There are four districts making up Canyonlands National Park:

  • Island in the Sky
  • The Needles
  • The Maze
  • The Rivers (Colorado River & Green River)

With only one day to spend in Canyonlands, we visited the Island in the Sky district.

Island in the Sky is a large flat-top mesa – a plateau rising above the spectacular desert landscape. A scenic road travels around the rim of the mesa, with many viewpoints, walking trails and 4WD trails along the way. It is the easiest and most popular section of Canyonlands National Park to visit.

Take a look at our photos of Island in the Sky.

Shafer Canyon and Shafer Trail Road

Island in the Sky Visitor Centre
The small town of Moab is a popular place to stay when visiting Canyonlands National Park and it is about a 40-minute drive from Moab to the Island in the Sky Visitor Centre.

At the Visitor Centre it is a good idea to pick up a Visitors Guide and to get advice on the best way to see the park.

Good to know about the Visitor Centre:

  • The Centre is open daily from Spring to Autumn (Fall), closed in Winter, however the Park remains open 24 hours a day all year
  • You can fill your water bottles up at the Visitor Centre from March to October
  • A 15-minute film ‘Wilderness of the Rock’ on show
  • Interesting exhibits on the Park plus books, maps, souvenirs
  • Information on the best Sunrise and Sunset spots
  • Information boards on Hiking (Quick Hikes, Half-Day Hikes & All-Day Hikes)
  • Free Visitor Guide to Canyonlands available
  • For a more detailed guide, look for the publication – The Road Guide to Canyonlands – Island in the Sky District

Before starting the Scenic Drive, don’t miss crossing the road from the Visitors Centre for the first of many wonderful views.

Scenic Drive
The Scenic Drive around Island in the Sky is a 34-mile round trip and there is a map in the Visitor Guide showing points to stop along the way plus walking trails. It is a paved road and is shown in red on the map below:

Scenic Drive, Island in the Sky

Recommended stops along Scenic Drive:

  • Shafer Canyon Overlook
  • Shafer Trail Overlook – This amazing road can be seen from the overlook. A 4WD vehicle is needed for the heart-stopping drive along Shafer Trail.
  • Mesa Arch – There is a circular walking trail to Mesa Arch. This is a highlight and well-worth the short 30 minute walk (15 minutes each way). Prepare to be patient to get your photos as lots of people do this walk.
  • Greenview River Overlook – Wow! One of the best overlooks in the park
  • Upheavel Dome – We took the side road out to Upheavel Dome but could not see anything from the road and it was too hot to do the walk. We drove back, headed in the direction of the Grand View Point Overlook.
  • Buck Canyon Overlook – Another fabulous view.
  • Orange Cliffs Overlook – More great views over the Green River
  • Grand View Point Overlook – Wow! Possibly the best view on the drive! The Grand View Point 2-mile hiking trail along the rim looks spectacular.

Green River Overlook

Dead Horse Point State Park
From the Island in the Sky Visitor Centre, it is a 20-minute drive back along Hwy 313 to Dead Horse Point State Park – don’t miss it! For more information visit our blog on Dead Horse Point.

The small town of Moab is the gateway to Canyonlands NP, Arches NP and Dead Horse Point State Park. We stayed at the Virginia Motel.

Good Websites for researching a trip to Canyonlands:

  • Discover Moab – Canyonlands National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park (National Park Service website)
  • – Canyonlands National Park
7 June 2018