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A day in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Utah is one of the best places for a road trip. The dramatic landscape is something that made us explore this state often. We have been to all the five national parks which make the state so famous. In this blog, we are going to cover Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands National Park is divided into three parts – (a) Island in the sky, (b) The Needle district & (c) The maze district. We visited Island in the sky, which is located about 40 miles from the nearest town Moab. 

Here are the things to do in a day at Island in the sky, Canyonlands National Park.

Stop at Visitor Center

Our first stop was Island in the sky visitor center.  The three reasons for making the stop – (a) get to know about the park and current trail and weather updates. (b) The viewpoint opposite to the visitor center is something you should not miss (c) Restroom (haha!). 

Note – In case of heavy snow, the roads are closed for visitors. So check the forecast or updates on the website before heading.

Drive the scenic road

The best part of any National Park is the scenic drives. Canyonlands national park has many, some are easily accessible, and some needs equipped vehicle and permit. 

With that said, there are both paved and unpaved scenic roads. We drove the paved road exploring the major highlights of the park. A 100 miles White Rim road is an unpaved one where you need a day/overnight permit and a four-wheel drive.

Hike the Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch is something you won’t want to miss while traveling to Canyonlands national park. Even if you have less time to explore, I would suggest including this place for sure. It is a 0.5 mile short and easy hike. The beautiful view of the La Sal Mountains at the backdrop makes it even more spectacular. Sunrise is the best time to do this hike for photography.

Note – Since the place is popular, expect a line to click pictures with the arch view.

Pullover at viewpoints

The place is full of stops, so take your time to admire the beauty and click all the pictures you want. We covered – Visitor center viewpoint, Shaffer’s point, Buck canyon overlook, White rim overlook, Grand viewpoint overlook, Orange cliff overlook, Green river overlook, and Upheaval dome. There are many hiking options available – If you are interested and have time, check out the list or ask a ranger.

Best time to visit

We visited in winters. The temperature was below the freezing point. However, during the afternoon, we loved the sun over our heads. If you are visiting during winters, our suggestion would be to bring layers and keep yourself warm.

Summer is a popular time to visit the park. However, it will be hot and crowded. Spring or fall would be a better choice compared to summer or winter in terms of weather. 

Where to stay
We stayed in the nearest town called Moab – 40 miles from Island in the sky visitor center. We booked our stay at Fairfield Marriott. There are camping options available as well. The place is a bit remote, so plan your accommodation accordingly.

Where to eat

There are no restaurants inside the national park. The nearest food option is in Moab – the town has pretty much everything you need for a stay. Many restaurants offer a takeout option for food and drinks along with dining in.

Best way to explore

Driving through the area would be the best way to explore. We rented our car with Expedia – easy booking with free cancellation.

Other things to keep in mind

1. There are no gas stations inside the park – Make sure the tank is full before heading to the national park.

2. There are no restaurants inside the park. The nearest town is 40 miles away, so plan your meals accordingly.

3. The nearest major airport is in Salt lake city, which is 4 hours away.

4. If you have extra time, you can also include Arches National park and Dead horse point state park in your itinerary.

5. Wear a mask, carry a hand sanitizer, respect the protocols & stay on the trail when hiking. 

Overall, Canyonlands National Park is a beautiful place to explore and spend a day. Take your time and admire the surreal natural formations and bring photographs as a souvenir to your home. We hope this blog helps you plan a day in Island in the sky, Canyonlands National Park. Pin it or bookmark this page for future travel.

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