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When is the Best Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park?

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If you’re looking for the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park, you’re in the right place!

Utah houses five national parks, making it number three of all 50 states, just behind California and Alaska. Canyonlands is one of the lesser visited of the five, yet no less worthy of your attention.

Nestled in between Capitol Reef National Park and Arches National Park, Canyonlands offers its own unique take on Utah’s diverse landscape.

Split by two rivers into four different sections, Island Park in the Sky, The Needles, the rivers, and The Maze, this national park has untold beauty for its visitors to experience. 

Summer is the best time to go to national parks for most people’s schedules, but if you’ve ever been to Arches or Capitol Reef, you know that during the summer, the heat can be unbearable, and Canyonlands is much the same. 

So if you don’t want to go in the summer, when do you go? When is the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park?

Well, that’s what we’re here to help you find out!

When is the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park?

rim of a canyon with red rocks

Canyonlands National Park doesn’t vary too much except with the weather, so it can be hard to see when the best time to go is.

From the crowds in the spring to the heat in the summer to the fall precipitation, to the freezing lows of winter, there is something that might make your trip as picture-perfect as you’d like.

So what season will get you the CLOSEST to that picture-perfect visit to Canyonlands?

In my opinion, it’s fall. It’s always fall. You get the same spring temperatures with fewer visitors, and avoid the weather extremities altogether. Our first visit to Canyonlands was in the fall, and trust us when we say it was memorable!

Sure, you might get a bit of rain here and there, but I think that can only add to the experience. It might even make it unforgettable.

Best time to go to Canyonlands National Park by type:

entrance sign that says "Canyonlands National Park"
  • Fewest crowds: Winter, from the end of November to March, and specifically January, is easily the best time to visit Canyonlands if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. The park is almost destitute of humanity, but the winter beauty is abounding.
  • Best for hiking: The best month to visit Canyonlands National Park for hiking is right in the middle of springtime in April. The temperatures are cool enough to hike throughout the day as well as in the mornings.
  • For camping: Camping in Canyonlands is pretty versatile throughout the year, so there really isn’t a bad time to camp here. The campsites do fill fairly quickly throughout the busy season of the year, March-October, so be prepared to reverse campsites well in advance.
  • Best weather: The best time to visit Canyonlands National Park for the weather is the month of May. The weather is a comfortable warm before reaching over 100 degrees in the summer.

Visiting Canyonlands National Park by the Season

Spring in Canyonlands

rocky cliff that looks into a canyon

Because many fellow adventurers are wary of the summer heat, Canyonlands get a good amount of visitors during the spring.

In fact, May is the park’s most visited month of the year. The average temperature in the spring is around 75 degrees, making it perfect for casual hiking and exploring the park.

Keep in mind that Canyonlands has four different sections you can visit, so in the busy season you can visit other sections that are less crowded.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Canyonlands in the Spring:

  • Pro: Temperatures truly can not be beaten for any national park activity you can think of.
  • Con: Trails in the busier sections of the park can get very crowded.

Canyonlands Spring Activities:

  • Hike some of the most extensive trails in the park before the summer heat limits your time in the park.
  • The spring is the best time of year to visit Canyonlands National Park for backcountry activities, like four-wheel driving. The weather stays consistent, so chances are good you won’t have to work about any surprise thunderstorms.

Tips for Visiting in the Spring:

  • Island in the Sky is the park’s most crowded section, so try visiting one of the other sections for a little more solitude. The Maze is the least visited section.
  • Start your excursions early in the morning for the best photo ops.

Summer in Canyonlands

Butte surrounded by rocks in a national park

Summer has not always been a very popular time to visit Canyonlands due to the heat, but recently it is rising in popularity.

As the summer goes on, the number of visitors wanes, making June the busiest summer month. July holds the record for the hottest temperatures, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find daytime temperatures below 90 degrees throughout the entire summer.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Canyonlands in the Summer:

  • Con: The heat is a definite con to visiting in the summer. Although beautiful, the rock formations do not offer much in the way of shade.
  • Pro: Both the Island Park in the Sky and the Needles sections visitor’s centers are open every day in the summer.
  • Con: Thunderstorms can be frequent toward the end of the summer.

Canyonlands Summer Activities:

  • Since the middle-of-the-day temperatures can be overpowering in the summer, take a break from the heat and go on a scenic drive. There are plenty of drives around the park, and then you’ll be ready to go back out and explore the park.
  • This time of year, the sky provides some breathtaking views of the Milky Way; hang out in the park after dark to catch a glimpse!
  • Go boating in either the Colorado or Green River; the water ranges to calm from perfect to white-water rafting.

Tips for Visiting in the Summer:

  • Bring lots of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized for your hikes.
  • Get started early in the day so you can beat the heat.

Fall in Canyonlands

snow capped mountains through an arch

Fall should definitely be near the top of your list for the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park. The temperatures have cooled down to an average of 60 degrees, so even the middle of the day is manageable for exploring.

The amount of visitors wanes as well, so the trails won’t be overly crowded. Fall allows you to be in the park all day without overheating and having to wait too long for sections of the park to clear up.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Canyonlands in the Fall:

  • Pro: Like spring, the weather is one of the biggest draws for going to Canyonlands at this time.
  • Con: And like summer, thunderstorms can sneak up on unsuspecting hikers.
  • Pro: The park isn’t quite as busy as it can be in the springtime.

Canyonlands Fall Activities:

  • Take advantage of the cooler weather and bike some of the park’s best trails. The best time to go to Canyonlands National Park for these sorts of activities is in the fall.
  • Hike as many trails as you can; you have all day and the whole park to explore.

Tips for Visiting in the Fall:

  • Be sure to bring a few layers because the early morning and evenings can get pretty chilly.

Winter in Canyonlands

snowy arch in winter with the sun peaking through

As I mentioned earlier, the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park for true solitude is the winter season. The temperatures have a significant drop from the cool fall 50s and 60s to an average high of 40 and low of 20 or below.

Many people save their visits for warmer parts of the year, so you will get most of the immense part largely to yourself. Canyonlands does not get enough snow for specific winter activities, so it’ll be the same park that you’re used to.

Pros & Cons of Visiting Canyonlands in the Winter:

  • Pro: This is the best time to visit the Canyonlands National Park to see the most popular sights, and there is almost a guarantee that you’ll be alone when you do it.
  • Con: Because it doesn’t snow much, there are no special activities like snowshoeing to do in the winter.

Canyonlands Winter Activities:

  • Winter and summer are both the best times of year to visit Canyonlands for a scenic drive. Being in a vehicle gives you a break from the weather extremes while still getting to experience the beauty of the park.
  • It may be a little cold, but four-wheeling activities are still available and incredibly fun with no one else to run into.

Tips for Visiting in the Winter:

  • Layers are crucial for surviving the Canyonlands winters; layer up, and you’ll have no problem handling the cold!
  • Because there are fewer people around, be sure to be safe and have someone with you if you are going to do some backcountry backpacking or hiking.

So, as we’ve discussed, there are pros and cons to every season. 

And it’s definitely difficult to find a time without flaws when nature is just full of them.

But if you adhere to some of our tips and find a time that works best for you, I promise you will be able to find the best time to visit Canyonlands National Park!

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