Overlooks in Canyonlands National Park

The 5 Best Scenic Overlooks in Canyonlands National Park

Even though Canyonlands National Park is less than an hour away from Arches, the two parks couldn’t be more different.  Arches is packed with people and can comfortably be ‘done’ in a 2 day itinerary.  Not even close for Canyonlands.  There’s so much to see an do here that you could spend a lifetime of itineraries and still not see it all.  That’s why today we’re posting our list of favorite scenic overlooks in Canyonlands.  

If you just have a few hours or a few days in the park, these are our top spots to add to your ‘must see’ list. 

Quick Look

About Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is a large, remote national park near Moab Utah.  Before you travel to the park, here are some things to know: 

  • Where is it? The park is about 20 minutes from Moab, Utah.
  • What does it protect? Canyonlands famously protects the area of land where the Colorado River and Green Rivers meet. 
  • How big is it? At around 337,000 acres, it’s 23rd on the list for largest national parks and about 4 times the size of nearby Arches National Park. 
  • What’s the park popular for? There are three main areas of the park.  The Island in the Sky area is the most popular part to visit via car or RV and full of scenic overlooks.  The Needles District is in the southern part of the park and most popular for hiking and backpacking.  In between, the White Rim Road travels over 100 miles along the length of the desert mesa and is popular for mountain biking and off-road vehicles.

During our visit, we spent a day in the Island in the Sky area (along with a stop at nearby Dead Horse State Park) and a second day hiking in the Needles District.  Our list of the best scenic overlooks in Canyonlands has spots in both areas of the park.

Green River Overlook

Indigenous Roots at Canyonlands National Park

As part of our commitment to a more Diverse NPS, Park Chasers acknowledges that the lands we now enjoy as part of the national parks were once the home of many different indigenous communities.

According to the National Park Service (nps.gov):

“Canyonlands has been home to people for over 10,000 years. Traditions and ways of life developed and changed as cultures interacted with each other and the landscape. People moved and migrated. They communicated stories and passed on knowledge. Canyonlands is a living, dynamic cultural landscape that many still call home today. .”

The lands around Mesa Arch and Canyonlands National Park once belonged to members of the:

Hopi Tribe
Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians
Kewa Pueblo
Navajo Nation
Ohkay Owingeh
Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah
Pueblo of Acoma
Pueblo of Isleta
Pueblo of Jemez
Pueblo of Laguna
Pueblo of Nambé
Pueblo of Picuris

Pueblo of Pojoaque
Pueblo of San Felipe
Pueblo of Sandia
Pueblo of Santa Ana
Pueblo of Santa Clara
Pueblo of Taos
Pueblo of Tesuque
Pueblo of Zia
Pueblo of Zuni
San Juan Southern Paiute
Southern Ute Indian Tribe
Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

To learn more about native communities in the area and how these lands were in most cases stolen from their inhabitants – visit Native Lands.

To learn more about our commitment to greater diversity, inclusion, and access to public lands visit DiverseNPS.

The 5 Best Scenic Overlooks in Canyonlands National Park

Grand View Point Overlook

#1 - Grand View Point Overlook

Park Area:  Island in the Sky

How to Get There: From the main park entrance, travel along the entrance road 6 miles.  At mile 6, turn left onto Grand View Point road.  The road travels another 6 miles to a dead-end turnaround and the Grand View Point Overlook.

Why We Loved It: This is by far one of the best views in all of Canyonlands National Park.  If you need a reminder that there are still wild and untouched spaces, this is the place to find it.  From the parking area, we took the short trail (flairly flat, but not for anyone with heights issues) to the end of the overlook.  From here you can see 360 panoramic views of all of Canyonlands National Park. 

If you only have time to stop in 1 or 2 places in the park, make this your top destination. 

Green River Overlook

#2 - Green River Overlook

Park Area: Island in the Sky 

How to Get There: From the Island in the Sky Entrance Station, travel 6.3 miles along the main park road.  At the Y-intersection, keep right onto Upheaval Dome Road (signs will mark Green River Overlook as well).  In 0.3 mile, turn left onto Green River Overlook Road.  Follow the road to the end where it will open into a large parking area. 

Green River Overlook provides the best views from the top of the mesa of the famous Green River.  Several signs in the area detail famous travelers who have paddled down the Green River in pursuit of the great Colorado River.  It’s a great spot for a picnic lunch and likely to be less crowded than the more popular Mesa Arch and Grand View Overlook.

Upheaval Dome Overlook

#3 - Upheaval Dome

Park Area:  Island in the Sky 

How to Get There: From the Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center, travel 6.3 miles on the main park road.  Turn right on Upheaval Dome Road and follow it 4.8 miles to the end of the road and the large turn around parking area for the overlook. 

Follow a short trail off the end of the picnic area and you’ll arrive at what some geologists call “the most peculiar structural feature in southeastern Utah” a large dome formation with gorgeous colors and striations.  We loved this short hike (and extended it out to the second overlook for a better view and a more strenuous climb) because it was well off the beaten path.  

#4 - Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook

Park Area:  Needles District 

How to Get There: From the Needles Visitor’s Center continue on Highway 211 for 2.2 miles.  The overlook is a small pull out on the southeastern side of the road with 10-12 parking spaces.  

While the Needles District is better known for its hiking trails, there are a few pullouts along the park road worth stopping.  One of the first overlooks you’ll encounter after the Needles Visitor’s Center is Wooden Shoe Overlook.  This arch formation looks just like a Dutch wooden clog.  A good place to stretch and take in the what’s very different scenery from the other areas of Canyonlands. 

Pothole Point Overlook

#5 - Pothole Point

Park Area:  Needles District

How To Get There:  From the Needles Visitor’s Center, travel 4.9 miles along Utah Highway 211 to the trailhead marked for Pothole Point.  The overlook is located along a short interpretive walk.

While the main feature of this quick 0.6 mile hike is the unique ecology of the potholes found in the slick rock here, we really enjoyed the overlook found about halfway through the hike.  The broad sweeping views of the Needles and surrounding terrain from this spot.

THE PARK CHASERS

THE PARK CHASERS

Greg & Amy
Chasing a visit to all 400+ units in the NPS
Current Count: 128/423
Next Stop: TBD

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