8 Greatest Hikes in Canyonlands Nationwide Park – Bearfoot Principle

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Canyonlands Nationwide Park boasts one of the crucial convoluted landscapes on Earth, with many locations solely visited by bighorn sheep and birds. The park is positioned close to Moab in southeast Utah, on the confluence of the Inexperienced and Colorado Rivers. That is certainly a land of canyons, with numerous tributaries flowing into these two main rivers. Many of the yr, nearly all of these canyons are bone dry, however through the late summer season monsoon season, highly effective thunderstorms unleash flash floods throughout the area.

Visiting Canyonlands is like visiting one other planet. Nowhere else on Earth rivals this intricate panorama of geologic spectacles, wonders, and oddities. Regardless of the rugged terrain, individuals have been drawn to this area for hundreds of years and the park protects many sacred Indigenous websites together with rock artwork panels and historic dwellings.

Canyonlands can also be the least visited out of Utah’s Huge 5 Nationwide Parks and it’s undoubtedly attainable to seek out seldomly seen and eerily quiet corners of the backcountry on this spectacular however harsh panorama.

Able to discover this unimaginable park? Listed below are 8 of probably the most scenic Canyonlands hikes to go to the park’s colourful layer cake of canyons, cliffs, and spires.

Vital Reminder: Because it goes in all the locations we share, please apply good path etiquette and bear in mind to Go away No Hint. This implies packing out your entire rubbish (together with rest room paper), being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established guidelines.

Canyonlands Nationwide Park Structure

Canyonlands is split into 4 districts: Island within the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and Horseshoe Canyon, plus the Rivers district for paddling. Beginning within the northern part of the park, the Island within the Sky protects the high-elevation mesa that sits between the Colorado and Inexperienced Rivers. Island within the Sky is the preferred part for drive-thru visits and brief hikes, as there are various spectacular viewpoints a brief stroll from a paved street. If you wish to discover a bit of farther on foot, there are additionally a number of unimaginable day hikes on this district.

The Maze and Needles districts deceive the south of the Island within the Sky, with the spire-studded Needles on the east facet of the Colorado and the mysterious Maze on the west facet of the Inexperienced and Colorado Rivers. These areas of the park are more durable to entry, with the Maze requiring a burly 4WD automobile and important route discovering. The Maze and Needles districts are hottest for longer day hikes and backpacking journeys, as many areas require lengthy, twisting approaches by way of deep canyons. 

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Horseshoe Canyon (to not be confused with Horseshoe Bend in Arizona) is a distant, geographically separate district positioned northwest of the remainder of the park that was put aside to guard sacred Indigenous rock artwork websites. This space may be accessed from the north, close to Inexperienced River, or from the west, close to Hanksville, down lengthy washboard (however two-wheel drive accessible) roads, at the very least when dry. One of the putting pictograph panels in North America may be seen right here on a protracted day hike. 

Park guests who’re new to abandon mountain climbing ought to begin within the Island within the Sky district, which has a number of brief and scenic trails with sweeping views. Mountain climbing within the Needles or the Maze districts of Canyonlands just isn’t for the inexperienced. The extra widespread park trails are often nicely marked however the extra distant areas, together with the aptly named Maze, require superior navigational expertise. We embrace hikes from each district beneath.

Greatest Time of Yr To Hike Canyonlands Nationwide Park

Canyonlands Nationwide Park, like most deserts within the Southwest, is greatest visited within the spring or fall, when temperatures are milder.

Sure areas of the park may be accessed in winter, a uniquely stunning time to go to as trails and overlooks are a lot quieter and snow can add a wide ranging new dimension to the pink rock canyons.

Summers are dangerously scorching with no shade and little water. In late summer season, flash floods repeatedly scour the panorama. If you happen to do go to from June to August, plan to hike very early within the morning or late within the night to keep away from the lethal warmth of the day and at all times regulate the climate.

A woman stands on a rocky edge overlooking Canyonlands National Park
BFT Founder Kristen at Canyonlands in winter

How To Get To Canyonlands Nationwide Park

Canyonlands Nationwide Park is likely one of the most distant places within the decrease 48 states. Getting there isn’t simple however the rewards are undoubtedly well worth the problem! 

The closest airport is the Canyonlands Area Airport, positioned simply north of Moab, a 30 minute drive to the Island within the Sky Customer Heart or a 2.5 hour drive to the Needles district or a 3.5 hour drive to Horseshoe Bend, however this can be a very small airport with restricted day by day flights which can be sometimes very costly. 

We suggest flying into Salt Lake Metropolis Worldwide Airport (SLC), a 4 hour drive to Moab and Island within the Sky, a 5.5 hour drive to the Needles District, or a 6.5 drive to Horseshoe Bend. Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) can also be an choice, only one.5 hours from Moab or a bit of over 4 hours to Island within the Sky district, though smaller than SLC.

Moab is the closest city to all districts of Canyonlands (solely 40 minutes from the Island within the Sky Customer Heart!), with plenty of lodging, restaurant, and outside gear store choices. We suggest staying in Moab throughout your go to to Canyonlands.

golden hour at Canyonlands National Parl

Greatest Hikes in Canyonlands Nationwide Park

1. Grand View Level

  • District: Island within the Sky
  • Distance: 1.8 miles out and again
  • Elevation Achieve: 160 ft
  • Time: 1 hour 
  • Problem: Straightforward
  • Trailhead begin: Grand View Level Overlook Trailhead

With a reputation like Grand View Level, you already know you’re in for a deal with. This simple 1.8 mile lengthy out and again path follows the White Rim to the tip of Grand View Level for mind-boggling views south into the center of Canyonlands, together with the confluence of the Inexperienced and Colorado Rivers.

This hike is a good place to wrap your head across the lay of the panorama, as most of the canyons south of the rim are completely inaccessible to people. You would possibly see just a few tiny Jeeps down beneath, making their approach slowly alongside one of many park’s legendary 4WD roads. If attainable, plan to hike this path at sundown as a result of watching the altering gentle and colours stream over the Canyonlands is really a magical expertise.

Grand View Point at Canyonlands National Park
Grand View Level

2. Mesa Arch Loop

  • District: Island within the Sky
  • Distance: 0.7 miles 
  • Elevation Achieve: 88 ft
  • Time: ½ hour
  • Problem: Straightforward
  • Trailhead begin: Mesa Arch Loop Parking

Go to one of many planet’s most photographed arches on this simple 0.7 mile loop within the Island within the Sky district. Mesa Arch is a pothole arch that shaped over tens of hundreds of years as rainwater collected in a pure despair and step by step wore by way of the rock, forming a 27-foot large opening on the japanese fringe of the mesa.

Mesa Arch is famously photographed at dawn when the morning rays strike the underside of the arch, which frames Canyonlands and the La Sal Mountains in an iconic desert southwest scene. Don’t count on solitude at dawn. The stroll to the arch is gorgeous any time of day, in all seasons, though in winter it could be icy in spots.

Mesa Arch at sunrise in Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch at dawn

3. Syncline Loop (round Upheaval Dome)

  • District: Island within the Sky
  • Distance: 8.6 mile loop
  • Elevation Achieve: 1,630 ft
  • Time: 5 hours 
  • Problem: Exhausting
  • Trailhead begin: Upheaval Dome Trailhead

That is one among Island within the Sky’s tougher day hikes however the terrain it traverses might actually be out of this world. The path circumnavigates Upheaval Dome, a curious 6-mile large crater-like formation that might be an uplifted salt dome, or a meteor impression crater; geologists have debated its origin for many years.

Both approach, the hike across the formation of colourful, concentric rings is stunningly stunning. The park service recommends mountain climbing across the loop clockwise for extra gradual uphill climbs. Understand that some elements of the hike require third class scrambling so this might not be an ideal hike for inexperienced hikers or youngsters.

Tip: If the loop is an excessive amount of to sort out, you can even view Upheaval Dome from the Crater View Path, a brief however steep 1.6 mile hike.

Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park
Upheaval Dome

4. Chesler Park Loop

  • District: Needles
  • Distance: 10.4 mile lollipop loop
  • Elevation Achieve: 1,820 ft
  • Time: 5 hours 
  • Problem: Average
  • Trailhead begin: Elephant Hill (requires 4WD) different 2WD trailhead at Needles Campground (makes for a 12 mile spherical journey hike)

Scratch the floor of the Needles District on this 10.4 mile lollipop loop. The Chesler Park Loop path leads throughout slickrock benches, sandy washes, and thru a deep, slim rock chasm to Chesler Park, a good looking meadow studded with pink and white banded rock pinnacles.

Sculpted by wind and water out of Cedar Mesa sandstone, these spires are what give the Needles district its evocative identify. Chesler Park can also be an ideal first cease or basecamp for multi-day backpacks by way of the Needles to go to seldom-seen options like Druid Arch and the Satan’s Pocket.

Chesler Park hiking trail  in Canyonlands National Park
Chesler Park | Picture: Mary Caperton Morton

5. The Slickrock Foot Path

  • District: Needles 
  • Distance: 2.4 mile lollipop loop 
  • Elevation Achieve: 137 ft
  • Time: 1.5 hour
  • Problem: Average
  • Trailhead begin: Huge Spring Canyon Overlook

In slickrock nation, trails typically undulate throughout naked rocks that don’t maintain a lot signal of a path. For the uninitiated, this may be unnerving because it’s typically unattainable to inform should you’re truly on the path or simply wandering within the desert. Slickrock trails are often marked by cairns–brief stacks of rocks that time the way in which. From one cairn, you must have the ability to spot the following one and by shifting between the rock stacks, you keep on path.

If you happen to’re new to this type of navigation, the Slickrock Foot Path is an efficient place to apply. Even on a comparatively well-cairned path like this one, it’s vital to deliver a paper map and orient your self ceaselessly to “handrails” within the panorama, reminiscent of a distant ridge or mountain vary so that you don’t get rotated. Earlier than you permit Moab, after which cell service is spotty at greatest, you also needs to plan to obtain the path in your favourite mountain climbing app.

The Slickrock Foot Trail in Canyonlands National Park
The Slickrock Foot Path

6. The Confluence Overlook

  • District: Needles 
  • Distance: 10 miles out and again
  • Elevation Achieve: 1,371 ft
  • Time: 6 hours 
  • Problem: Average
  • Trailhead begin: Huge Spring Canyon Overlook

The mighty Inexperienced and Colorado Rivers meet within the coronary heart of Canyonlands Nationwide Park and this confluence is likely one of the most important river conferences within the southwest. After flowing collectively, the 2 rivers spill into Cataract Canyon, a legendary part of white water that boasts Utah’s largest rapids.

You’ll be able to glimpse the confluence of the Inexperienced and Colorado from Grand View Level (see hike #1) however for a more in-depth look, head out on the Confluence Overlook path, which leaves from the top of the one paved street into the Needles District. The route traverses slick rock benches and canyons earlier than ending abruptly at a clifftop overlook, simply east of the confluence. The overlook is 1,000 ft above the rivers. You’ll be able to’t get all the way down to the water right here so remember to pack loads of ingesting water in your mountain climbing daypack.

The confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers in Canyonlands National Park
Confluence of the Inexperienced and Colorado rivers (notice the totally different colours!)

7. Horseshoe Canyon to the Nice Gallery

  • District: Horseshoe Canyon
  • Distance: 7 miles out and again
  • Elevation Achieve: 1,387 ft
  • Time: 4 hours 
  • Problem: Average
  • Trailhead begin: West Rim Trailhead

This path shortly drops off the sting of Horseshoe Canyon right into a sandy-bottomed wash lined with towering sandstone partitions and shaded by huge cottonwood bushes. After 3.5 miles you’ll arrive on the Nice Gallery, the world’s best assortment of Barrier Canyon-style work that includes bigger than life-sized humanoid figures that hover excessive above the canyon ground.

Considered between 7,000 and a pair of,000 years outdated, the work have been created by nomadic hunter gatherers as they migrated all through the Canyonlands area on seasonal journeys. This hike may be highly regarded in the summertime months and is greatest visited in spring or fall.

A woman looks at The Great Gallery in Canyonlands National Park
The Nice Gallery | Images: Mary Caperton Morton

8. The Maze

  • District: The Maze
  • Distance: Varies
  • Elevation Achieve: Varies
  • Time: A number of days
  • Problem: Exhausting
  • Trailhead begin: The Maze Overlook 

There aren’t any day hike choices into the Maze. Accessing this space west of the Inexperienced and Colorado Rivers is a severe multi-day endeavor, requiring a lot planning and preparation, plus you’ll want a 4-wheel drive automobile to get inside mountain climbing distance of this advanced of canyons.

The Maze Overlook at Brimhall Level is 5.5 hours from Moab is an efficient place to begin. From right here you’ll be able to descend into the Maze however you greatest be ready for unmarked routes that weave out and in of dead-end canyons, class 3 and 4 scrambles, and no water sources for miles round.

View from the Maze Overlook in Canyonlands National Park
View from the Maze Overlook – discover the labyrinth canyons beneath

Canyonlands Mountain climbing Ideas

Canyonlands Nationwide Park is likely one of the most rugged landscapes on Earth. Guests ought to be ready for distant desert journey, whether or not they’re touring by automobile or on foot. Listed below are some tops With the intention to keep secure whereas mountain climbing in Canyonlands:

  • The park entrance payment is $30 per automobile. If you happen to plan to go to a number of parks in 1 yr, put money into an America the Lovely Nationwide Park Go to save lots of on charges.
  • Canines usually are not allowed on any mountain climbing trails in Canyonlands Nationwide Park
  • All the time maintain a number of gallons of ingesting water in your automobile, in addition to emergency meals (right here’s our favourite mountain climbing snacks!) and provides in case you turn out to be stranded. Backcountry water sources are few and much between and infrequently essential for wildlife.
  • Many of the park’s roads require 4-wheel drive, apart from the restricted paved roads within the Island within the Sky and the Needles districts.
  • Cell service is non-existent in a lot of the park. You should definitely obtain offline maps utilizing your favourite mountain climbing app
  • Mountain climbing within the desert is often uncovered, so put on the right desert mountain climbing garments and put on ample solar safety.
  • The park is greatest visited within the spring or fall or throughout sunny climate home windows through the winter. In summer season, Canyonlands turns right into a fiery furnace and mountain climbing just isn’t really useful through the day.

Searching for extra Utah Nationwide Park guides? We’ve obtained you lined:

best hikes in Canyonlands National Park


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