Canyonlands Family Guide

Best Easy Family Day Hikes in Canyonlands National Park 

Easy day hikes in Canyonlands National Park can be divided into two distinct districts: Island in the Sky and the Needles (the third district, the Maze, requires a four wheel drive vehicle to get to the trailheads and is better suited for long, adventurous day hiking and backpacking). Both Island in the Sky and the Needles have great opportunities for day hikers who want to experience the incredible vistas and geology of Canyonlands National Park.

Island in the Sky is a high mesa wedged between the Colorado and Green Rivers like a natural observation platform. Vistas rival those found anywhere. Although the trail system is not as extensive as in the Needles District, hikers can choose from a variety of well-maintained trails. Tourists with only a day or two to spend here can view some fantastic scenery from the main paved roads in the park and can supplement their visit with several excellent short hikes on the mesa (Grand View, White Rim Overlook, Mesa Arch, Aztec Butte, Whale Rock, or Upheaval Dome Overlook).

The Needles is a high desert paradise. It is a jumbled landscape dominated by a series of distinctive sandstone spires called, of course, the Needles. Perhaps the other distinctive feature of the Needles District is an extensive trail system that offers nearly endless hiking options.

Make sure to stop in at the Island in the Sky and Needles visitors centers to talk to the rangers about your hiking plans. Then put on your sunscreen and sun hat, pack some extra water, and hit the trails!

The Hikes

ISLAND IN THE SKY AREA

1. Mesa Arch: 0.5 mile. A very short walk to a magnificent arch with a spectacular view.

2. Aztec Butte: 1.2 miles. A short but somewhat challenging climb to a scenic viewpoint of the Island in the Sky area. Once on top you can see ancestral Puebloan structures called granaries.

3. Upheaval Dome Overlook: 1.6 miles. A short, steep hike to get the best view of perhaps the most interesting geological feature in Utah.

4. Grand View Point: 2 miles. An easy day hike to a spectacular view.

NEEDLES AREA

5. Cave Spring: 0.6 mile. An opportunity to learn about the cultural history and desert plant life on a short hike.

6. Pothole Point: 0.6 mile. A short hike to learn about life in desert potholes. Great for families with small children.

7. Slickrock Foot Trail: 2.4 miles. A scenic trip through the geology of the Canyonlands. This trail stays high and gives a great overall perspective of the entire southeastern corner of Canyonlands National Park.