The 10 Best Hikes in Canyonlands NP for Spring 2024

There are not many states in the US that give adventurers the chance to explore more than one national park, let alone five as we get in Utah.

Canyonlands National Park is divided into four sections by the Green and Colorado Rivers, but three districts. These include :

Each of them is inaccessible from the others and many people treat them as completely separate parks, visiting them each on different days.

Throughout the Park, there are stunning views that encompass almost all of the geographical variation unique to the Utah region. Hiking here gives you a taste of the wilderness unlike anywhere else, no matter how long your trek is.

Here are 10 of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands - Island in the Sky District

Mesa Arch Trail

  • Length : 0.5 mi
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Estimated Time : 30 minutes
  • Best Time : March to April

The Mesa Arch Trail is one of the more well-known hikes in the Park. It is in the Island in the Sky district and offers one of the more iconic vistas of the area. It is also conveniently one of the easiest hikes to do throughout the entire Park.

The hike up to the Arch is gentle and very well labeled. If interested, you can take the time to stop and learn about the plants that grow in the region. Most of them are labeled and described on the walk to the Arch.

Once you arrive at the edge, you can look through Mesa Arch down a 500-foot cliff that leads to a further 1,200-foot drop into Buck Canyon below. During sunrise and sunset, you get a glorious vision of a part of the White Rim trail thousands of feet below. If you hike with children, exercise extreme caution around the arch. It is easy to get a view standing back but is not very protected up close and full of deceiving slippery rocks.

Upheaval Dome Overlook

  • Length : 1.6 mi
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 1 to 2 hours
  • Best Time : April, October

Upheaval Dome is one of the most intriguing features throughout Canyonlands National Park. It is a relatively easy to moderate hike that many people add on to other medium-length day hikes on a single day visit.

The hike leads you to two overlooks that run along the rim of the three-mile wide crater that is 1,000 feet at its deepest. Nobody can figure out exactly what caused the formation of the crater, but there are two theories that are more widely accepted. The first is called the “salt dome theory” and the second involves a meteorite crashing to earth over 60 million years ago.

The meteorite theory is the more accepted of the two, but if you decide to visit the crater, you can make your own judgment on how it was formed. You do not have to do the entire trail to observe most of the views, since the second overlook does not reveal much more than the first.

Grand View Point Trail

  • Length : 2 mi
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Estimated Time : 1 to 2 hours
  • Best Time : April, October

When you drive into the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands, there is one main road that runs through the area. It reaches a dead-end that forms a looped parking lot. This parking lot is the one for the Grand View Point Trailhead, the most popular hike to do in the entire Park. If there is one trail to do while visiting, then this is it.

The reason that this particular Park has received the name the Canyonlands is made clear to hikers along this trail. The sweeping panoramic scenes sprawl over the remainder of the land, with the canyon having been carved away thousands of feet below.

This trail is easy since it remains flat but for a couple of short series of stairs along the way. It extends from a paved sidewalk along the perimeter of the parking lot. It can seem poorly marked and people walk almost anywhere they want. However, it is best to follow the rock cairns, since the soil structure and plant life in the Park is delicate.

Syncline Loop

If you decide that you can’t get enough of the area around Upheaval Dome, then consider taking on the Syncline Loop Trail. It starts from the same parking area but extends miles farther. In terms of longer loop trails, this is one of the best of those in the Island in the Sky district.

It is more dangerous to take on these longer trails in the middle of the summer since it can get ridiculously hot. No matter what time of year you visit, make sure you bring plenty of water. You can camp during this hike if you don’t want to do it in a single day of hiking. If you choose to do one day, get an early start for a higher chance of success.

The trail circles around the entirety of the controversial Upheaval Dome. It features difficult sections that involve rock scrambling. If you have planned well, do not be put off by the signs of warning at the trailhead.

Canyonlands - The Needles District

Chesler Park Viewpoint

  • Length : 5.4 mi
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 3 to 5 hours
  • Best Time : April; October

Chesler Park is the first up on the list for the Needles District since it is one of the more popular hikes in the area. It offers an ultra-scenic route in the form of a loop hike. The only issue with the hike is that it is required to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle to be able to get to the trailhead.

The trail starts from the Chesler Park, or the Joint Trail, trailhead, and is in one of the more inaccessible areas of Canyonlands. There are multiple ways to get to the Chesler Park Viewpoint and this trail is only one of them. Most of the others are longer and more strenuous, so it depends on the kind of trail you want.

You pass through the Pinnacle and into Devils Kitchen Camp on the first part of the trail. The remainder covers a grassy flatland range and many colorful sandstone spires.

Pothole Point Trail

  • Length : 0.6 mi
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Estimated Time : ~1 hour
  • Best Time : May, October

The Pothole Point Trail is a perfect choice for those who are visiting the Canyonlands with a family. If you hike with children, it is a shorter hike that teaches your family about life that can live in desert potholes.

From the entrance of the Needles, the drive is only about 5 miles out to reach the Pothole Point Parking Area. The hike is considered safe and it has plenty of labels and postage to learn about desert ecology. It is easiest to follow the hike by moving from cairn to cairn.

The trail forms a loop, so it is only just over half a mile from start to finish. It also comes with beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Druid Arch Trail

  • Length : 10.8 mi
  • Difficulty : Hard
  • Estimated Time : 8 to 9 hours
  • Best Time : April, October

Druid Arch is one of the more popular hiking trails in the Needles District. It is one of the most impressive arches throughout the entire park, but it takes some work to get there, which is why it has not become one of the iconic images of the Park.

The Druid Arch that you reach at the end of the is incredible, featuring a tall pinnacle with two windows looking through to the bright sky above. The most common way to get to the trail is using an out-and-back route starting from the Elephant Hill Trailhead.

This hike can be turned into an overnight backpacking trip or a day hike if you get started early enough in the day. Since it is one of the more popular trails in the Park, it is good to get an early start just to beat any crowds and enjoy the wilderness.

Slickrock Foot Trail

  • Length : 2.4 mi
  • Difficulty : Easy to moderate
  • Estimated Time : 1 to 2 hours
  • Best Time : April, October

The Slickrock Foot Trail is a good hike to do when you are trying to get an introduction to hiking, both in the Canyonlands and the Needles District specifically. It is a loop trail that is a moderate length and time. It can be combined with other shorter hikes to make a full day of hiking in the district.

One of the pros about incorporating Slickrock Foot Trail into your itinerary is the educational overview it gives of the special geography that is unique to this part of the Park. Traffic is high around this area since it is more accessible and one of the easier hikes in this part of the park. If you want to enjoy it peacefully, you need to get a very early start.

Most of the hikes found in the Needles follow into the bottom of canyons, but this trail stays higher on a ridgeline. It serves to give you a view of the southeastern corner in Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands - The Maze

Chocolate Drops Trail

  • Length : 7.3 mi
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 5 to 7 hours
  • Best Time : April, October

The Maze District is the most difficult region of the Park to get to and it requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The terrain on the way in can be tedious, but many that manage to make it say that the views and perspective in the Maze are worth it.

One of the ways to glean all you can from this experience is to try out some of the hikes in the area. There are not as many as in other districts since it is not nearly as cultivated or visited. Chocolate Drops Trail is therefore only lightly trafficked although it is one of the few out and back trails possible in the Park.

The Chocolate Drops are a geological formation of interest. This trail highlights them, but they can be seen from multiple locations around the Maze Overlook Trail as well.

Maze Overlook Trail

  • Length : 8.0 mi
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Estimated Time : 4 to 6 hours
  • Best Time : April, October

Many of the hikes around the Maze District come with a healthy warning. If you do not know what you are doing in terms of navigation, then this area is not the one for you. It is easy to get turned around on this hike, especially since it is not mapped out very well.

The Maze Overlook Trail is the most popular of the hikes in this district and so it is moderately trafficked. However, considering that very few people who visit the Park ever make it to this district, moderate means much less than it will in other areas. It is accessible all year but can be extremely hot during the summer.

Even though it is not extremely long, those that hike the Maze Overlook often opt for backcountry camping to enjoy the solitude and scenery longer. Some scrambling is involved and should be taken on with care.

Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.