River kayaking
Colorado River kayaking

Spring River Rafting at Canyonlands

The Colorado and Green Rivers can be explored with canoes, kayaks, rafts, SUPs, and shallow-water boats. In March and April you’ll also find sections for whitewater river rafting near Canyonlands! 

Canyonlands river permit: required for all private river trips through the park. 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 Canyonlands river rafting trips: local outfitters in Moab offer half-day to week-long guided trips with several nights of camping.

Moab Stand Up Paddleboarding Tour: another fun way to enjoy the Colorado River!

Camping in Canyonlands

Spring Camping at Canyonlands National Park

There are two ways to camp at Canyonlands in the spring. 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!

Or you can find BLM areas for camping around Moab as well.

Lodging Near Canyonlands in the Spring

If camping isn’t your thing, there are a variety of options so you can find the best place to stay for your travel style and budget near Canyonlands:

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Things To Do Near Canyonlands in the Spring

Packing List for Canyonlands

Use our Canyonlands Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting in during the spring months! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

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