The Very Strange Upheaval Dome In Canyonlands National Park

Upheaval Dome Canyonlands NP

Besides Mesa Arch and the spectacular canyon rim views, Upheaval Dome is probably the next most visited sight in Canyonlands National Park

In this article, I’ll cover what you need to know if you’re visiting Upheaval Dome. 

Upheaval Dome: Utah’s Belly Button 

Informational sign of Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands

Upheaval Dome is a strange and massive formation in Canyonlands National Park. 

While most of the park is layered sandstone carved by rivers into canyons, Upheaval Dome stands out as different

This rounded canyon has rock formations in the middle that jut into the sky. Were this a normal canyon formed by a river, the rocks would have been washed away. 

Geologists are split on whether this was a giant salt bubble that collapsed, or whether a meteor crashed here. Currently, the meteorite theory has a slight advantage.

Informational sign of Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands National Park

In either case, there was definitely an upheaval here! 

It’s really a strange sight to look upon that has been called “Utah’s Belly Button.”

Getting There 

The trailhead to Upheaval Dome is located at the very end of the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands. To get there, turn off Island in the Sky Road onto Upheaval Dome Road and drive to the end. 

The parking lot is small, but that usually isn’t a problem since Canyonlands isn’t that crowded. You can also find a picnic area in the parking lot. 

The Upheaval Dome Hike 

Map of Upheaval Dome area at Canyonlands

The basic hike to get to Upheaval Dome is only 0.6 miles, but it is a little steep, gaining 115 feet in elevation.

Hike to Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands

Upon arrival, you’ll peer down into Upheaval Dome. 

Viewpoint of Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands

With more energy, you can walk a mile around the rim to a second viewpoint. This provides another angle to view the dome. 

Viewpoint at Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands

Hardcore hikers might consider the 8.1-mile trail called the Syncline Loop. This strenuous trail is a full loop around the Dome. 

This has over 1,500 feet of elevation gain and requires scrambling. Don’t take this hike lightly. The park says that most park rescues happen along this trail. Learn everything you need to know about hiking in the desert before you head out.

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Backcountry Camping in the Dome 

The last time I was there, I met a hardcore backcountry hiker who was preparing to do the Syncline Loop.

He told me he would be sleeping at the bottom of Upheaval Dome that night. I had no idea that was a possibility. 

Hardcore hikers can check out the requirements on the Canyonlands Permits website.

Is it Worth it to Visit Upheaval Dome? 

Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands

Yes! While I find some of the other hikes in Canyonlands more enjoyable, none offers the uniqueness of the very strange Upheaval Dome.

Things to do Nearby 

Canyonlands is also pretty close to Arches National Park and Moab. There are so many things you can see and do in the area that it can be difficult to know what to choose.

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary for Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times.



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