Canyonlands National Park in Utah: 1-Day Itinerary of the Best Things To Do

by | September 2020 | 6 comments

*All photos are protected by copyright and the property of Briana Nickas unless otherwise noted.

Canyonlands… sounds like an amusement park, doesn’t it? Well, it could be considered a type of natural amusement park for outdoor lovers. Canyonlands National Park in Utah has plenty to do including hiking, a scenic drive, and amazing overlooks of the canyon created by the Colorado River below.

Surprisingly, Canyonlands doesn’t get much credit compared to the other National Parks in Utah. But it’s definitely still worth seeing, especially since it’s practically right next to Arches National Park (one of my faves)!

With over 300,000 sprawling acres, Canyonlands National Park is divided up into 4 districts by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The districts are Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. You can learn more about each of them here.

Most of the districts are challenging to reach. Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab, UT, and the most accessible. For these reasons, it’s the most popular district to visit.

With this 1-day itinerary for visiting the Island in the Sky District, you’re sure to have a full day of awesomeness hitting up the best things to do at Canyonlands National Park in Utah!

Best Things To Do at Canyonlands National Park in Utah

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Planning a trip to #CanyonlandsNationalPark in Utah and short on time? Use this 1-Day Itinerary for all the best things in Canyonlands National Park, including awesome viewpoints & hikes! #canyonlandsnationalparkutah #visitutah Click To Tweet
Lookout at Canyonlands National Park on Utah National Parks Road Trip

Info for Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Canyonlands National Park is located about 40 miles southwest of I-70 making it easy to reach from the I-15 in Utah or from Utah’s eastern neighbor Colorado.

Just 30 miles northwest of Moab, UT, it’s also close to another one of the Utah National Parks – Arches National Park. This makes Moab a perfect place to stay to visit both National Parks!

Canyonlands National Park

Location: Moab, UT

Entrance Fee: FREE with America the Beautiful Pass OR $30 for private vehicles and all passengers (15 or less) for 7 days

Get Your Annual National Parks Pass Here!
RV Park in Moab Utah for Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park

If you’re going to be RVing to Canyonlands National Park, here’s the information for the RV park we stay at in Moab, UT when we visit…

RV Park

Spanish Trail RV Park in Moab, UT

This is one of the few campgrounds with grass (period let alone at the RV site). Our dog likes her grass! It can get noisy from the highway, so try to get a site in the back.

You may also like: Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah: 1-Day Itinerary of the Best Things To Do

1-Day Itinerary of the Best Things To Do at Canyonlands National Park in Utah

You’re going to need to wake up before the sun does to get a super early start to the day! This is because you’re going to want to be at Mesa Arch for sunrise. It’s a must!

Mesa Arch at Sunrise at Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Mesa Arch

Watching Mesa Arch start to glow as the sun lights up the canyon below will be the highlight of your day in Canyonlands National Park. You’ll take a short easy trail to reach the arch.

Mesa Arch Trail

Distance: 0.5-mile roundtrip

Difficulty Level: Easy

Hiking Time: 30 minutes

Trail Access: Mesa Arch Trailhead

PRO TIP: Make sure you get to Mesa Arch early before sunrise so you can get a good viewing spot. It can get crazy crowded at dawn and you may be fighting for a view of the arch.

You may also like: Top 5 Best Hikes in Sedona, AZ You Won’t Want to Miss

Scenic Drive

After spending some time taking in the view at Mesa Arch, go on a scenic drive of Canyonlands National Park. There are many pull-outs you can stop at along the way with dramatic views of the Park, including Green River Overlook, Buck Canyon Overlook, and Grand View Point Overlook.

Be sure to walk to Grand View Point for stunning panoramic views! There’s a short paved trail to the viewpoint. You can also continue past the viewpoint along the cliff edge for another mile to a second viewpoint.

Upheaval Dome

Then you can hike to Upheaval Dome. The first overlook is only 1-mile roundtrip, or you can keep hiking to the second overlook for another mile. You might also want to hike one of the other Island in the Sky Trails.

You may also like: Arches National Park in Utah: 2-Day Itinerary of the Best Things To Do

Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands National Park
Upheaval Dome

Bonus Tip

After you’re done exploring Canyonlands National Park, end the day at Dead Horse Point State Park for a gorgeous view of the sunset. From Dead Horse Point Overlook, you’ll have a dramatic view of the Colorado River winding around the canyon below.

Even though Dead Horse Point State Park is not technically in Canyonlands National Park, it’s only about 20 minutes away (14.4 miles) and completely worth the short detour!

You may also like: Capitol Reef National Park in Utah: 1-Day Itinerary of the Best Things To Do

Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park on Utah National Parks Road Trip
Dead Horse Point State Park

Wrapping Up Canyonlands National Park in Utah

There’s enough to do in the Island in the Sky district to keep you busy for an entire day in Canyonlands National Park:

  • Starting early in the morning to watch the sunrise
  • Taking in the views along the scenic drive
  • Doing some hiking
  • Catching the sunrise at the end of your day

You’ll be cramming a lot in and hitting all the highlights. Perfect if you’re short on time!

If you’re feeling more adventurous and haven’t gotten your fill of Canyonlands National Park, you may want to visit the other, more remote districts. Be aware though that there are no roads connecting the districts to one another. 

So reaching the other areas will require 2-6 hours of driving. You can then explore the backcountry by backpacking, biking, or 4-wheel drive. NOTE: you may need a permit. You can figure out if you’ll need a permit here.

Have you visited the different districts of Canyonlands National Park in Utah? I’d love to hear about them! Tell me which one was your favorite and why in the comments below.

Are National Parks your jam? If your goal is to visit all 62 National Parks in the USA, be sure to grab your free U.S. National Parks Checklist to keep track of them!

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Briana Nickas of Next Destination Unknown

Behind the Blog

I’m Briana Nickas, a part-time RVer who loves RVing, hiking, visiting National Parks, and taking photos. My happiest days are spent on the road with my hubby and our fur-baby Saucy (a 7-lb maltipoo) exploring the country and meeting fellow adventurers along the way… 

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6 Comments

  1. E-HEALTHONLINE

    Nice post and nice view to visit.Thanks for this description.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the photos and information about Canyonlands National Park. 🙂

      Reply
  2. E-HEALTHONLINE

    Wonderful site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any user discussion forums that
    cover the same topics talked about in this article?

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, I really appreciate that! I’m not aware of any forums about Canyonlands National Park. But if you have any questions, feel free to post them here in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Sachin Singh Rajput

    Pleasing and refreshing. Thanks for taking me on a tour. Amazing Blog, amazing writing, and amazing content.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      You just made my day, Sachin Singh! Really appreciate the positive feedback and am glad to hear that you enjoyed the tour of Canyonlands National Park. 😁

      Reply

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