Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide's Canyonlands National Park Tour


Canyonlands National Park is the biggest of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks.

But don’t let that intimidate you because Shaka Guide will break it all down and be with you every step of the way.

canyonlands tour map

Known for its 100-mile-long views and rugged remoteness, Canyonlands is sure to leave a lasting impression. 

Start Planning

road in the desertGeorgerPeters from Getty Images Signature

This tour should take 2 to 6 hours to complete. If all you do is drive, you can be done in as little as 2 hours.

But we recommend getting out at each of the scenic overlooks and even getting onto a few of the trails. 

  • Once the tour starts, access to water will be limited, so make sure you plan ahead.
  • This tour only covers the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands. The Needles and the Maze districts are not on the tour. They are located a 2 and 3-hour drive from Moab, respectively, and require high-clearance AWD vehicles. 
  • The Park is open 24 hours. Entrance to the Scenic Drive costs $30 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days. 
  • The Island in the Sky Visitor Center is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm with extended hours from Spring through Fall.
  • Cell reception is spotty in the park. Public wifi is available at the visitor center. 
  • The visitor center, bookstore, and front gate all accept cash, checks, and major credit cards. 
  • While all the roads on the Shaka Guide tour are rated for 2-wheel drive, some roads inside the park, like the Shafer Trail, require high clearance and 4-wheel drive.
  • There is a picnic area inside the park between Buck Canyon Overlook and Grand View Point in case you want to pack food for a picnic lunch or dinner. 
  • The only potable water inside the park is found at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. 

What to Expect

sunrise in canyonlandsLaserLens from Getty Images Pro

To Get An Early Start

Canyonlands National Park gets crowded from March through October. Get to the park early, by 8:00 am if possible. 

To Spend 2-6 Hours Exploring

If all you’re doing is driving, the full tour can be done in as little as 2 hours.

An average tour through the park should take you 3-6 hours if you make frequent stops and enjoy a few of the shorter hikes.

Longer or additional hikes will extend the tour even further.

Feel free to participate in as few or as many stops as you like or as your time permits.

Check out our itinerary for a full list of tour stops.

To Be Active

canyonlands overview with man standingsnoofek by Getty images

While on the Shaka Guide tour, we’ll recommend six hikes, but you’ll actually have the opportunity to hike 15 different trails inside the park!

Doing them all in one day isn’t recommended, or even possible, so we’ll suggest a few of the shorter hikes and let you decide which ones fit your schedule and abilities.

There are even more trails in Canyonlands if you’re willing to drive off the beaten path and have several days to spend in the park.

There will also be plenty of recommended stops for viewpoints and photo opportunities, so be prepared to get out of the car often. 

To Try Local Goodies

Visiting a national park can work up an appetite! It’s a good thing there are so many great restaurants in Moab.

Don’t forget to check out the highlights section of the app for some recommendations.

You’ll need to pack food before you enter the park. There are no concessions in Canyonlands. 

To Learn

Shaka Guide’s Canyonlands National Park Tour will cover the geological and human histories of the area.

You’ll learn all about how the Colorado and the Green Rivers, coupled with the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, worked to create Utah’s largest national park.

You’ll also learn about the region's original inhabitants all the way through the creation of the park. By the end of your visit, you’ll be a Canyonlands expert!

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Budgeting for your tour of Canyonlands will be a breeze thanks to Shaka Guide’s help!

All you need for the tour is money for the entrance fee, any souvenirs at the bookstore, and food and drink if you plan on bringing along snacks or a picnic.

Remember to pick up any supplies you may need like sunscreen and water bottles before you arrive at the visitor center. It is the desert, after all! 

  • $30 per car for the Scenic Drive
  • $15-$20 per person for lunch
  • $10-$20 per person for gifts/souvenirs at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center

If you need more information on budgeting for your entire trip to Moab, including travel and lodging, check out this article here. 

Safety Information

mesa arch hiker sitting downShutterstock Image

  • Hiking Safety: Bring water and hike in groups, stay away from ledges
  • Driving Safety: Follow posted speed limits, stick to roads rated for your vehicle, and be prepared for switchbacks and tight turns if taking backcountry roads like the Shafer Trail and White Rim Road.
  • Since Island in the Sky is on top of a mesa, there is little risk of flash flooding. However, if you are caught in a thunderstorm, there is no safe place outdoors from lighting. Return to your car if possible and stay away from ledges. 
  • Backcountry Safety: if you deviate from the tour onto backcountry roads, you are responsible for your own safety and may have to self-rescue. Water sources are rare and unreliable. 
  • Pet Safety: Leashed pets are allowed only on public roadways and in established campgrounds. They are not permitted on other trails, backcountry routes, or in off-trail areas.

Start Packing!

Here’s our packing list. What you take depends on what you plan to do on the tour.

  • Sneakers
  • Hiking Clothes
  • Water Bottle
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and/or hat
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Snacks
  • Cash
  • Car charger *Very Important*
  • Phone Mount
  • First Aid Kit

Leave No Trace

arch in canyonlandssnoofek by Getty images

When you visit a National Park, you’ll eventually come across the phrase “leave no trace.” It is important to leave an area exactly as you found it. We can enjoy Capitol Reef National Park because of efforts to preserve its natural beauty so let’s do our part. At Shaka Guide, we promote ethical and responsible tourism. Please, pick up your trash, respect plant and animal life, and keep yourself safe, too. Leave no trace of your visit behind so future generations can continue to enjoy our wonderful National Parks.

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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.

For more detailed information to help you plan check out our Canyonlands Itinerary.

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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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