5 Family Friendly Things to See and Do in Canyonlands

5 Family Friendly Things to See and Do in Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park is a stunning area near Moab, Utah with sheer sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, beautiful rivers, and spectacular vistas.  Although I have been to Moab dozens of times, I always visited Arches National Park.  My first visit to Canyonlands was a few years ago, and I was disappointed with myself that I hadn’t made it there sooner.

I still have areas that I need to explore, so this list is exclusive to the Island in the Sky District.  The park is made up of three districts, but Island in the Sky is the easiest to get to from Moab.  A few short trails and a great collection of viewpoints make this area a great destination for families and for people who are looking for some great photo ops.

Here are 5 family friendly things to see and do in Canyonlands National Park.

1.  Mesa Arch

Canyonlands Mesa Arch

You may have seen a photo of Mesa Arch on your laptop screen saver and wondered where it is.  Look no further!  It is in Canyonlands National Park.  The arch is perched high on the cliff with views of the surrounding canyons and valleys below.

What You Need to Know

Mesa Arch really is perched right on the edge, so you will want to keep an eye on your kids.  As with all hiking in the desert, bring water and sunscreen.  Even though the trail is short, the hot summer sun can be dangerous.

This trail is 0.5 miles round trip.

Getting Here

From Moab, travel north on US-191 for 11 miles and then turn left onto UT-313 W towards Canyonlands National Park.  Stay on this road for approximately 15 miles until you reach the entrance station and Visitor Center.  Stay straight on this road for 6 miles, and you will see the trailhead for Mesa Arch on your left.

2.  Grand View Point

Canyonlands Grand View Point

The Grand View Point is the end of the road and the very tip of the mesa known as the Island in the Sky.  Below you is a stunning view of a collection of canyons that stretch as far as the eye can see.

What You Need to Know

This is an area that you just can’t miss.  It will take your breathe away!  A short trail begins from the parking area and takes you along the edge of the mesa to the viewpoint at the end.

The trail to the Grand View Point is 2 miles round trip.

Getting Here

From Moab, travel north on US-191 for 11 miles and then turn left onto UT-313 W towards Canyonlands National Park.  Stay on this road for approximately 15 miles until you reach the entrance station and Visitor Center.  Pass the Visitor Center and drive for 6 miles until you reach a fork in the road.  Go left and drive an additional 6 miles to the parking lot at the very end of the road.

3.  Shafer Canyon Overlook

Canyonlands Shafer Canyon Overlook

The view from the Shafer Canyon Overlook is beautiful, but the thing that I liked about it the most was the crazy road that traveled next to the viewpoint down to the canyon floor.  I honestly could not believe that someone would drive that road….it was putting my stomach in knots just looking at it.

What You Need to Know

A short “trail” that leaves from the parking area leads to a better view of the winding road and the canyon below.

Getting Here

From Moab, travel north on US-191 for 11 miles and then turn left onto UT-313 W towards Canyonlands National Park.  Stay on this road for approximately 15 miles until you reach the entrance station and Visitor Center.  Continue just past the Visitor Center and see the turnout/parking area on your right.

4.  Buck Canyon Overlook

Canyonlands Buck Canyon Overlook

I have to say that out of all of the viewpoints that we stopped at, Buck Canyon Overlook was my favorite.  The depth and layering of the canyons below just blew me away!  The sun was starting to set as we were there, which put a pink glow on the rock formations and gave me a profound appreciation for what I was looking at.

What You Need to Know

Be sure to take lots of pictures here.  We took some great pictures of us jumping (which turned out great)!

Getting Here

From Moab, travel north on US-191 for 11 miles and then turn left onto UT-313 W towards Canyonlands National Park.  Stay on this road for approximately 15 miles until you reach the entrance station and Visitor Center.  Continue past the Visitor Center and head straight for 6 miles.  When you will reach a fork in the road, take a left and travel for 3.5 miles until you see the Buck Canyon Overlook parking on your left.

5.  Upheaval Dome Trail

Canyonlands Upheaval Dome

The Upheaval Dome area is very interesting geologically.  Two theories exist for how it was created.  The first is that it is a salt dome pushed up by the overlaying rocks.  I’m not a scientist and don’t pretend to be, so honestly I don’t really understand that theory.  The second theory (and more likely scientifically) is that it is a crater from a meteor.  Either way, it is a unique area of Canyonlands that offers and nice hike and some variety to the landscape.

What You Need to Know

This hike has two overlooks, but I only hiked to the first one.  You will encounter a bit of elevation gain, but it is not too difficult.  The trailhead also has a picnic area where we ate our lunch.

The trail to the first overlook at Upheaval Dome is 1 mile round trip.  If you choose to continue to the second overlook, you will add 1 more mile to your hike.

Getting Here

From Moab, travel north on US-191 for 11 miles and then turn left onto UT-313 W towards Canyonlands National Park.  Stay on this road for approximately 15 miles until you reach the entrance station and Visitor Center.  Continue past the Visitor Center and head straight for 6 miles.  When you will reach a fork in the road, take a right and travel until you reach the parking area at the end of the road.

Have a great time in Canyonlands!

For additional information on Canyonlands National Park, click here.

If you like this post, check out 5 Things to See and Do in Grand Teton, Yosemite, and Capitol Reef.



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Post author

Hi! I'm Ash and I blog over at Dirt In My Shoes. I'm a former park ranger and busy stay at home mom who doesn't believe that life has to end when you have kids. I love hiking, camping, and exploring with my little family and teaching my son to appreciate the great outdoors. Let me help you plan your next adventure and don't be afraid to get a little dirt in your shoes!

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