Hiking

Two hikers walk away from the camera on a slickrock surface
Hikers at The Needles

NPS/Neal Herbert

 

Canyonlands has hundreds of miles of hiking trails which explore the park’s natural and cultural features. Both Island in the Sky and The Needles provide ample opportunities for short walks, day hikes and backpacking trips. Due to its remoteness, The Maze is primarily a backpacking destination.

Trails are usually marked with cairns (small rock piles) and have signs at intersections. Many remote trails do not receive regular maintenance and may not be adequately marked. All backcountry hikers should carry a topographic map.
 
Island in the Sky Trails


Several short trails explore the mesa top with minimal elevation change, enjoying canyon views from above. Moderate trails involve elevation, such as climbing a sandstone feature or descending partway into a canyon. Long trails at Island in the Sky begin on the mesa top and descend via switchbacks to the White Rim bench, or beyond 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.

All trails are marked with cairns (small rock piles). Water is scarce; bring at least 1 quart (1 L) of water per person for short trails, and up to 1 gallon (4 L) for long trails. Avoid hiking during peak heat on summer days. Carry a flashlight, map, and basic first aid equipment.

Download maps here.

Planning an overnight trip? Read about backpacking.

Protect Your Park - Keep off the Arches.
To promote visitor safety and the opportunity to view natural features undisturbed, climbing, scrambling, walking or standing upon, or rappelling off any arch is prohibited in the park.

Trail

Distance (round-trip)

Average Time

Description

Easy

Mesa Arch

0.5 mi/0.8 km

30 minutes

Short walk to arch on cliff edge. Popular sunrise photograph.

White Rim Overlook

1.8 mi/2.8 km

1.5 hours

Walk to an east-facing overlook for views of the Colorado River, Monument Basin, and La Sal Mountains. Very limited trailhead parking.

Grand View Point

2.0 mi/3.2 km

1.5 hours

Easy walk along canyon edge to end of Island in the Sky mesa. Panoramic views.

Murphy Point

3.6 mi/5.8 km

2 hours

Passes historic corral, ends with panoramic views

Moderate

Upheaval Dome

1 mi/1.5 km
to first overlook

30 minutes

View of intriguing rock formation. Hiking to second overlook adds 1 mi/1.5 km and 50 ft/15 m. One-hundred-foot elevation change (30 m)

Whale Rock

1 mi/1.6 km

1 hour

Short climb up Whale Rock leads to views of Upheaval Done and surrounding area. Elevation change: 100 feet / 30 m

Aztec Butte

2 mi/3 km

1.5 hours

Steep climb leading to ancestral Puebloan granaries and view of Taylor Canyon. Elevation change: 225 feet / 68 m

Neck Spring

5.8 mi/9.3 km

3-4 hours

Loop trail passes historic ranching features, two seep springs, and diverse plant life. Elevation change: 300 feet / 91 m

Strenuous

Gooseberry Canyon

5.4 mi/8.6 km

4-6 hours

Very steep switchbacks descend into canyon and return. Starts at White Rim Overlook. Elevation change: 1,400 feet / 427 m

Syncline Loop

8.3 mi/13.3 km

5-7 hours

Strenuous primitive route around Upheaval Dome crater. Spur trail to crater center (3 mi/4.8 km). Elevation change: 1,300 feet / 396 m

Murphy Loop

10.8 mi/17.4 km

5-7 hours

Descends into canyon, crosses hogback along White Rim Road, then returns via rocky wash. Elevation change: 1,400 feet / 427 m

Alcove Spring

11.2 mi/18 km

6-7 hours

After descending 1,300 feet (396 m) past a large alcove, the trail meanders in a wide canyon to the base of the notable Moses and Zeus towers.

Wilhite Canyon

12.2 mi/19.6 km

6-8 hours

Switchback descent into rocky wash, then return. Elevation change: 1,600 feet / 488 m

Lathrop Canyon

21.6 mi/34.7 km

overnight

Arduous descent from mesa top to Colorado River and back, via rocky wash and 4WD road. Elevation change: 2,000 feet / 610 m



 
The Needles Trails

The Needles offers over 60 miles of interconnecting trails as challenging as they are rewarding. Many different itineraries are possible, but some of the more popular ones are listed below.

Four short, self-guided trails along the paved scenic drive highlight different aspects of the park's natural and cultural history. Surfaces can be uneven. Trail guides are available at the visitor center and at the trailheads.

Conditions of other trails are more primitive, traversing a mixture of slickrock benches and sandy washes. Longer trails are especially rough and require negotiating steep passes with drop-offs, narrow spots, or ladders. Water in the backcountry is unreliable and scarce in some areas. Trails are marked with cairns (small rock piles). Although most trails can be hiked in a day by strong hikers, many form loops and may be combined with other trails for longer trips. Net elevation change is generally several hundred feet or less, except for the Lower Red Lake Trail, which drops 1,400 feet to the Colorado River.


Planning an overnight trip? Read about backpacking.

Protect Your Park - Keep off the Arches.
To promote visitor safety and the opportunity to view natural features undisturbed, climbing, scrambling, walking or standing upon, or rappelling off any arch is prohibited in the park.

Salt Creek Camping Closure
A 20-acre area centered around the junction of Salt Creek and Angel Arch Canyon is temporarily closed to camping due to unsafe conditions caused by a wildfire. Read more and see a map of the camping closure. [130 kb PDF]


Trail

Distance
(round-trip)

Average Time

Description

Easy/Moderate

Roadside Ruin

0.3 miles / 0.5km

20 minutes

Trail features an ancestral Puebloan granary.

Pothole Point

0.6 miles / 1 km

40 minutes

Uneven slickrock leads to diverse pothole communities as well as views of the Needles.

Cave Springs

0.6 miles / 1 km

45 minutes

Historic cowboy camp & prehistoric petroglyphs. Two ladders must be climbed.

Slickrock

2.4 miles / 4 km

2 hours

Trail features expansive 360-degree views. Geology guide available. Trail crosses uneven surfaces.

Strenuous

Big Spring to Squaw Canyon

7.5 miles / 12 km

3-4 hours

A great introduction to the landscape of the Needles. Steep grades & exposure to heights. Two backpacking sites in each canyon. Water available seasonally.

Squaw Canyon to Lost Canyon

8.7 miles / 14 km

4-6 hours

Similar to the Big Spring to Squaw Canyon loop, but travels deeper into a canyon. Three backpacking sites. Water reliably available.

Confluence Overlook

10 miles / 16.5 km

5-6 hours

Crosses open country to a cliff overlooking the junction of the Green and Colorado rivers. At-large camping only. No water.

Peekaboo

10 miles / 16.5 km

5-6 hours

Spectacular views are the payoff for this challenging hike. Two ladders must be climbed. One 4WD vehicle campsite at trail's end. Water available seasonally.

Chesler Park / Joint Trail

11 miles / 18 km

5-7 hours

Views of desert grasses and colorful sandstone spires. Explores deep, narrow fractures called the Joint Trail. Five backpacking sites. No water.

Druid Arch

11 miles / 18 km

5-7 hours

Spectacular views. Explores canyon bottom with deep sand and loose rock. Steep climb involving one ladder and some scrambling. Three backpacking sites. Water available seasonally.

Lower Red Lake Canyon

18.8 miles / 30 km

overnight

Very strenuous climb in and out of the Grabens and then descend steeply toward the river. Recommended as a multi-day hike. At-large camping only. No water before reaching the river.

Salt Creek Canyon

22.5 miles / 34 km

overnight

Starting at Cathedral Butte, follows drainage often obscured by dense vegetation. Many archeological sites and arches. Four designated campsites in upper section. Lower section is at-large camping only. Water is usually available.

No camping: 20-acre area at junction of Salt Creek and Angel Arch Canyon.



 

The Maze Trails

Due to its remoteness, the Maze is primarily a backpacking destination. Read about backpacking.

Download maps here.

Back to top

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

2282 Resource Blvd.
Moab, UT 84532

Phone:

435-719-2313

Contact Us