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11 Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park (2023)

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Canyonlands National Park in Utah is one of the most unique and wild places on earth. With stunning scenery, great weather, and breathtaking hikes, this is one national park that shouldn’t be missed. Throughout this post, you’ll learn all about the best hikes in Canyonlands!

No matter what level of hiker you are, you’ll find a great hike worth doing on this list. There’s a mixture of hikes for all types of experience levels, including some that are even kid-friendly, that still offer the same incredible scenery.

Plus, this park is historically a lot less crowded than Arches, which is only a short drive away. We were lucky enough to visit Canyonlands after living in the southwest USA for a few months and we were shocked at how uncrowded it was.

Keep reading to learn all about the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park!

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Before hiking, make sure you have these essentials:

🎒 Hiking backpack: Here’s the one we use & love!
💧 Water bladder: This is the water bladder we recommend!
💦 Water bottle: We love and use the Hydroflask 32 oz!
🥾 Hiking boots: These are the hiking boots we use!
🩹 First aid kit: This is a great first aid kit for your backpack!
🥨 Snacks: Clif Bars are our go-to on the trail!
🌲 Hiking poles: These hiking poles are a great option!
❄️ Microspikes: These are the ones we use when the trails are icy!
☀️ Sunscreen: This is a great hiking sunscreen!

Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

White Rim Overlook Trail

crater in the desert

Length: 1.8 miles

Average Time: 1.5 hours

Trail Level: Easy

The White Rim Overlook Trail in Canyonlands National Park provides a view of the canyonlands from a great height. The trail winds through a landscape dotted with sagebrush and pinion trees.

This is a popular backcountry hiking trail in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. This remote, scenic trail offers panoramic views of canyons and ridges stretching for miles to the south. It begins with an easy ascent up a dirt road and eventually reaches a high point at White Rim Overlook, where you can enjoy unobstructed views and take pictures of the sunset and sunrise.

From this viewpoint, you’ll be able to see Monument Basin, Colorado River, and even the La Sal Mountains if it’s clear during your hike. Keep in mind that there are not many parking spots at the trailhead, so try to get there early if you can. It’s easily one of the best easy hikes in Canyonlands!

Syncline Loop

Entrance sign at Canyonlands national park in utah

Length: 8.6 miles

Average Time: 6 hours

Trail Level: Hard

There are many hikes in Canyonlands National Park, but the Syncline Loop Trail is one of the most diverse. The trail provides many rewards to visitors who venture on its 8.6 mile-long stretch. With views of canyons, mesa tops, rolling hills, and red rock formations, this hike will keep your mind captivated with amazement for hours on end.

It’s one of the more difficult best hikes in Canyonlands, so it’s recommended for experienced hikers. It will take a good half day to complete, but try to start it in the early morning to avoid the heat that comes about halfway through the day.

Syncline Loop is another hike located in the famous Island of the Sky district. Along the way, there are some difficult switchbacks on the trail and boulder fields, so keep that in mind. Even though it’s a popular trail, this is known for being one of the top spots for park rescues in all of Canyonlands! It’s not for the faint of heart.

Upheaval Dome Trail

Upheaval Dome crater in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Length: 1 mile

Average Time: 30 minutes

Trail Level: Moderate

The Upheaval Dome Trail is an easier trail in Canyonlands National Park due to its length, but it is rated as moderate. The trail has about 100 feet in elevation change, so it’s not super difficult for those who like hiking.

The trail is quite steep along the way, so if you’re not a fan of heights, this may be one that you want to skip out on. Most people will only hike to the first overlook, but there’s a second overlook that you can go to that only adds about a mile. It’s worth it to do both!

Once you make it to Upheaval Dome, the main feature of this hike, you’ll get to learn more about it with the exhibits that are marked there. Take the time to learn more because it’s an interesting geological formation!

Grand View Point Trail

Length: 2 miles

Average Time: 1.5 hours

Trail Level: Easy

For an easy Canyonlands hike, look no further than Grand View Point Trail. It’s a bit long for an easy hike, making it perfect for those who want to see more of the park without a super difficult trail.

It’s about two miles long and is kid-friendly. This out and back trail has about 160 feet of elevation and is excellent for hikers of all skill levels. Depending on the time of year, this hike can get pretty windy, so keep that in mind when planning your trip to Canyonlands.

Neck Spring Trail

Person hiking in the desert under a gray sky

Length: 5.8 miles

Average Time: 4 hours

Trail Level: Moderate

The Neck Spring Trail is an excellent hike for those looking for a longer, moderate trail. It’s located in the center of Canyonlands National Park (in the Island in the Sky district) and has various features like scenic views, shady areas, and water sources.

The path is mostly flat, with a few easy inclines. There are no more than 300 feet in elevation gain along the trail. The most popular thing about this trail is the incredible ranching spots. You’ll even see two different springs that were historically used by cowboys!

Another great feature of this trail is that it’s a loop trail, so you’ll see different views the entire time. It’s kid-friendly and is seen as somewhat of a hidden gem in the park as it’s not hiked as often as many of the short viewpoint trails.

Murphy Point Trail

viewpoint in canyonlans national park

Length: 3.6 miles

Average Time: 2 hours

Trail Level: Easy

This 3.6-mile trail is one of the best hikes in Canyonlands! It’s one of the more popular hikes in the park, so expect it to be busy, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. An excellent way to avoid the crowds is to get to this trail bright and early around sunrise.

The trail has about 150 feet in elevation gain and is kid-friendly. So, it’s mostly flat, which isn’t typical for a trail of this length! Even though it’s mostly a walk, the views along the way are absolutely breathtaking.

One of the fun features of this hike is the corral that you’ll witness along the way. The main viewpoint is at the very end of the trail, where you’ll be able to look out and see White Rim Road as well as Candlestick Tower.

Whale Rock Trail

Whale Rock under a blue sky

Length: 1 mile

Average Time: 1 hour

Trail Level: Easy

Next up is the Whale Rock Trail! Just by looking at the photo above, I’m sure you can see why it’s called Whale Rock. It’s a gigantic rock, and t almost resembles a whale in a way! This is one of the easier Canyonlands hikes and won’t take longer than around one hour to complete.

The hike leads visitors right up the side of the rock and offers incredible views of the park the whole way up. Once you get to the top, you’re rewarded with an epic scenic panorama of Island in the Sky.

This is not a hike for those who don’t like hikes, as there are steep spots throughout the hike. Consider yourself warned! Luckily, there is only about 100 feet in elevation change along the way, which isn’t too terrible. This is one of the lesser-known hikes in the park.

False Kiva Trail

False Kiva hiking trail in Canyonlands

Length: 1.9 miles

Average Time: 1 hour 3 minutes

Trail Level: Moderate

One of the most unique parts of the trails in Canyonlands National Park is the view you can get by doing the False Kiva Trail. It’s about two miles long out and back, but the views are absolutely incredible.

This trail doesn’t offer a lot of shade along the way, so try to hike it earlier in the day, especially if you are visiting during the warm summer months. Some parts of the hike do require a bit of rock scrambling, but nothing a moderately-skilled hiker can’t accomplish.

The main feature of the trail is none other than the False Kiva. This is a manmade stone setup that you can see in the picture above. It almost looks like a rocky firepit! Unlike other trails in this park, this one is not always super well maintained, so ask a park ranger for trail conditions before your hike if you’d like to be prepared.

Mesa Arch Trail

View of the San Juan mountains through an arch

Length: 0.7 miles

Average Time: 20 minutes

Trail Level: Easy

Out of all the best hikes in Canyonlands, this is easily the most popular. This hike won’t take longer than twenty minutes to complete, at around half a mile long. However, if you stay longer at the viewpoint (like most people do), then expect the time number to increase.

The hike is very short but does require a bit of elevation gain. Pace yourself, especially if it’s the dead of summer during your trip to Canyonlands. Once you get about halfway through the hike, you’ll start to see Mesa Arch in front of you!

Once you get to the arch, be sure to look right through it. From the inside of the arch, you can get one of the most beautiful framed views of the La Sal Mountains. For a real treat, visit early in the morning – especially in the offseason. This is the best sunrise spot in Canyonlands.

Just grab breakfast in Moab before heading out to Canyonlands, so you’re not hungry!

Shafer Canyon Overlook Trail

Shaefer Viewpoint under a blue sky

Length: 0.3 miles

Average Time: 9 minutes

Trail Level: Easy

Located right across the street from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center is the Shafer Canyon Overlook. This easy trail only takes around ten minutes to do, as it’s more of a walk than anything else, with less than 50 feet of elevation gain.

It’s an out and back trail, but you don’t even have to walk out to the cliff’s edge to get impeccable views. If you don’t like heights, you’re in luck. You can stand pretty far out and still get the same view as someone standing closer to the edge.

This hike is kid-friendly and is the perfect introductory view to get of Canyonlands during your trip. Just park right at the visitor center and walk across the street – you’ll immediately be blown away at what you see!

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Aztec Butte Trail

Length: 2 miles

Average Time: 1.5 hours

Trail Level: Moderate

Last but not least on this list of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park is the Aztec Butte Trail! This is a moderate level hike that only takes about 1.5 hours to fully complete, and it’s around two hours long.

It’s one of the more popular hikes in the park, so prepare yourself. If you don’t want to have many visitors on the trail with you, be sure to start the hike first thing in the morning. It’s a kid-friendly hike, but there’s not a lot of shade along the trail.

This trail splits into two; most people will opt to go right and explore the view of the Aztec Butte. If you want another great spot to explore, head left to see more of another butte and check out some old Pueblos.

Final Thoughts: Canyonlands National Park Hiking

This post was all about the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park. Don’t forget to save this post for later, and share it on Pinterest.

Have you been to Canyonlands? What was your favorite hike? Leave a comment below!

Check out our vlog from when we visited Canyonlands National Park & saw the sunset in Arches National Park!

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