Canyonlands Syncline Loop Trail

Overview: A long day hike or overnighter; perhaps the premier hike in Island in the Sky.

Start: Upheaval Dome Parking Area

Distance: 8.3 miles; loop

Difficulty: Difficult

Maps: USGS Upheaval Dome; Trails Illustrated Island in the Sky

Finding the trailhead: Drive 6.5 miles south of the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and turn right (west) onto Upheaval Dome Road. Go another 4.8 miles to the Upheaval Dome Picnic Area at the end of the road. The trailhead is at the west end of the picnic area.

Trailhead GPS: 38.426315, -109.926110

This trail is the best choice for a long loop in the Island in the Sky district. Try for an early start, especially if you plan to cover this trail all in one day. This can be a long, hot day hike in canyon country. The hike involves one very difficult section of rock scrambling, and the NPS has posted a sign at the trailhead warning hikers about how strenuous this hike can be. That would be doubly true on a hot summer day, but in any case, bring plenty of water.

The entire Syncline area has a fascinating—and controversial—geological history. Some geologists call Upheaval Dome “the most peculiar structural feature in southeastern Utah.” The origin of the dome is the source of endless debate. For some mysterious reason rocks formerly buried a mile underground are now on the surface in the crater. The two most common theories—the “salt dome” theory and the “meteorite impact” theory—are explained in a brochure available at the visitor center. This trail circles the mysterious crater.