Canyonlands NP - Island in the Sky


In this blog post I’m referring to the Island in the Sky section of this large park, there are other completely separated park sections that will not be describe here.


Where? : 15 minute drive north of Moab UT there is the turn into 313 Rd.; Additional 20 min drive up the mountain plateau will take you the park visitor center.

Google Map Link


What? : This section of the huge park has magnificent view of the Colorado and Green rivers. You can cover the park viewpoints in ½ day drive. you can also visit the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park.


Due note: Summer can be very hot and winter has snow cold days, you can visit all parks year round.


My thoughts: A must visit park but mainly for stopping at the viewing points and Mesa arch (sunrise), you do have some hike options but not sure they worth the effort unless you are spending the night in the park.


The visit:

There is only one road that going into the park.

There are many 4x4 trails in the desert I will not cover them in this blog.

Keep going on Grand View Point Rd. and short time after the visitor station you will reach on your left to Shafer Canyon Overlook and Shafer Trail Viewpoint, from both you can see the steep descends of Shafer road into the deep canyon.


Mesa Arch

After few more miles on the main road you will reach Mesa Arch Trailhead.

This is one of the most iconic sunrise pictures you can find. A nice very small arch separate from nearby cliff-wall and a wonderful view to the lower Colorado river plateau. This location is famous for its sunrise view of the sun peeking from the mountain range in the east, lighting the arch in red colors.

You should expect many people coming to take this photograph at sunrise (overall 50 min drive from Mab). From the parking lot there is ¼ mile hike trail lead to the cliff adage and the arch. The sunrise pictures are indeed beautiful, but the overcrowded location hurt the experience.


Grand View Point: 

Keep going on the main road, you can stop at Buck Canyon Overlook or at White Rim Overlook Trailhead, at the end of the road you will reach Grand View Point Overlook parking. This is a very nice viewpoint on the Colorado river with short hikes.

Once you will turn into Upheaval Dome Rd you will reach the Green River Overlook: another nice viewpoint onto the green river landscape.

Keep going on the road yond you will have few more attraction points: Whale Rock, False Kiva & Syncline Loop viewing the Upheaval Dome or doing the long loop hike.


Dead Horse Point State Park:

I visit this place 25 years ago so do not remember much, this state park is near canyonland and have nice viewpoints on the Colorado river.



Canyonlands has two other section, not connected to this park section:

The Needles:

Road 211 exit hwy 191 and lead into the needles section of the park.

Interesting historical point is Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument where you can see collection of old native American rock petroglyphs



The maze:

This is the most remote and difficult to visit part of the park that is accessible only by 4x4 cars from Hanksville. You can see rock petroglyphs and remote isolated and secluded desert landscape.



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