Canyonland view from Island in the Sky

9 Amazing Hikes in Canyonlands National Park (All Levels)

At just over 337 million acres, Canyonlands National Park offers experiences that will satisfy desert adventurers of all skill and fitness levels. The Canyonlands hiking trails lead visitors into some of the most stunning desert scenery in the US. It’s a truly special place worth sharing. In this post, we’ll do just that, starting with some background on this national treasure and then detailing nine of our favorite (and, in our opinion, the best!) hikes in Canyonlands, ranging from short jaunts to full-day journeys.

What Makes Canyonlands National Park Special?

Established in 1964, Canyonlands is one of the newer parks in the US National Park system. But the land inside the park has been inhabited for over 10,000 years by indigenous peoples who thrived in this seemingly harsh, dry land. Canyonlands encompasses an incredibly diverse collection of landscapes, including massive sandstone monoliths and arches, towering mesas, and long-distance views. That’s why Canyonlands National Park trails offer such a wide variety of hiking experiences. And, as if that weren’t enough, the  Colorado and Green Rivers both wind their way through the park, providing options for water-based adventures, too.

Canyonlands is divided into three districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. The Island in the Sky district is about 40 minutes north of Moab, Utah, the most popular and populous town in the area. Moab is centrally located and offers plenty of solid options for lodging. The main park visitor center is also located in this district, since the Island in the Sky is the easiest part of the park to reach and receives the most visitation.

The Needles district is 90 minutes south of Moab. It’s a longer drive, but hosts a collection of impressive trails that wind through stunning desert scenery that more than makes up for the additional travel time.

The Maze district is a wild, incredibly remote part of the park. So remote, in fact, that its ranger station is located 46 miles down a dirt road. Venturing into the Maze requires some serious hiking/backpacking skills and a high-clearance 4WD vehicle.

How We Made Our Selections

With so many great choices for the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park, narrowing them down to just nine wasn’t easy. The trails we’ve selected for our list below represent some of the finest desert scenery in the park to highlight the diverse landscapes that make Canyonlands such a special place. We chose trails of a variety of lengths and difficulty levels so our list would suit adventurers of all kinds.

Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

The best hikes in Canyonlands National Park are the ones that give you the most enjoyment. From easy strolls to hard-boiled treks, these nine trails deliver desert hiking at its finest. Here are our picks in the easy, moderate, and strenuous categories

Easy Hikes in Canyonlands

These trails aren’t too long and won’t leave you winded, but they’re definitely not light on epic scenery. One of the things we love about hiking in Canyonlands is how easy it is to feel like you’re away from it all, even when the parking lot is just around the bend.

Pothole Point Trail

Distance: 0.6 miles out-and-back

Where: The Needles District

What makes this one special: It’s a short jaunt out to a neat collection of desert potholes, which are indentations in the sandstone that trap water and support an interesting array of desert life.

Mesa Arch Canyonland

View from Mesa Arch Canyonland.

Mesa Arch Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles out-and-back

Where: The Island in the Sky District

What makes this one special: If you’ve seen any photos of Canyonlands National Park, it’s all but guaranteed this short trail was in one of them. It leads to a scenic arch perched on the edge of a canyon with long views into the distant mountains.

Grand View Point Trail

Distance: 2 miles out-and-back

Where: The Island in the Sky District

What makes this one special: The name says it all. This short, relatively flat trail skirts along the edge of a canyon, treating hikers to breathtaking vistas of distant mesas and canyons that seem to stretch on forever.

Moderate Hikes in Canyonlands

These Canyonlands hiking trails are a level up from those listed above. But venturing on these longer, more challenging trails allows you to head deeper into the park and access scenic places you can’t reach on the shorter trails.

Slickrock Trail

Distance: 2.4-mile loop

Where: The Needles District

What makes this one special: Slickrock Trail passes through some of the finest scenery the Needles district has to offer. This relatively flat trail offers long-distance views into stunning canyons and across to the fantastically slender needle-like sandstone spires that are this district’s namesake.

Views from Island in the Sky

Views from Island in the Sky District.

Neck Spring Trail

Distance: 5.8 miles out-and-back

Where: The Island in the Sky District

What makes this one special: Pass remnants of long-ago cattle ranching operations and the two springs that made them possible. Beautiful, banded sandstone formations will be a constant companion on this trek. Neck Springs is on the longer end of moderate, but there’s very little elevation gain or loss to sap your strength.

Strenuous Hikes in Canyonlands

For those looking for a real challenge, these difficult hikes span long distances over challenging terrain. The effort required to complete these trails is significant, but the payoff is astounding!

Alcove Spring Trail

Distance: 11.2 miles out-and-back

Where: The Island in the Sky District

What makes this one special: A 1,300-foot loss in elevation offers epic views that include passing by a stunning canyon alcove and gazing up at two of the park’s most famous sandstone towers, Zeus and Moses. The trail brings you through a wide, open canyon before it’s time to turn around and gain back all the elevation you lost coming down.

Trail in Island in the Sky District

Chesler Park/Joint Trail

Distance: 11-mile loop

Where: The Needles District

What makes this one special: This trek uses two trails to create one of the longest hikes in the park, winding its way through some amazing scenery, passing fantastically-shaped, pastel-hued sandstone formations and long-distance desert vistas.

White Rim Road

Distance: 100-mile loop

Where: The Island in the Sky District

What makes this one special: This trek isn’t a hike. It’s a multi-day, 4WD driving adventure. But it’s an iconic bucket list favorite that loops through some truly spectacular desert scenery, so we had to include it! In good weather, plan on 2-3 days to complete the loop in a high-clearance 4WD vehicle. The pleasures and perils of this journey are outlined in detail on a dedicated page on the park’s website.

If you plan on tackling this multi-day trek preparation is key. Check out the below guides as you plan your adventure:

Lace Up Your Boots and Get Out There

Soaking in million-dollar views far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is an experience we at Erem think is priceless. So if we’re not in the shop, we’re outside taking on a new trail or camping in one of those special places. That’s what motivates us to stay focused on our mission of crafting desert hiking boots that are optimized for desert trekking.

Erem boots hiking trail on edge of cliff

We design and manufacture desert hiking boots that excel in some of the planet’s most challenging hiking conditions. Each pair of Erem hiking and backpacking boots are made with full-grain leather uppers with a breathable canvas panel atop the toe box for maximum ventilation. Our boots are loose-lined with moisture-wicking, 100% TENCEL™ Lyocell that helps regulate foot temperature and naturally prevents odor. Every pair is manufactured to our Biocircular standard, using only materials with proven paths back to nature. When they’ve logged their last mile, Erem footwear can biodegrade completely. But thanks to our Reboot program, it doesn’t have to end that way. Just send us your worn hiking boots, and we’ll restore them to their former glory. Reconditioned boots in good-as-new condition and a pair of fresh laces can only mean one thing: it’s time to hit the trail.

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