Best Day Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, located in southeastern Utah, is a hiker’s paradise. Here’s a list of the best day hikes in Canyonlands National Park rated easy, moderate, or strenuous for all hiking abilities.

You’ll find a variety of hiking trails at both Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Canyonlands Needles. This Canyonlands National Park guide will detail the best day hiking trails, tips for hiking at Canyonlands, and recommended hiking gear!

13 day hikes in Canyonlands National Park

We live only hours away from Canyonlands so we get to visit often. The information we share here is from our experiences hiking at both Island in the Sky and Needles over the years.

If you’re not used to a dry desert environment, we want to emphasize that it’s important to stay hydrated, use sun protection, and get the latest weather information before hitting the trails at Canyonlands any time of year!

Use our Canyonlands Packing List to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for hiking any time of year! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

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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!

Tips for Day Hiking at Canyonlands

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or an adventurous hike, you’ll find a Canyonlands hike you can enjoy any time of year. It’s important to be prepared with the right clothing and gear for hiking at Canyonlands!

Clothing for Day Hiking at Canyonlands

Late spring, summer, and early fall will be hot and dry at Canyonlands. Late fall, winter, and early spring it will be cold with the possibility of rain and even snow!

Day Hiking Gear for Canyonlands

Here’s the Canyonlands hiking gear we recommend:

  • Water: Use refillable water bottles or hydration packs. We carry Propel powder packets to add to our water to help replace electrolytes.
  • Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin! Due to the dry heat at Canyonlands you’ll also want lip balm and lotion!
  • First aid kit: No matter whether your hike is long or short, always pack a hiking first aid kit. Make sure your first aid kit has the essentials like plasters, bandages, anti-bacterial wipes, etc. 
  • Headlamps: If you’ll be hiking in the morning or late afternoon, carry a headlamp so you’re prepared in case you need to hike in the dark.
  • Snacks: Pack salty and easy to digest snack to replace electrolytes.
hiking gear and clothing

Best Day Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Within this 337,598 acre park, visitors will find exquisite natural canyons, arches, fins, buttes, mesas, and spires that have all been carved out by the awe-inspiring power of the Green and Colorado Rivers.

Canyonlands is subdivided, along the Green and Colorado Rivers, into four unique districts: Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky, Needles Canyonlands, The Maze, Island in the Sky, and The Rivers.

You’ll find a variety of different hikes at  Canyonlands Island in the Sky vs Needles. This guide will list the day hikes found at each district separately.

Best Day Hikes in Canyonlands Island in the Sky

Here are the Island in the Sky hikes that are perfect for day hiking to see panoramic views and incredible scenery at this district of Canyonlands.

Mesa Arch at sunrise

Mesa Arch Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy

One of the most popular and scenic day hikes is the Mesa Arch trail. It’s an easy hike that is less than half a mile from the parking lot to reach the arch. Plan about thirty minutes to reach the spectacular view!

Mesa Arch is one of the most iconic landmarks and Canyonlands sunrise photo spots at Island in the Sky so the area will be crowded at that time. If you’re willing to stay AFTER sunrise, we usually end up with the arch to ourselves!

Mesa Arch is also a great place for stargazing and taking Milky Way photos. Enjoying Canyonlands at night is a fun experience – be sure to use a headlamp for hiking in the dark!

Canyonlands Grand View Point sunrise
Grand View Point sunrise

Grand View Point Day Hike

  • Distance: 1.8 miles round-trip
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: easy

At the very end of the Island in the Sky scenic drive is Grand View Point. From this location you’ll see the white-rimmed canyons carved out by the Colorado River below the overlook.

The Grand View Point trail is an easy in-and-out hike that follows the canyon edge of Island in the Sky mesa and takes about an hour and a half. You can hike 1.8 miles to reach the southern tip of this overlook for one of Utah’s most spectacular views.

Grand View Point is one of our favorite places to take Canyonlands National Park photos at sunrise when we’re in Island in the Sky!

Canyonlands White Rim
Canyonlands White Rim

White Rim Overlook Day Hike

  • Distance: 1.8 miles round-trip
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: easy

Near the south end of the Canyonlands Island in the Sky district you’ll find the White Rim Overlook. Plan an hour and a half to complete the hike. There is extremely limited trailhead parking here but it’s worth it for the spectacular panoramic view from the overlook.

The overlook gets its name from the layer of white sandstone that forms at the edges of the canyon rim. The contrast of the white rock against the surrounding shades of red-orange cliffs is exquisite. It is best viewed in the late afternoon.

Murphy Point Day Hike

  • Distance: 3.4 miles round-trip
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: easy

If you’re looking for a longer fall hike, Murphy Point provides excellent wide views off the western end of Island in the Sky. Downhill most of the way, this Islands in the Sky hike leads you past a historic corral on the mesa top.

You’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Green River, Candlestick Tower, and the White Rim Road.

Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome

Upheaval Dome Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip (add 1 mile to second overlook)
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: moderate

The Upheaval Dome Trail is a short, steep hike under 1 mile to the first overlook; the second overlook adds a mile.

To truly appreciate this unique feature, you’ll need to see in person. It’s a crater 3 miles wide and 1000 feet deep with rocks pushed together in the center to make a dome-shaped structure.

There are different theories as to what created the uplifted rock feature. You can read all about the dome, and the theories, at the exhibits at the end of the trail.  

whale rock canyonlands
Whale Rock

Whale Rock Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.8 miles round-trip
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: moderate

The Whale Rock hike leads you up the side of a large, rounded sandstone rock that some would say resembles a whale. This trail is a fun one to climb and the handrails make it easier to navigate.

You’ll see one of the best views of Island in the Sky at the top of the Whale Rock Trail!

Aztec Butte granaries at Canyonlands Island in the Sky
Aztec Butte granaries

Aztec Butte Day Hike

  • Distance: 1.4 miles round-trip
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate

This day hike at Canyonlands is worth the effort to see ancient ruins! The Aztec Butte trail is short but challenging at times since you’ll be required to hike up ledges and slickrock.

Early on, the trail splits with Aztec Butte to the right and another smaller butte to the left before dropping below the rim to see two Puebloan structures called granaries. These are a unique find and both have been well-preserved. View all ancient ruin structures from a distance; entering, touch and climbing on the sites is prohibited.

Canyonlands National Park Facts

Best Day Hikes in Canyonlands Needles

The Needles Canyonlands district makes up the southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park and gets its name from the hundreds of colorful spires that dominate the area.

Due to the remote area of this part of the park, you’ll need to pack everything you need and be prepared to be self-reliant! Here’s a list of the best Canyonlands Needles hikes perfect for day hiking.

Roadside Ruin at Needles Canyonlands
Roadside Ruin

Roadside Ruin Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.3 miles round-trip
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easye

This easy, kid-friendly trail is short with only a few stone steps to navigate. The Roadside Ruin trail is highly trafficked but in good condition.

Here you’ll get to see a Puebloan-era storage structure that was once used to store food. The markers along the trail explain the ruins and point out the native plants you’ll see along the way.

Pothole Point hike at Canyonlands
Pothole Point hike

Pothole Point Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy

Although short, this trail is uphill and has uneven footing so might be considered moderate for some. Pothole Point is a short loop trail that crosses communities of sandstones with natural depressions called potholes.

To preserve these delicate potholes, it’s important to walk around them and avoid putting anything in them, even when they are dry. There are no trail guides, but small rock piles (cairns) show the way. Panoramic views from the trail are memorable and this trail offers one of the best viewpoints of the Needles.

Cowboy Camp Cave Spring Trail
Cowboy Camp

Cave Spring Trail Day Hike

  • Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy/moderate

There’s a lot to see on the Cave Spring trail – a short loop that winds around a white and red sandstone mesa. You’ll pass Cave Spring, prehistoric rock paintings, well-preserved pictographs, and a historic cowboy camp with many original artifacts on display.

Ladder along the Cave Spring Trail

Be aware there are two wooden ladders to climb to reach the 360-degree panoramic view of the Needles district. This trail is easy for those who have no problem climbing the two ladders and the sandstone rock, but might be challenging for children or the elderly.

It is recommended that you take the trail clockwise so you’re climbing up instead of down the ladders.

Slickrock Foot Trail Day Hike

  • Distance: 2.4 miles round-trip
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate

Grab a Slickrock Trail brochure at the trailhead to help you identify the landmarks along the way. It’s a moderate trail with most of the hike on the hard slickrock surface that gives the trail its name. This trail offers stunning views of the canyons and the Needles.

We recommend the spurs to the 4 great overlooks to see amazing views. This is a good beginner hike with lots of potential for exploring, the strategically placed cairns make it easy to pick the trail back up.

It’s best to hike this trail in the morning or evening as you are exposed to the sun on this hike.

Chesler Park Trail at Needles Canyonlands
Chesler Park Trail

Chesler Park Loop Trail Day Hike

  • Distance: 5.8 miles round-trip
  • Time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty: strenuous

This moderate trail is fun and popular because of its diversity in the landscape. The Needles Chesler Loop Trail has you climbing up and down over rock formations, through sand and various rock terrain, slit canyons, and grasslands.

This is a beautiful trail with lots to explore and stunning panoramic views of the Needles.

Druid Arch at Needles Canyonlands
Druid Arch

Druid Arch Day Hike

  • Distance: 10.8 miles round-trip
  • Time: 5 to 7 hours
  • Difficulty: strenuous

A favorite of the Canyonlands Needles hikes, Druid Arch is located about 5 ½ miles from the Elephant Hill Trailhead and offers one of the most spectacular views in the Needles district.

The Druid Arch trail will have you scrambling through high desert, canyons, a maze of needles, up a steep ladder and a rock wall to get to the arch.

Arches Canyonlands guides and maps

BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps

Things To Do Near Canyonlands

Lodging at Canyonlands National Park

There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there are campgrounds:

Canyonlands Itineraries

We’ve made it easy for you to plan your Canyonlands National Park activities and hikes with these done-for-you itineraries, based on the time you have to visit the park:

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