Just one of Utah’s five National Parks, Canyonlands is one that should not be overlooked. If you are searching for sweeping panoramas and sharp drops into steep canyons, then this is the park for you.
Canyonlands is located south of Moab, and is just a 40 minute drive to the Island in the Sky district. The park is divided into three sections: Island in the Sky, The Needles & The Maze. I explored the Island in the Sky.
This district was carved by the Colorado River, which you can view from atop a mesa in the center of these spectacular canyons. Canyonlands National Park is 337,598 acres and drew in three-quarters of a million visitors in 2016. I am very proud to be another visitor in 2017, and after seeing these photos you’ll see why I fell in love with this park.
Here are 7 things you can’t miss on your first trip to Canyonlands National Park:
- Schaffer Canyon
This will be your first stop in the park. It is just across from the visitor’s center. This canyon is a spectacular place to begin because you can walk out on a plateau that gives you 360 degree views of the canyon as it stretches on for miles. There is a 1,400 foot drop right off the edge, as well as a precarious dirt road that winds down to the heart of the canyon.
2. Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch is very well known by tourists who come to the park, so it is a very popular spot to stop. The arch is low to the ground and it towers on the edge of a cliff. There is a dramatic drop off, so don’t get too close! However, it’s hard to beat a view like this. I had a blast sitting under the arch and peering into the canyon beyond.
3. Holeman Spring Canyon
This is a great overlook to stop at while on your way to the Dome. To get the best view, hop out of the car and walk a hundred feet down a dirt path. It leads to more sweeping views of brown and purple canyons. Having never been to a canyon I was constantly mesmerized by their immensity. I enjoyed sitting on the edge and staring out into the wide open space.
4. Upheaval Dome
At the end of one road is a modern mystery known as the Upheaval Dome. Scientists are unsure what exactly created this unique color and shape in the Earth, but the most likely theory is a meteor that landed right here. Whatever it may be, it created a unique feature to this national park. There are three options for viewing the Dome: two overlooks and a long hike all the way around the rim.
5. Green River
At this overlook you can see the Green River off in the distance. It stems from the Colorado river, and together they formed the canyons that make up this beautiful park. This river is 730 miles long, but here you catch just a glimpse.
6. Buck Canyon
Despite everything I saw in the park, Buck Canyon was my favorite spot. The overlook hangs on the edge of a plateau and looks off into the canyon below. It drops down, and then further in the distance it drops down into yet another canyon. It carries on farther than you can see, which is what mesmerized me. That, along with the purple hue are enough to fascinate anyone.
7. Grand View
At the end of the park is, what many may consider to be, the best for last. It’s called the Grand View for a reason, and it continues on for miles in every direction. I took a break here and enjoyed a light picnic, so I had the opportunity to reflect over all I was seeing.
Canyonlands National Park was an easy day as you could drive to almost everything, and the hiking trails were optional. It gives the best of both worlds and has something for everyone. If you are just here for the view, there are plenty of overlooks to drive to. If you are feeling more adventurous then you can opt in for some of the hiking trails located throughout the park.