Of the three hikes we did in the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park, the views along the Grand View Trail to Grand View Point were among our favorites. It’s one of the best places in Canyonlands to get a sense of how vast and how rugged the environment is here. From this vantage point, you site high atop the mesa, staring down at the White Rim Road (one of the best spots for off-road driving in the NPS), and the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.
During our April 2021 visit to Canyolands and Arches National Park, we tackled this quick, 2 mile out-and-back hike around lunch time, grabbing a spot at the trail’s end, aptly named Grand View Point.
It’s a fitting place to enjoy a quick bite to eat as you enjoy one of the best views in the desert southwest.
We’ve spent time lots of time near the Colorado River in many different spots in our travels. From its origins in Rocky Mountain National Park to dipping our toes in at Phantom Ranch in Grand Canyon National Park, we’ve been lucky to see and follow the different ways these waters shape the southwest.
After this lunch, we definitely added Grand View Point to our list of “Best Places to Visit on the Colorado River.”
Here’s our hiking report:
Table of Contents
About the Grand View Trail
The Grand View Point is the southernmost viewpoint from the Island of the Sky mesa in Canyonlands National Park. From here it’s possible to see both Junction Butte and the Needles District, two other popular spots in the park.
Distance and Difficulty
Distance: 2 miles, out and back
Grand View Point Trail is rated easy by the National Park Service. It’s mostly flat, however hiking is often on open slick-rock with cairns for navigation. We’d also rate the trail as a good fit for beginner to easy hiking, but good footwear is a must.
There were plenty of families with kids on the trail. Pets are not allowed on any trails or at the overlooks in Canyonlands National Park.
To locate the trailhead for the Grand View Trail, drive south from the Island of the Sky visitor center for 6 miles. Continue on Grand View Road an additional 6 miles to the end of the road. The trailhead leaves from the parking area for the Grand View Overlook.
If you decide not to hike the trail, we still recommend a stop at the overlook – it’s one of our Top 5 Scenic Overlooks in Canyonlands National Park.
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 near Grand View Trail and Canyonlands National Park once belonged to members of the:
Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians
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
What You'll See on the Grand View Trail
The trail starts off a 100 foot paved, wheelchair accessible section of the overlook. Be sure to stop at the overlook signs before you depart. They point out the rock formations and features you’ll see at the near 360-degree panoramic view along the trail.
As you continue on the trail, you’ll drop about 80 feet of elevation along the mesa cliff to Grand View Point. At the end of the trail, a large rock formation opens up. Climb up to the top for the best view, and then find a spot to look out at Junction Butte and Monument Basin.
If you decide to grab a quick lunch here, be wary of the aggressive ground squirrels and chipmunks. They’re well aware the humans are distracted by watching the views and are not watching their snacks. We watched a particularly feisty Hopi chipmunk take a sandwich right out of a fellow hiker’s hand at Grand View Point.
When to Hike the Grand View Trail
Grand View Overlook at the Grand View Point Trail are some of the busiest destinations in the park. There’s not a lot of times to hike here where you can expect solitude.
The parking lots fill quickly in the morning and will be busy until after sunset. Given the traffic, we recommend visiting the Grand View area early or late in the day. The evening glow on the rocks is pretty stunning as well.