Canyonlands National Park is an amazing national park located in southeastern Utah near the town of Moab. We visited it during our Utah exploration trip. It was a must-see on our list and it did not disappoint. Breathtaking views and amazing opportunities for hiking and off-road adventures. Island in the Sky and the Needles were the two regions we explored. Due to the size of each region, it is recommended that you spend a day in each at least.
The park is divided into four districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the combined rivers—the Green and Colorado—which carved two large canyons into the Colorado Plateau. While these areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, each retains its own character. Author Edward Abbey, a frequent visitor, described the Canyonlands as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere.
It is hard to argue with Edward Abbey, the park is a true masterpiece created by the forces of nature and there is nothing like it anywhere. The sheer vastness of the views is just breathtaking. Both the Island in the Sky and the Needles are a must-see. Plan to see both. You would not be disappointed!
As we mentioned in the Arches National Park adventure we stayed in Moab during this trip. It is a very strategic location when it comes to this park, the Arches, and the Dead Horse Point State Park. Due to its close proximity to these amazing parks, the hotels get booked very quickly. Plan at least 3-6 months in advance. Moab is an amazing and vibrant town full of offroad and hiking enthusiasts and awesome places to eat.
The Island in the Sky District
The Island in the Sky district is a massive mesa elevated more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape, with panoramic views of spectacular canyon country up to 100 miles in every direction. The district is defined by the Green River to the west and the Colorado River on the east. A paved road with several scenic pullouts leads from Moab to Island in the Sky, making it one of the easiest areas to explore.
We found this to be very true. The region was very easy and convenient to explore. Great roads and the parking is right next to the viewpoints. Great trails all around. Amazing views!
Here are some of the viewpoints that the district is known for:
The Grand View Overlook
As the name suggests this is one of the most impressive overlooks in the park. The views are absolutely breathtaking. We spend a lot of time resting and walking around the edges. There are plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the views. Take a break, relax and just enjoy this beautiful piece of Mother nature’s art.
Getting to the Grand View overlook is very easy but due to its popularity parking is an issue. Have that in mind and plan accordingly. It is the busiest overlook in the park.
Shafer Canyon Overlook
Great overview of the Sharef Canyon and the Shafer Trail. The stop is right off the main road and the overlook is a very short walk from the parking lot. To get to the edge you have to be careful since there is not a great walkway leading to it. However, it is absolutely worth it. The trail is quite popular.
Buck Canyon Overlook
An awesome overlook that offers a view to the east. One of the best places to view the main road leading to the park. It’s a short walk from the parking lot with a good amount of observation space.
Green River Overlook
This southwest-facing viewpoint affords the best views of one of Canyonlands’ two mighty rivers: the Green River, deep in its channel 1,300 feet (396 m) below. Visitors can also see features of The Maze district and the White Rim Road.
Apparently this overlook is also one of the best places to watch the sunset. We witnessed it at the Needles overlook. However, this overlook looks like a perfect sunset photo destination! Next time we will give it a try.
In conclusion, if you are in the vicinity of the city of Moab, you have to visit both the Arches and the Canyonlands National Parks. Both offer unique and breathtaking views that are unmatched anywhere in the United States. We truly enjoyed our visit and we are already looking forward to booking the next.