Canyonlands is another National Park out of Utah’s Mighty 5. It is a huuuge park, and it is divided into 3 districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and The Needles. During this trip, we were only able to go to Island in the Sky.. Which is good! So I would have a reason to come back and explore the rest.
Canyonlands is a place which transforms itself into something more magical during sunrise or sunset.
If you had to pick a time of day to visit, I highly suggest going during the golden hour. The way this place lights up, because of the sun, is an experience unlike any other! Here are the three main places to explore, while you’re out there.
1. Sunrise at Mesa Arch
Seeing the sunrise at Mesa Arch has been in my bucket list for quite some time, and it should be on yours too. If you plan on taking photos or a time lapse video, you have to arrive very early at the location so you can get a good spot for your tripod & camera. I was so glad we did, because after about half an hour, the place was jampacked with tourists!
It is indeed a popular spot to catch the sunrise, and I shouldn’t be surprised, because the hike to the arch was very easy –only a mile in! So if you don’t mind the crowds, this is definitely a must-do! The view of the whole place as it was lit up by the sun was totally worth waking up extra early for.
2. Hike to False Kiva
False Kiva is a hidden gem. And by “hidden” I really mean HIDDEN. lol. This is considered a Class II Archeological Site, which means it is a “semi-protected” site. You will not find this place in the park’s official map, and no one at the park will tell you about it unless you specifically ask.
Head on over to The Outbound for more details about the trail to False Kiva.
My husband and I actually got lost when we first headed out, but I can’t complain because we were rewarded with this view at the end:
While we were on this cliff, we heard some people talking underneath us. That’s when we realized that False Kiva was directly below us, and that we were on the wrong trail. We went back towards the freeway, and found the right trail and followed it. This took us down the canyon, until we reached the alcove.
3. Hike to the Crater Overlook/Upheaval Dome
The hike to see the crater in Upheaval Dome is only about 0.8 miles one way, so it was very easy to get to. They have two theories as to how this land formation happened. One is the Salt Dome Theory, which states that the layer of salt underneath the surface (which is less dense than sandstone) flowed upwards, creating salt domes above the surface. The other one is the Impact Crater Theory, which states that a meteorite hit this spot. (source: https://www.nps.gov/cany/learn/nature/upheavaldome.htm)
It was very interesting to see this place from above, and it was a very easy hike, so I highly recommend you make this stop when you visit!
There were so many breathtaking vantage points in the Island in The Sky district, and so we made frequent stops at the turnouts along the freeway.
Looking forward to visiting the other districts in the future!
NEED TO KNOW
Location: Canyonlands National Park is located in the southern part of Utah, near the town of Moab.
Highlights: Overlooking views of the canyon floor, the Colorado River, and the Green River
Campsites: Willow Flat Campground ($15/night) – available all year round, first-come first-served.
Fees: $25 to enter the park per vehicle. You can also purchase the America the Beautiful Pass for $80, which gives you, and everyone inside your vehicle, access to all National Parks, and other federal recreation sites, for a whole year.
Other Notes: There’s a lot of backcountry driving in Canyonlands, and there are a lot of roads which require AWD/4WD. It would be best to take note of the places you want to visit beforehand, so you would know where not to go if you don’t have this type of vehicle.
If you’ve ever been to Canyonlands before, which district would you recommend that I visit next?
If you enjoyed this post, you will also enjoy reading my Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef posts! If you want to visit Utah’s National Parks someday, be sure to check out my Mighty 5 Itinerary to help you plan!