Canyonlands National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful place with Grand Canyon-like views of canyons, mesas, and rock formations. This park is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves outdoor adventures and wants to explore the natural beauty of the American West.
The Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands is the closest district to Arches National Park and Moab, and as such, is the most-visited section of Canyonlands National Park. This section is entirely on the mesa top looking down onto the canyons below. Like the Grand Canyon, visiting the park consists mostly of getting to different viewpoints.
In this blog post, I will share my favorite viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park that offer unforgettable views of the park’s rugged terrain.
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Mesa Arch is one of the most popular and photographed viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park. This viewpoint offers a famous view of the sunrise and the park’s expansive canyon landscapes. The arch frames the view of the park, creating a natural window that is perfect for taking photos.
It will be packed in the mornings during the busy season for sunrise photographers due to the glow of the arch.
Green River Overlook
The Green River Overlook offers an expansive view of the Green River and its canyon. This viewpoint is a great place to watch the sunset and see the shadows play across the canyon walls.
Just before sunset, the colors of the canyon walls come alive with the warm glow of the setting sun.
This is on the opposite side of the Island in the Sky from Mesa Arch, so the views are different. From here, you can see the Henry Mountains in the distance. Capitol Reef National Park is located on the other side of those mountains!
Grand View Point
The Grand View Point is located at the southern end of the Island in the Sky District and offers a panoramic view of the canyons and mesas of the park. This viewpoint is the perfect place to get a bird’s-eye view of the park’s diverse landscapes.
On a clear day, you can see for miles, spotting the Needles formations and the La Sal Mountains in the distance. Closer, you can see the White Rim and Junction Butte, a massive butte located at the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers.
White Rim Overlook Trail
The White Rim Overlook Trail is actually my favorite overlook in Canyonlands. However, it requires a 1.8-mile out-and-back hike to get there. Since the overlook is fairly similar to some others, hardly anyone does this flat and enjoyable walk to the viewpoint. From the overlook, you can see for miles in all directions, taking in the awesome red rock formations and deep canyons.
Upheaval Dome is a unique geological feature located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. The viewpoint offers a view of the caved-in dome, which is believed to have been formed by a meteorite impact millions of years ago.
The surrounding landscape is also beautiful, with the towering canyon walls and the distant mountains providing a picturesque backdrop for your photos.
Buck Canyon Overlook
Buck Canyon Overlook is located on the same side of the Island in the Sky as Mesa Arch. It’s the only viewpoint that offers a straight-on view of a canyon.
This viewpoint is a great place to watch the sunrise and see the colors of the canyon walls change as the sun rises higher in the sky. From this viewpoint, you can also see the distant La Sal Mountains and the valley below, making for a wonderful panoramic view.
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Shafer Trail Overlook
Shafer Trail Overlook is unique in that it offers the only viewpoint in the park with signs of human interaction. It provides views of the Shafer Trail and the winding Colorado River below. The Shafer Trail itself is a famous off-road route that winds its way down the canyon, offering a thrilling adventure for those who are up for the challenge. From the overlook, you can see the Shafer Trail winding its way down into the canyon, making for a dramatic and awe-inspiring view. This viewpoint is a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset and take in the beauty of the park’s unique geology.
Anyone can drive the Shafer Trail. At the bottom, it splits and leads to the White Rim Trail (permit only) or connects to Potash Road (no permit required, but check road conditions with a ranger before leaving).
Aztec Butte offers a unique view of the park’s diverse landscape. The hike to the butte is a moderate 2.6-mile round trip and takes you through the park’s sandstone formations and mesas. At the top of Aztec Butte, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounding canyons and the distant La Sal Mountains. The view from the top of the butte is particularly impressive at sunrise or sunset when the colors of the canyon walls come alive with the warm glow of the sun.
I believe the canyon is named Trail Canyon, and it’s located on the north side of the Island in the Sky, the same side as Upheaval Dome.
Orange Cliffs Overlook
Orange Cliffs Overlook is probably the least impressive of the viewpoints on this list. From this viewpoint, you can see the distant Henry Mountains and the remote valleys that make up the heart of the Maze District. But the Green River is far away, so most of the view is of the White Rim Plateau below.
Things to do near Canyonlands:
There is so much to do in Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands. How do you know what you should see and do? You need help! Don’t miss out on the best things.
- Our Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands Itinerary
- Our Canyonlands Trip Planner Page
- An Easy Guide to Visiting Canyonlands National Park
- Is the Needles District in Canyonlands Worth Visiting?
- Mesa Arch: The Most Famous Feature in Canyonlands
- White Rim Overlook Trail: The Best Viewpoint in Canyonlands
- Aztec Butte: Great Little Hike in Canyonlands
- The Very Strange Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park
- Can’t get a reservation for Arches? Here are 9 things to do nearby
- How to Visit Gemini Bridges in Moab, Utah (the easy way or the fun way)
- Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab: Is It Worth It?
- Hiking in the Desert: 11 things to know before you go
- Canyonlands National Park Website