5 Amazing Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

If you’re considering hiking in Canyonlands National Park, you picked the right park! 

Located in Utah, Canyonlands is the largest park in the state, comprising a whopping 337,597 acres. The entirety of the park is divided into four different districts: 

  • Island in the Sky
  • The Needles 
  • The Maze
  • The rivers of the region: Colorado River and Green River

Each of these districts has a character all its own, allowing visitors and hikers a beautiful, unique experience — no matter which district you choose to visit. 

The scenery of Canyonlands, as a whole, is breathtaking, complete with the buttes, mesas, and canyons of the eroded desert landscape. There is also evidence of Ancient Pueblo people — artifacts and beautifully painted rock faces, depicting the preserved artwork of their time.

There are over 80 unique hiking trails in Canyonlands, but we have narrowed down a list of 5 trails that you should definitely check out when you visit this massive park. The list is ordered from easy to difficult, with 1 being easy and 5 being difficult.

1. Mesa Arch Trail

Great for hikers of all ages and skill levels, Mesa Arch Trail is open all year round. This short hike in the Island in the Sky district features scenic views of wildflowers, the Mesa Arch and the La Sal Mountains — often capped with snow depending on the time of year.

Located near La Sal, Utah, this hiking trail is quite popular and fun for the whole family. The trail is clearly marked with instructions for how to complete the hike and is maintained all year round by NPS.

Total Distance: 0.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 88 feet

Difficulty:  Easy

Route Type: Loop 

2. Green River Overlook

Just like the Mesa Arch Trail, the Green River Overlook trail is fantastic for all hiking skill levels. Being just a short distance, hiking out and back to the beginning, this trail is family-friendly and great for a quick walk to appreciate the nature around you.

Although it is open all year, the optimal stretch of time to visit the Green River Overlook trail is between March and November. The trail is located near Moab, Utah.

Total Distance: 0.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 6 feet

Difficulty:  Easy

Route Type: Out and back


3. Upheaval Dome Overlook

For the number 3 pick, we up the hiking skill level to moderate with the Upheaval Dome Overlook trail, but that shouldn’t deter you from checking this one out!

This trail is also family-friendly but is a more challenging hike, consisting of short, steep climbs to achieve wonderful views of the Upheaval Dome — a massive geological crater with an origin that is still heavily debated. One of the most common theories is that the crater was created by a massive meteorite slamming into Earth.

However this natural marvel was created, the Upheaval Dome Overlook trail is perfect for those who love a good hike and a great view! 

This trail is accessible all year long and is located near La Sal, Utah.

Total Distance: 1.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 226 feet

Difficulty:  Moderate

Route Type: Out and back


4. Chesler Park Loop Trail

Located near Monticello, Utah, Chesler Park Loop Trail is a very popular, scenic trail for those hikers at moderate skill levels.

Chesler Park Loop is only accessible by 4-wheel-drive transportation to get to the trailhead. The trail itself, from beginning to end, is loaded with amazing views and draws many hikers for all kinds of activities, including camping, backpacking and immersive nature trips.

While a bit more challenging than the above-mentioned trails, you can be sure that this trail is worth it for hikers looking for an incredible experience.

Total Distance: 10.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,820 feet

Difficulty:  Moderate

Route Type: Loop


5. Syncline Loop

We saved one of the most challenging — though also rewarding — Canyonlands hiking trails for the number 1 spot. 

Located near Moab, Utah, Syncline Loop is recommended for the most skilled hikers looking to sink their teeth into a real outdoor adventure. This trail offers the chance to see desert-climate wildlife, challenging terrain, and amazing views of the Upheaval Dome.

Signage at the trailhead gives a fair warning for hikers willing to take on the Syncline Loop that the trail is strenuous and must be properly prepared for. It’s also recommended to get an early start if you want to complete the journey in a day — but many adventurers choose to camp out overnight, completing the trail in a couple of days.

Total Distance: 8.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,630 feet

Difficulty:  Hard

Route Type: Loop

These are only a handful of the amazing hiking trails you can find at Canyonlands National Park — each trail is unique and beautiful in it’s own way! 

Canyonlands National Park charges the following fees for access to the park, which can be paid at entrance stations or online at pay.gov. Park passes are valid for 7 days after purchase and can be upgraded to weekly and annual passes within those 7 days.

  • Private Vehicle: $30
  • Motorcycle: $25
  • Per person without a vehicle: $15

If you would like to discover more hiking adventures in parks around the country, visit nps.gov to learn more!