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Visiting the Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Visiting the Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

It’s time to discover the most underrated national park in Utah. Here’s what you need to know about Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park.

There’s no doubting the magical allure of Utah’s national parks. These include giants in the game from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park, but an often overlooked jewel holds unparalleled beauty.

What are we talking about?

Canyonlands National Park, of course. This slice of Utah heaven bursts with stunning scenery and some of the most eye-catching viewpoints you’ll ever see. 

But there’s one particular part of this park that takes the cake. Welcome to Island in the Sky

Why Visit Island in the Sky, Canyonlands?

Island In The Sky Visitor Center

Let’s rephrase that, why you have to visit Island in the Sky. 

Simply put, Canyonlands is a massive place and a wonderland of canyons, arches, and mesas. It’s so big, in fact, that it’s split into four districts, Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon. 

The most accessible and developed part of Canyonlands is Island in the Sky. Which just so happens to mean that it’s the most visited and popular part of the park.

Its proximity to Moab, Utah, also makes it a fantastic spot for multiple outdoor excursions, from 4×4 drives to hiking. But, its standout feature is the number of breathtaking viewpoints, as it’s the highest point in the park, at more than 1,000 feet tall.

What is Island in the Sky?

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Okay, time for a geography lesson. Just kidding. But understanding the geography of Island in the Sky is crucial information you need to know. 

It’s one of the reasons this destination is so popular, after all.

Resting atop a large plateau, Island in the Sky is a sheer-walled mesa constituting the northern part of Canyonlands National Park. It sits high above the striking Green River and Colorado River that join together in the park, carving out a giant canyon through thousands of feet of sandstone.

And when we say it sits high, the surrounding country includes an almost entirely vertical drop of more than 1,000 feet at some points. This translates into some utterly amazing views and overlooks that seem to defy imagination.

Unmissable Island in the Sky Highlights

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Okay, it’s time to dive into some of the best highlights you should include in your Canyonlands, Island in the Sky itinerary.

Canyonlands, Island in the Sky Viewpoints

Grand View Point

Grand View Point Overlook, from Canyonlands National Park Utah

Quite literally, where the road ends through Island in the Sky, at the southern end of the mesa past The Neck, is one of the most spectacular overlooks in the park. From here, you get a breathtaking view of the entire southern part of the Canyonlands. 

As you stand overlooking the park, you can see from Monument Basin all the way to the La Sal Mountains and The Needles. And at 6,080 feet, how’s that for an epic lookout?

Upheaval Dome 

Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Upheaval Dome is one of the most interesting parts of Island in the Sky. Why? Well, seeing as most of the Canyonlands is sandstone, having this piece of intrigue made of entirely different rocks is quite surprising.

With a few overlooks surrounding this area, you can get a perfect look at what the scientific community still can’t agree on. That is, how exactly this geological landscape came into existence.

Shafer Canyon Overlook

Shafer Canyon Overlook Canyonlands National Park

Now, this is the best view you can get of the entire park, and we highly recommend you take your time here. It sits on the park’s east side from a platform that provides majestic views of Shafer Canyon.

With sweeping views of the park and, on a clear day, strikingly clear sights of most highlights in the Canyonlands, it’s a stunning spot for some snapshots. 

However, note that no guardrails stop you from going over the edge; remember to stay alert at all times.

Buck Canyon Overlook

Buck Canyon Overlook Canyonlands National Park Utah

While there are other popular overlooks in the park, the Buck Canyon Overlook is undoubtedly one of the park’s most iconic. From this viewpoint, you have a clear view of a V-shaped ravine that extends toward the island.

Providing you with immaculate sights, including a gorgeous vista, you’ll get a new grasp of the area’s interesting geology. Nowhere is this more profound than along the white salt deposit that traces the canyon’s edge.

Best Hikes in Canyonlands, Island in the Sky

Upheaval Dome Trail

Distance: 1.3 miles

Time: 20 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Upheaval Dome Trail

As delightful as it is to see this stunning geological formation in Canyonlands, an even better experience is tackling the Upheaval Dome trail. A short 1.8-mile roundtrip takes you to the crater that some believe is the impact site of a meteorite.

We’ll let you decide as you traverse the moderately difficult trail, which includes several small hills. And if you don’t want to go all the way, the first overlook sits at the 0.8-mile point.

Suggested Map

Mesa Arch Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles

Time: 10 minutes

Difficulty: Easy


The most photographed spot in Canyonlands is Mesa Arch. This short 0.5-mile roundtrip is sure to entice you with its unique lighting, especially at sunrise. 

It’s an easy trail that leads directly to the arch in question, and it can get quite busy during the day.

Suggested Map

Whale Rock Trail

Distance: 0.8 miles

Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Whale Rock

What could be better than a quick one-mile round trip hike that features scenic panoramic views and the chance to hike along bare slickrock? Okay, that’s a trick question. 

The Whale Rock trail might be short, but it’s quite strenuous. However, the payoff is well worth it.

Suggested Map

White Rim Overlook Trail

Distance: 1.8 miles

Time: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

White Rim Overlook Trail

One of the best hikes in Island in the Sky is the White Rim Overlook trail. If you’re wondering why, well, it’s short (1.8-mile roundtrip), easy to tackle, and showcases one of the most gorgeous views of the park.

It offers views of Grand View Point and the Buck Canyon Overlook, but it does so in a fantastic way. Combining both into one uninterrupted (and jaw-dropping) viewpoint will leave you in awe.

Suggested Map

Planning Your Visit to Island in the Sky 

Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky Address 

Address: Grand View Point Rd, Moab, UT 84532, USA

Island in the Sky Opening Times

Although the park sees winter snow, it is open year-round, daily from 8 am to 4 pm.

Visiting Island in the Sky Independently 

Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

If you’re planning to visit Island in the Sky on a solo mission, you’ll head along the approach to the park via Utah state highway 313. Taking the fork off US 191 eleven miles north of Moab. 

The entrance to the park sits after crossing 18 miles of BLM-managed land about 35 minutes from Moab.

Visiting Island in the Sky On a Tour

A fantastic way to explore Island in the Sky is by heading out on a planned guided tour. Now, while plenty of these are available, we recommend choosing one that genuinely gets you to the best bits of this amazing landscape.

Choose this fantastic half-day Canyonlands Island in the Sky 4×4 tour that takes you along the backcountry region of the park. It includes stops at some of the most captivating viewpoints Island of the Sky has to offer. 

Alternatively, this full-day Canyonlands and Arches 4×4 tour combines the best of two of southern Utah’s most stunning national parks. It includes Island in the Sky, a drive along Shafer Trail, and views of Tower Arch.

Where to Stay for a Visit to Island in the Sky

Hoodoo Moab

One of the newest hotels in Moab, Hoodoo Moab, is the perfect base for your Island in the Sky excursions. It’s right in the heart of Moab and features stylish decor that screams luxury and comfort. 

On-site, you have an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and wellness centre, and the tantalizing Josie Waytt’s Grille restaurant.

Check Rates and Availability
Alternatively, Check All Accommodations Near Island in the Sky 

What to Pack for Island in the Sky

  • Sun protection is a must – high-spf sun cream, a hat, and sunglasses at the very least are what you need to pack.
  • If you’re out and about in Island in the Sky, bring along a refillable water bottle, and if you’re going hiking, remember a hydration pack.
  • With that in mind, hiking any of the trails in Island in the Sky requires a good and sturdy pair of shoes and hiking poles.

Island in the Sky Map

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