Things to Do at Canyonlands National Park
If you love the outdoors, you’ll find a ton of things to do at Canyonlands National Park.
Use the list below and our Canyonlands National Park guide to help you plan the activities you’ll do each day.
Keep reading to learn more about the various districts of Canyonlands Island in the Sky and Needles and all the fun activities like hiking, off-roading, photography and more!
You’ll want to be sure pack the right clothing and gear so you can enjoy all the outdoor Canyonlands National Park activities any time of year!
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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!
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!
There are so many fun ways to explore Canyonlands: hiking trails, scenic drive, rock climbing, offroad driving and photography to name a few.
Use our guides below to help you plan the perfect itinerary when visiting the park.
- Canyonlands National Park Guide
- Canyonlands National Park Vacation Ideas
- Visiting Canyonlands National Park
When is the Best Time to Visit Canyonlands
Finding the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park all depends on the activities you want to do, and the type of weather you’ll enjoy.
The Canyonlands National Park weather varies drastically from summer to winter so you’ll need to be prepared for the temperatures during the time you visit.
We’ve written articles detailing what you’ll expect when visiting Canyonlands during the various seasons and months of the year.
- Canyonlands National Park in the Spring
- Canyonlands National Park in the Summer
- Canyonlands National Park in the Fall
- Canyonlands National Park in the Winter
Arches & Canyonlands AUDIO TOUR
“Download the app to your phone – no cell or wifi service needed. Based on your GPS location, the app takes you on a guided tour of the park and points out all the interesting features and stops. It’s like having a park ranger in the car with you.”
Things To Do at Canyonlands National Park
Here’s a list of the fun activities do at both districts of the park:
Canyonlands Visitor Centers
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 in October.
Take time to talk to the park ranger to get information about things you are interested in seeing and doing. Get tips and ideas on other things to do as well! You’ll find exhibits, book and map sales, backcountry permits, picnic area, and general information. Water is available year-round.
Canyonlands Scenic Drives
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.
Hiking at Canyonlands
Exploring the Canyonlands hikes is one of the best activities to appreciate this park. Remember to stay hydrated and carry a hydration pack or a refillable water bottle in your backpack. And since most of the trails are fully exposed to the sun, you’ll need sun protection like a sunhat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Here’s a list of good Island in the Sky hikes: Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Aztec Butte and Upheaval Dome. And here’s a list of hikes at the Needles district: Roadside Ruin, Pothole Point and Cave Spring.
Here’s a list of fun 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.
- What to Bring on a Day Hike
- Hiking Gear and Tips for Kids
- Winter Clothing for Hiking
- Photography Gear for Hiking
- Best Cameras for Hiking
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. Our favorite sunrise spots at Island in the Sky are Grand View Point and Mesa Arch. We like the Colorado River Overlook at sunset.
Stop at all the viewpoints along the scenic drive at Island in the Sky and the main road through Needles to capture stunning landscape scenes.
If you’re looking for the best photo spots at Canyonlands Island in the Sky…
check out our 3-day itinerary to capture amazing sunrise, sunset and night photos, check out our Arches & Canyonlands Photography Guide.
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!
Canyonlands 4×4 Trails
Another experience of a lifetime is driving the Shafer Trail! If you have the right vehicle, you might want to try 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!
More Canyonlands Activities
BUY AT AMAZON: Arches and Canyonlands Guides and Maps:
Plan Your Canyonlands Vacation
- Visiting Canyonlands National Park
- Canyonlands Packing List
- Best Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park
- Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky
- Needles Canyonlands
- TOURS Near Canyonlands
Where to Stay Near Canyonlands
There are no lodging facilities in the park, but there are campgrounds:
- Island in the Sky Campgrounds
- Needles Canyonlands Camping
- Where to Stay Near Canyonlands
- Hotels Near Canyonlands National Park
- 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 Moab – 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).