• Spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone in Chesler Park (Needles District)


    National Park Utah

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  • Some unpaved roads are closed

    Recent rains have caused extensive damage to some roads in the Needles District and some of the roads into the Maze District. More »

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    Black bears have been seen in the Needles, Maze, and along the Colorado River. Be alert and store food and garbage properly: in hard-sided, latched containers (or your vehicle) when not being prepared or consumed. More »

  • New backcountry requirements in effect

    Hard-sided bear containers are required for backpackers in parts of the Needles District. More »

Strenuous Hikes at Island in the Sky

photo: Taylor Canyon
Taylor Canyon

The longer hiking trails at the Island generally begin on the mesa top and descend via switchbacks to the White Rim bench. A few trails continue down to one of the rivers. All are considered strenuous, with an elevation change of 1,000-2,000 feet, and require negotiating steep slopes of loose rock as well as sections of deep sand. Water is scarce in most areas. Trails are marked with cairns (small rock piles).

Gooseberry Canyon
Length: 5.4 mi/8.6 km round-trip
Start: White Rim Overlook parking lot
This trail descends via very steep switchbacks 1400 feet into the canyon, meeting the White Rim Road just north of Gooseberry backcountry campsites (permit required for camping).

Lathrop Canyon
Length: 21.6 mi/34.7 km round-trip to the Colorado River
Start: Lathrop Trailhead
After crossing grasslands on the mesa top, this trail descends via steep switchbacks to a boulder-strewn wash that leads to the White Rim Road. Hikers can then follow the spur road down into Lathrop Canyon. Total elevation change of 2,000 ft. Three at-large camping permits are available. Groups may encounter significant traffic on the roads as well as near the river.

Murphy Loop
Length: 10.8 mi/17.4 km round-trip
Start: Murphy Point Trailhead
A few miles of hiking on the mesa top leads to a steep descent down a cliff face to a bench where the trail divides. One fork continues along Murphy Hogback, a slim mesa with great views of the White Rim Formation and the surrounding canyons. At Murphy camp, hikers follow the White Rim Road south for about a mile, then follow a rock-strewn wash back up onto the hogback. At-large backpacking only. No water.

Syncline Loop
Length: 8.3 mi/13.3 km round-trip
Start: Upheaval Dome Trailhead
This strenuous backcountry route follows the washes on either side of Upheaval Dome. Spur trails partway around the loop provide access to the center of the crater (3 mi/4.8 km) and the Green River (7 mi/11.2 km.) Total elevation change is roughly 1,300 feet. The north side of the loop passes through a riparian area where water and shade are usually available. There is one designated campsite along the trail.

Taylor Canyon
Length: 20 mi/32 km round-trip
Start: Alcove Spring Trailhead
Trail descends via steep switchbacks to a rocky wash that leads into this broad, steep-walled canyon. Hikers can follow the four-wheel-drive road to the Green River. Four at-large camping permits are available. Groups may encounter significant traffic on the roads as well as on the river. Returning to the trailhead via Upheaval Canyon reduces the round-trip mileage.

Wilhite Canyon
Length: 12.2 mi/19.6 km round-trip
Start: Wilhite Canyon Trailhead
Trail descends via switchbacks to a boulder-strewn wash that intersects the White Rim Road. Hikers can then explore a short, non-technical slot canyon. Total elevation change of approximately 1600 feet. Three at-large camping permits are available.

Did You Know?

Detail of the Great Gallery pictograph panel

Some of the rock art in Horseshoe Canyon was painted over 3,000 years ago. Now known as "Barrier Canyon" style rock art, it was painted by nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers that roamed throughout the southwest. More...