The White Rim Overlook trail is an enjoyable but overlooked trail in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.
I had to try this trail out after the park ranger told me it was his favorite trail! The funny thing is, this trail isn’t even marked on the park map, so if you’re reading this article, you’re really getting in on a hidden little gem!
The White Rim Overlook Trail is a 1.8-mile round-trip hike that takes visitors along the edge of a mesa overlooking the canyons below. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. The hike takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you spend admiring the views.
The hike has almost no elevation change, making it one of the few short but flat hikes in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands.
It provides one of the best views into the canyons below the White Rim.
- Check out The Very Strange Upheaval Dome. A short hike with another amazing view!
To get there, enter the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands and drive almost to the end of the Island in the Sky Road. Turn into the picnic area after the Buck Canyon Overlook.
This is the trailhead for two hikes: the White Rim Overlook, and the much more strenuous Gooseberry/White Rim hike – a 6-mile roundtrip hike that leads 1,200 feet down to the White Rim.
You’ll find a fork in the trail at one point; just make sure to stay right to remain on the Overlook trail.
- Learn 11 things to know before hiking in the desert and don’t forget to check out our recommended hiking gear.
The hiking trail is great because it’s flat! I always enjoy a good desert hike on sandstone through junipers. With the edge of the canyon in the distance, it felt like I was on top of the world.
The highlight of the White Rim Overlook Trail is, of course, the views. From the overlook, you can see for miles in all directions, taking in the awesome red rock formations and deep canyons of Canyonlands National Park.
- Don’t forget to see another great view at Aztec Butte.
There is a large rock formation at the very tip of the viewpoint. From the tip, I could see into two different canyons below. It was also a little scary scrambling out to the end of the viewpoint. I didn’t dare go any further because it’s a 1,200-foot drop.
The view of the white rim itself, a layer of white sandstone that separates the canyons from the mesa top, is particularly impressive.
I think it’s the best viewpoint in the Island in the Sky because it has a better angle to see into the canyons below. But many other viewpoints aren’t far behind.
At the overlook, you can see all the way to the Colorado River, which runs through the heart of Canyonlands. This is the most important river in the west. You can also see the La Sal Mountains.
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Tips for Visiting
When visiting the White Rim Overlook Trail, there are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Bring plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months.
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch your step, especially near the edge of the mesa.
- Stay on the trail to avoid damaging the fragile desert ecosystem.
- Finally, be sure to bring a camera to capture the views!
Is It Worth It?
With time, yes. The biggest question is: why hike to an overlook when there are so many similar roadside viewpoints in the park?
I guess the biggest answer is: to appreciate it.
It brings to mind the famous quote from Edward Abbey: “You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus” (from Desert Solitaire).
- Don’t miss the sunrise at Mesa Arch: The Most Famous Feature in Canyonlands.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
Yes! Canyonlands is 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 that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!
- Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands Itinerary
- Canyonlands Trip Planner Page
- Moab Trip Planner Page
- The Best Viewpoints In Canyonlands National Park
- The Very Strange Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park
- Aztec Butte: Great Little Hike in Canyonlands
- Mesa Arch: The Most Famous Feature in Canyonlands
- Hiking in the Desert: 11 things to know before you go
- Canyonlands National Park Website