Canyonlands National Park spans over 337,598 acres and is comprised of four distinct districts: the Needles, Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Rivers of Canyonlands.
The Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park is one of the most beautiful portions of the entire park. Island in the Sky is a mesa that rests on steep sandstone cliffs over 1,000 feet high. It is known for its spectacular views and scenic hikes.
Every overlook offers a different perspective on Canyonlands’ spectacular landscape. Often seeming like canyons, within canyons, within canyons, within canyons.
We’ve gathered some of our favorite things to do in the Island in the Sky district.
VISITOR CENTER VIEWPOINT
You can get a great view of Canyonlands from the very beginning of your trip! One of the best views in Island in the Sky is located just across the street from the Visitor Center.
From the parking lot, cross the street and follow the trail to the wide overlook. You’ll get a stunning view of Canyonlands, and you can even see Shafer Trail Road from the cliff just below you, and farther off in the distance is White Rim Trail.
SHAFER CANYON ROAD AND POTASH ROAD
If you like a scenic drive and thrilling experiences, this is a good one for you. On this route, you will drive the legendary Shafer Canyon switchbacks, pass below Dead Horse Point, get a close-up view of the Colorado River, and see a famous movie filming location, Thelma and Louise point.
Shafer Canyon Road and Potash Road are two dirt roads that connect Canyonlands National Park with Moab. You do not need a permit to do this drive…just a high-clearance SUV and some adrenaline!
Aptly named, this overlook is one of the grandest views in the Island in the Sky district. From here you’ll see Monument Basin, a deep canyon that was carved out by the Colorado River. Some think it looks like a dinosaur footprint... what do you see?
WHITE RIM OVERLOOK
Distance: 1.8 miles | Difficulty: Moderate | Length of Time: 45 minutes
One of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park with a great payoff at the end!
The views from Grand Viewpoint and Buck Canyon Overlook are simply amazing, and White Rim Overlook takes these two views and combines them into one jaw-dropping viewpoint. From the top, you get panoramic views of both Monument Basin and Buck Canyon, two of the canyons carved out by the Colorado River.
Pro tip: Since you have to hike to get here there are typically fewer people than at Grand Viewpoint and Buck Canyon Overlook.
WHITE RIM ROAD
The White Rim Road is a 100-mile dirt road that makes a loop around the Island in the Sky mesa. You can either drive or bike this road. Advance planning and permits are necessary to drive and camp overnight on White Rim Road so be sure to plan!
If you don’t have the time or the desire to drive the entire 100-mile loop, you can drive a short section of the road, but a day-use permit is required.
Distance: 8.5 miles | Difficulty: Strenuous | Time: 5 to 7 hours
The Syncline Loop is sometimes called “the premier trail” in Canyonlands National Park. It follows canyons around Upheaval Dome and requires navigating steep switchbacks, climbing and scrambling through boulder fields, and a 1,500-foot) elevation change.
This is the most challenging trail in the Island in the Sky district and is only recommended for experienced hikers!
ULUM Moab is just 1 hour from The Island in the Sky district and is the perfect place to unwind after a day full of adventures. Check out more to see and do throughout Canyonlands National Park on ULUM Stories.