Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Shaka Guide's Canyonlands National Park Tour Itinerary


Shaka Guide’s Canyonlands National Park tour will take you to the Island in the Sky district - a marvel of geology and scenic views that stretch on for hundreds of miles.

Connected by a narrow 40-foot strip of land to the rest of the Colorado Plateau, the Island in the Sky is a mesa surrounded by valleys and canyons carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers. 

This driving tour will take 2 to 6 hours to complete. That’s a minimum of 2 hours of driving plus time for you to get out and explore.

canyonlands national park tour map

With 17 stops and nearly 60 points of narration, you aren’t going to miss a thing.

And you might even learn a thing or two! We highly recommend you get an early start to your day.

The park is open 24/7 but the parking for popular hikes and attractions like Mesa Arch begins to fill up even before sunrise.

If you plan to do any hiking, hitting the trails early or in the afternoon will help you avoid the midday heat. 

Important Information

Begin your tour of Canyonlands National Park on Utah state highway 191 about five miles north or south of the intersection with Utah 313.

This way, we’ve included several optional stops along the way to the park entrance.

Don’t worry, we’ll guide you to the tour starting point in the app. 


We highly recommend you start the tour by 8:00 am at the latest.

This park gets busy and parking at the more popular trailheads may fill up.

In that case, it’s a good idea to have backup plans on hand. 

1. Intestine Man Art Site

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

The first stop on the tour is the Intestine Man Art Site. This site features ancient petroglyphs and pictographs created by at least three different groups of indigenous peoples:

  • the Ute
  • Southern Paiute, and
  • Pueblo

Follow the short trails on the right side of the road to the cliffside to find the ancient art. 

2. Monitor & Merrimac Viewpoint

plateau in canyonlandsby (c)Sean Board from Getty Images 

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

The two buttes you can see from this viewpoint, the Monitor and the Merrimac, were named for their resemblance to the first American-made ironclad warships.

Built during the Civil War, these ships helped usher in the modern era of Naval warfare. 

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3. Navajo Rocks Mountain Biking Trail

Approximate Time: 1 minute

Mountain biking is a popular activity in Canyonlands and the surrounding area.

The Navajo Rocks trail is singletrack and varies in difficulty from flowy to technical.

You’ll keep driving while we tell you about this spot. 

4. Dead Horse Point

canyon overview of dead horse point on canyonlands at sunsetDead Horse Point by DmitryPichugan from Canva

Approximate Time: 24 minutes

Dead Horse Point State Park lies just off the road to Canyonlands, rests on the same mesa as Island in the Sky, but offers a wholly unique view.

Learn about the history, ancient and modern, of this popular state park and scenic overlook. 

4. Island in the Sky Visitor Center

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

The Canyonlands Island in the Sky Visitor Center is the only place in the district to find potable water and flushing toilets.

Stop here to pay your entrance fee, talk to a ranger, and visit the bookstore.

5. Shafer Canyon Overlook & Neck Spring Trail

overlook of canyon valley by Bartfett from Getty Images

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

From this viewpoint, you can look down on the Shafer Trail as it winds its way down the mountain via a series of narrow switchbacks.

If you’re feeling adventurous and you have the right kind of vehicle, you might consider taking the Shafer Trail back to Moab after the tour. 

6. Mesa Arch

arch with mother and kids hanging aroundTorsten Bøgh Köster, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 9 minutes

The trail to Mesa Arch is an easy half-mile round trip over dirt and slickrock.

The views at Mesa Arch, and the arch itself, are fantastic at sunrise.

And this is a sentiment shared by many because the parking lot begins to fill up while it’s still dark outside.

Get started early to make sure you get a spot!

If you can’t find a spot, try stopping by in the afternoon after you complete the tour. 

7. Candlestick Tower Overlook

candlestick tower overlook from afarNPS Natural Resources, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

The next stop is another iconic formation in the park called the Candlestick Tower.

The name comes from its shape, which resembles a melting candlestick.

This 450-foot tower is a popular rock climbing spot.

If you visit during fall or winter, you might be able to catch a glimpse of a brave soul or two making their way up the tower.

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8. Buck Canyon Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Buck Canyon Overlook offers an amazing canyon view of the gorgeous geological layers in the Canyonlands and the beautiful mountains in the distance.

9. White Rim Overlook

overlook of the whole canyon from whte rimSteveLegreca by Getty Images 

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

At the White Rim Overlook, you can hike a relatively flat,1.8-mile round-trip trail and see a stunning 360-degree view of the canyon.

But if you're not feeling up to it, there's also an overlook that requires just a short walk from the parking lot.

From this overlook, you can see the handiwork of the Colorado River carving out the landscape.

10. Orange Cliffs Overlook

Approximate Time: 3 minutes

From this overlook, you can see the orange cliff section of Glen Canyon recreational area which borders Canyonlands.

You can also see the maze district, the most remote part of the park.

11. Grand View Point Overlook

view of canyon from grand view point overlookby strokop from Getty Images

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

Looking down from the grand viewpoint, you can see a complex network of canyons carved by the Colorado and Green rivers.

If you're feeling up for a two-mile round-trip hike, follow the trail to the tip of the island in the sky, mesa. This is one of the best hikes in the entire park.

12. Green River Overlook

grand canyon overiew from green river overlookRon Clausen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

This overlook offers yet another breathtaking view of the canyon over a thousand feet below the road, carved out by the peaceful yet powerful Green River.

The river shaped much of the landscape in this part of the country, originating from Wyoming on the left side of the continental divide.

13. Aztec Butte Trail

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Aztec Butte Trail is a 1.7-mile round-trip hike that leads to some ancestral Puebloan stone granary structures with some amazing views.

The granary was built roughly 800 years ago, around 1200 AD.

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14. Whale Rock

Approximate Time: 7 minutes

The name Whale Rock comes from the rock’s resemblance to a blue whale.

It does take a little imagination for you to see it though.

There is a one-mile round-trip hike up to the giant rock with great views on top that’s rated as easy to moderate.

15. Upheaval Dome

weird rocks between a crater in upheaval domePhil Whitehouse from London, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

Known by several nicknames including Utah’s Belly Button, this structure is the biggest mystery of Canyonlands because scientists can’t agree on how it was formed.

There are two ways to explore the dome. The first is to follow a one-mile round-trip trail to the overlooks (our recommendation).

The second is to hike an eight-mile trail that wraps around the Ridge of the crater.

It's not only challenging, but it's also where most of the rescues in the park happen.

16. Alcove Spring Trail

Approximate Time: 2 minutes

This is a rough 12-mile round-trip hike with a steep descent into the canyon.

There, you’ll find two 500-foot rock towers named Moses and Zeus.

End of Tour

Approximate Time: 41 minutes

Shaka Guide stays with you back to Highway 191, sharing stories and fun facts about the park along the way.

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Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Canyonlands National Park Tour!

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Ready to plan your trip to Canyonlands National Park? Here's everything you need to know before you go.


When's the Best Time To Visit Canyonlands National Park?

Best Scenic Overlooks in Canyonlands both Sunrise and Sunset

What to see and do in Canyonlands National Park


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