Canyonlands National Park Summer Activities

Canyonlands is a stunning location in southeastern Utah that offers breathtaking views and plenty of outdoor activities. Here’s a list of the fun Canyonlands National Park summer activities to help you explore this amazing park!

Use this Canyonlands National Park guide to plan an amazing itinerary full of fun summer activities! We also share tips for things to pack, where to stay and more!

summer activities at Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Utah if you enjoy summer activities like hiking, biking, scenic drives, photography, and more!

Keep reading to learn more about Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Needles and all the fun activities you can do at each location.

Check out these 1, 2, and 3-day Canyonlands Itineraries to help you plan your vacation based on the time you have to spend at the park:

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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!

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!

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

Summer Weather at Canyonlands

When visiting Canyonlands in the summer, it’s important to stay hydrated and use protection because the weather will be hot and dry!

You’ll experience a dry desert environment at Canyonlands so be sure to pack:

Canyonlands National Park Summer Activities

There are so many fun Canyonlands National Park activities you can do in the summer.

We recommend you plan the outdoor activities in the early morning, late afternoon, and evenings to enjoy the cooler temperatures.

Summer Ranger-Led Programs at Canyonlands

If this is your first time visiting the park, stop at the Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center and Needles 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. Find out what Canyonlands Ranger-led Programs are available at the time of your visit.

You’ll find exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, picnic area, and general information. Water is available year-round.

sunrise at Grand View Point Canyonlands
Sunrise at Grand View Point

Summer 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!

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.

We highly recommend getting the Arches + Canyonlands GyPSy Guide Audio Tour: use the suggested itineraries in the app tour plan, or divide the commentary to create your own half, full or multi day sightseeing trips. 

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.

Druid Arch at Needles Canyonlands
Druid Arch at Needles Canyonlands

Summer Hiking at Canyonlands

Exploring the Canyonlands National Park summer hikes is one of the best ways 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: 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.

Mesa Arch at sunrsie
Mesa Arch at sunrise

Summer 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.

  • 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!

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

Check out our 3-day itinerary to capture amazing sunrise, sunset and night photos, check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide.

milky way over Mesa Arch
Milky way over Mesa Arch

Summer 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 summer, the Milky Way is visible at these times:

  • June – 10:30 pm to 3:30 am
  • July – 10:30 pm to 3:45 am
  • August – 9:30 pm to 1:30 am
Biking at Canyonlands

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.

Jeeping at Needles Canyonlands
Jeeping at Needles Canyonlands

Summer 4×4 Trails 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.

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!

rafting the colorado river near moab
Rafting the Colorado River

Summer River Rafting 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.

Summer 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.

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!

RV camper in Canyonlands
RV camper in Canyonlands

Summer Camping at Canyonlands National Park

You’ll find Canyonlands National Park camping at both districts:

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!

For a unique way to camp, 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!

canyonlands packing list optin box

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