Canyonlands Island in the Sky Scenic Drive

There are 10 overlooks and viewpoints along the Island in the Sky scenic drive to enjoy the vast and spectacular landscape at this park!

Use the tips below and our Canyonlands National Park guide to plan your itinerary for visiting Island in the Sky.

You’ll definitely want to have your camera ready to capture the beauty you’ll see!

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Island in the Sky Scenic Drive Map

You can download and print this map to plan your stops along the scenic drive in Island of the Sky.

Island in the Sky Scenic Drive Points of Interest

As you explore the scenic drive, check out the Canyonlands hikes you can do in the park as well!

Visitor Center Viewpoint 

The very first staggering view is found at the Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

As the view expands right in front of you, you will find yourself in awe and pure bliss of admiration. You can also see the Shafer Trail Road here.  

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint

Shafer Canyon Viewpoint gives you a breathtaking view of the crazy switchbacks on Shafer Trail Road. 

If you’re not afraid of heights, we recommend driving this road! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Mesa Arch Trail

You can’t view Mesa Arch from the scenic drive. It does require you hike about 1 mile there and back.

Mesa Arch is one of the most photographed locations Island in the Sky. You might have seen this magnificent view when researching Canyonlands.

But this also means it’s always busy, especially at sunrise! We recommend you get there a good 1 to 2 hours before sunrise to get a parking spot!

Aztec Butte

Another view you can’t see from the road is Aztec Butte. The panoramic views atop the butte are amazing, but the hike is not for the faint of heart with very steep sections!

There is a different route off the main trail that takes you to some granaries tucked away in the rocks. We highly recommend this short hike to see this fascinating piece of history!

Green River Overlook

The Green River Overlook is located at the end of the paved road past the Willows Campground.

The views you’ll see atop the 6,000 foot elevated plateau are incredible! The landscape here features the water-carved canyons created by the Green River.

This overlook is the best spot at Island in the Sky to watch and photograph the sunset.

Whale Rock 

Whale Rock is one of the most family-friendly spots in Island in the Sky. From a distance, you will enjoy a view of a rock formation that resembles a whale, thus, the name. 

The view on top of Whale Rock is worth the 1 mile round trip hike. The trail is on slickrock and there’s a section where the sides are steep, but you’ll find handrails here to help. 

Upheaval Dome

Several conspiracy theories surround the Upheaval Dome, making it one of the most famous spots in Island in the Sky.

One theory suggests that the crater must have been left due to meteorite activities, while another says the formation was created when a salty dome forcibly pushed its way to the sandstone rock.  

To get here, a moderate hike is required, which takes about an hour. An elevation change from time to time is also expected. Upon reaching the first overlook, you will have yourself an expansive view of the crater.  

Buck Canyon Overlook

The Buck Canyon Overlook offers panoramic views of the Colorado River Basin with its numerous canyons and the White Rim in the foreground. In the distance, you can also enjoy an expansive view of the La Sal Mountains. 

This spot does not require a strenuous hike. It is also wheelchair accessible. The views from here look so surreal that you sometimes find yourself getting lost in the moment. And don’t forget to look behind you because that direction is also picture-worthy. 

White Rim Overlook

The White Rim Overlook offers an expansive panorama view of the Colorado River canyon, Monument Basin spires, and the upper part of Gooseberry Canyon. 

This flat trail is accessible for children and recommended for families to try. You will find spectacular views in every direction and significant exposure to the desert landscape.

Grand View Point 

The Grand View Point sits at the southernmost edge of the Island in the Sky. From here, you can see the dramatic views of the White Rim Road, LaSal Mountains, Needles Canyonlands, Abajo Mountains and the Maze.

From the parking lot there’s a paved 100-yard trail to the first viewpoint. This trail is accessible to wheelchairs.

There’s another trail beyond the first viewpoint. It’s another 1 mile to the second viewpoint. This portion of the trail is not paved, has some rock stairs, uneven surfaces and cliff edges so be sure to watch children carefully!


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

Here are 4 places we recommend:

  •  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 town – 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!

Where to Stay Near Canyonlands Needles

There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there is one campground.

You can visit Needles and stay in Moab, and most people do that.

The town of Monticello is a bit closer to Needles, but the lodging, food and shopping options aren’t as good. It’s a much smaller town than Moab.

Plan Your Canyonlands Vacation

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