By Hannah Lehr.
If you only have time for one activity while visiting Canyonlands National Park, check out the Grand Viewpoint Overlook Trail. This 1.8-mile trail boasts the best view of the canyon below. Located at the edge of the Island in the Sky mesa, the trail follows the rim of the canyon, and you will be granted gorgeous, panoramic views for most of your hike. It is easy and accessible for all ages, yet steep enough to get your heart rate up.
The Grand Viewpoint Overlook Trail is in the Island of the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park. This section is about 45 minutes from Moab and is the most visited section of the park due to its accessibility. The trailhead is also quite easy to find. From the visitor center, continue straight for 12 miles until your reach the Grand Viewpoint. This is a dead-end, and the road turns into a parking lot. The trailhead is located right next to the viewing platform.
Best Times to Visit
The best times to visit the park are during the fall and the spring, as temperatures sit at a mild 70 degrees during consistently sunny days. This trail tends to be crowded during the spring and fall, though this trail is spacious, and there is a lot of parking at the trailhead. As the trail follows the edge of the mesa, there is plenty of space for everybody to enjoy the views.
In the winter, you will find a lot more seclusion. Temperatures can get down to 40 degrees during the day, so dress accordingly. Canyonlands does get snow, but rarely enough for the roads to be closed. It is magical to watch the snow fall on the red rocks and spires along the canyon.
The summer is also a popular time to visit Canyonlands, but it is a dreadfully hot time. Temperatures can get between 90-100 degrees, and there is little shade from the sun. Be sure to pack more water than you think you need, and dress accordingly to shade yourself from the sun.
This is not the type of hike you want to rush through. From the get-go in the parking lot there are fantastic, panoramic views of the canyon below. The views only intensify as you walk along the edge of the mesa. If you aren’t scared of heights, sitting along the edge of the mesa, and letting your feet hang will help you realize just how far down the canyon is.
Also, be sure to look for wildlife as you hike. It seems like there are lizards under every single rock in the park in the summertime. Look out for bald eagles as they soar above the canyon.
At the end of the hike, there is a large pile of rocks that people climb on top of. This is the best spot for a snack or a picnic lunch. Here, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree, endless views of the surrounding canyons.
Why This is the “Best Hike in Canyonlands”
I know, bold statement. Not only is this hike accessible for families, children, and older people, but this hike provides some of the most stunning views in the park. It also offers so many different angles to view the canyon below, and so many places to sit and let your feet hang! Although it can get busy, there is plenty of room to find some solitude. Also, most people hang around the beginning of the trail and look off the edge. Fewer people hike to the overlook, and even fewer climb to the top of the rock pile. From vast, desert landscapes, to cute little critters, to incredible views, this trail has it all.
Things to be Aware Of
Hiking in this dry environment can cause you to dehydrate faster than you normally would. Be sure to pack more water than you think you’d need and hydrate often. Water can be found at the Island of the Sky visitor center during the summer.
Hiking on the rocks can be slippery. Be sure to wear decent quality hiking shoes, and not sandals or crocs. These types of shoes will cause you to slip and slide on rocks, which can be dangerous.
Lastly, this trail can be difficult to follow at times. Trails are marked by cairns, or little rock sculptures. The cairns are sometimes knocked over and can easily be missed. Pay attention to piles of little rocks on the ground, as that was probably a cairn!
There’s plenty of other activities to check out in the area! First off, the rest of Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky is right in front of you. Some other great hikes in this part of the park are Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome. There are also many roadside viewpoints to check out as you follow the road back to Moab.
You could also check out the nearby Natural Bridges National Monument. This park offers many camping opportunities, so you can spend days hiking around the otherworldly sandstone bridges. Visiting this park is a fantastic way to learn more about the interesting geology in Southwestern Utah.
Lastly, Arches National Park is located only 30 minutes away from Canyonlands. This park features many short hikes through oddly shaped red-rock arches. Some of the most popular hikes in this park are Delicate Arch Trail and the Landscape Arch Trail. Keep in mind that this park does have a timed-entry service during the spring, summer, and fall, and a time-stamped reservation is required to enter the park.
Don’t Forget to Bring…
- A ton of water!
- Sunglasses and a hat to protect your head
- A good, grippy pair of hiking shoes
- A trekking pole can be useful on some of the jagged rocks
My Rating /10
I rate this hike a 9/10, and it is my favorite hike in the park! This trail is short yet sweet, and it surrounds you in incredible views. The only two complaints I have about the trail are just how heavy the traffic can be, and how the trail can get confusing when cairns are knocked over. Overall, this trail is the best way to see the vast canyons and desert of Utah.
Your thoughts on the Grand Viewpoint Overlook Trail?
Have you visited Canyonlands National Park and experienced the Gran Viewpoint Overlook Trail? What were your impressions? Perhaps you haven’t visited as yet but really want to? Do share your views in the comments below.