The Overlooks of Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park photo by NPCA Photos on Flickr

The gorgeous, rugged wilderness of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park was formed by water and gravity, carved out by the Colorado and Green Rivers and their tributaries over the course of millions of years. Come to immerse yourself in this rocky wilderness of wild, bright oranges and reds where the open blue sky looms above you. Canyonlands National Park is filled with slots, gorges, mesas, buttes, canyons arches, and many more natural rock formations and plenty of overlooks that offer spectacular views of this majestic park. Let your imagination run wild with possibility when you immerse yourself in the stunning natural environment of Canyonlands National Park.

Island in the Sky

The most popular area in Canyonlands National Park is a triangularly-shaped mesa where the Colorado and Green Rivers meet. Come to enjoy the many lookouts in this district, all accessible from the paved road. You can visit all these spots in one day or spend a few days here for a more comprehensive exploration of Island in the Sky.

Grand View Point Overlook
Getting there:
From the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive south for 12 miles to road’s end.

Enjoy an infinite, panoramic view across the breathtaking Canyonlands from Grand View Point Overlook. Grand View Point Overlook sits at the southernmost point of the park’s highest mesa. Take a quick walk around the area and enjoy views of the sweeping landscape of vast canyons, rock layers and cliffs formed from millions of years of geological transformation. Gaze below you to see the various shapes and formations that make up the park. You can spot a 1,000-foot trench carved by the Colorado River, along with white markings upon the stone called the White Rim layer. This impressive decoration can be seen along the top of the canyons, its white color due to the salt deposited in the soil. And there you stand, a thousand feet above it all!

Green River Overlook
Getting there:
The overlook is located almost 2 miles off the main road before you get to Whale Rock and Upheaval Dome.

While most of the overlooks in Canyonlands National Park look out over the rough, canyon terrain, Green River Overlook provides a gorgeous view of the Green River inching its way through a long plateau. A short paved path leads to this extraordinary lookout located at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Green River Overlook offers spectacular views of the Soda Springs Basin stretching all the way out to the Green River. The river appears as a small, thin string off in the distance as the vista stretches on and on as far as the eye can see, racing towards the horizon.

Upheaval Dome Lookout
Getting there: From Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive south for 6.5 miles until you pass the Mesa Arch turnoff. Take a right onto Upheaval Dome Road and drive 5 miles to the end of the road.

Upheaval Dome is a must-see when you visit Canyonlands National Park! This formation is notably different from the rest of the surrounding canyons. In an area about 3 miles wide, rock layers lie drastically deformed. Towards the center, the rocks jut up into a circular structure called a dome, or an anticline. All around this dome is a downwarp in the rock layers called a syncline. Most interestingly, geologist don’t know exactly what caused this strange formation’s unique shape. Theories involve the formation of a salt bubble as salt moves up through the ground and an explosion that resulted from a meteorite colliding with the Earth.

Whale Rock
Getting There: From the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, take Grand View Point Road south 6 miles. Pass the Mesa Arch, then turn west onto Upheaval Dome Road. The trailhead is located 4.5 miles in.

Located above Upheaval Dome, Whale Rock has a fun, eye-catching shape that draws many visitors towards it. Catch stunning views of Upheaval Dome and the surrounding canyons on a one-mile round trip hike to the top of Whale Rock.

Located in the southeastern corner of Canyonlands National Park, The Needles is a section of stunning canyons and grasslands. Once filled with dunes at the edge of a sea that covered the westernmost part of the country, these ancient sands are what now form the white rings around the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. The area features many stunning geological features that can’t be missed on a trip to Canyonlands National Park.

Big Spring Canyon Overlook
Getting there: Follow the scenic drive to the northwestern tip to the circular U-Turn on the road.

One of the most easily accessible overlooks, Big Spring Canyon Overlook provides colorful, panoramic views of the gorgeous formations in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Here, visitors can catch stunning glimpses of Elephant Hill, a large rock wall in the shape of an elephant. You can also view the Wooden Shoe Arch, another fun red rock formation in the shape of a shoe. There are tons of shapes to imagine in these gorgeous, rocky hills. These spots are best viewed from high up, far away locations like the Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Canyonlands National Park is filled with incredible views of stunning geological formations formed by powerful forces of nature. The park’s many overlooks offer some of the most spectacular, panoramic views of this raw, rugged terrain. Let your mind run free as you gaze out over an incredible expanse of unforgettable wilderness in a park unlike any other.