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 along the scenic drive at Canyonlands Island in the Sky!
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Canyonlands National Park Packing List
→ DOWNLOAD: Canyonlands Packing List
- Merrell Moab hiking shoes OR Oboz hiking shoes
- Darn Tough hiking socks
- Columbia fleece jackets are our favorite and LAST for years!!
- Lots of Water – carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack
- Healthy food that’s portable and filling!
- Lip balm with UV protection
- Sun protection – sunscreen and sun hat
- Travel hand sanitizer
- Flashlight or headlamp – perfect for those morning or evening hikes
- Canyonlands guide books and maps
- UV sunglasses are good for summer and winter
- First aid kit in your car and in your backpack when hiking
- Insect repellent
- Camera gear – DOWNLOAD the free checklist!
Visiting 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!
Canyonlands Island in the Sky Scenic Drive Map
You can download and print this Canyonlands 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 Island in the Sky hikes you can do in the park as well!
We share all the best Canyonlands National Park photography spots along the drive with tips for the best time of day to take pictures!
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 the Shafer Trail 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!
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 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.
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!
BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:
WHERE TO STAY NEAR CANYONLANDS
There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there are campgrounds.
→ Where to stay near Canyonlands – these are our favorite places in Moab:
- 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!