Canyonlands National Park is located in the US state of Utah, easily accessible from the city of Moab. One of the nation’s top, underrated US parks, it spans an area of 337,598 acres. Unsurprisingly, it offers visitors an assortment of exceptional opportunities for four-wheeling, camping, canyoneering, and hiking.
Indeed, hiking is one of the best ways to truly explore this vast, awe-inspiring, otherworldly natural wonder. Surprisingly, even though this park is off the beaten path and undeniably rugged, a lot of the best hikes here are short and comparatively easy. The majority are family-friendly, unique trails and offer travelers extraordinary Instagrammable opportunities. To assist you in determining which hiking trails are best for you and yours, here are the 15 best hikes in Canyonlands National Park.
The Best Time to Visit Canyonlands National Park
The best time to hike here and enjoy Canyonlands is from the fall through late spring. That’s when the weather is generally consistent and the temperature during the day is reportedly somewhere “between the upper 60s to low 80s.” While you may be tempted to visit during the summer, you should know that it is very hot and the temperature often breaks 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If that is the only time you can venture to this park, plan on being on the hiking trails by sunrise and completing the hikes by noon. Afternoon thunderstorms are common too so bring a raincoat. This place is uniquely beautiful in the winter and heavy snowfall is rare; but it still gets old, especially after sunset.
You should also know that ice sometimes accumulates on the trails, making some of them dangerous and others totally inaccessible. On the other hand, you won’t find a lot of tourists there in the winter. Just be smart and keep yourself updated on the weather reports and be sure to make a backup plan.
Experts report that the lower-elevation Needles District is usually a wee bit warmer than popular Island in the Sky. It’s also good to know that Canyonlands National Park doesn’t attract as many travelers as Arches National Park, so tourist crowds aren’t a real problem. The popular Mesa Arch trail can get a little crowded if you decide to hike it during the peak season, but it’s still doable. As previously reported, if you arrive very early in the morning or even late in the afternoon you will avoid most of the tourists.
The Different Regions
Here is a basic overview of Canyonlands National Park’s five districts:
Colorado and Green Rivers
The confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers is found in the very heart of the park. It offers travelers both astounding views and exciting rafting opportunities.
Horseshoe Canyon is a “day-use” only region. It is comparatively isolated and well-known for its ancient Puebloan rock art.
Island in the Sky
This is the most accessible and popular area in the entire park. Here you will find nigh-iconic viewpoints, a stunning scenic drive, and a number of the park’s best hikes.
This region is perhaps the furthest off the grid and maybe the most rugged as well. If you want to experience this area be sure you have some backcountry experience and a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The Needles is stark and best known for its odd, Mars-like landscapes and rugged sandstone formations.
The 15 Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park
The Best Hikes in Colorado and Green Rivers District
This distinct district is highlighted by both desert landscapes and surprisingly lush greenery. Hiking here is limited, but you can also go rafting and kayaking.
1. The Confluence Overlook Trail
This is an out-and-back, 10-mile trail. With an elevation of 1,371 feet, it has a difficulty rating of moderate to challenging. The steep canyons here make it somewhat difficult to get a good view let alone get really close to the rivers.
This trail is the exception. It provides hikers with a real bird’s eye view of the confluence from 1,000 up. The gain in elevation is not sudden, but the ups and downs are still sometimes significant. You must also hike over slickrock and sand.
The Best Hikes in Horseshoe Canyon
When hiking here you are actually closer to well-known Capitol Reef National Park than Island in the Sky, so you could combine your visit.
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