Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park

This article is all about getting as much bang for your National Park hiking buck as possible ~ in the shortest amount of time. Enter: Canyonlands, the largest national park in Utah, at a staggering 527 square miles.  With that much territory to explore, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to hiking…which is why I’ve written this post.  So when you want to get out of the car & stretch your legs, but don’t want a marathon hike ~ check out these “Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park!” 

The four hikes highlighted in this post are:

  1. Mesa Arch Hike (.6 miles round-trip),
  2. Grand Viewpoint Hike (2 miles round-trip),
  3. Upheaval Dome Hike (1.6 miles round-trip), 
  4. Pothole Point Trail in the Needles District (.6 miles round-trip).

Best Places to Travel in June, Girl Who Travels the World

View from the Mesa Arch Trail at Canyonlands National Park, with its spectacular hanging arch to frame the shot.

***Are Dogs Allowed on these Hikes?  Unfortunately, as is the case with most U.S. National Parks, dogs are NOT allowed on any of these hiking trails ~ unless they are service animals.  The only places where dogs are allowed in Canyonlands National Park are at: 1) Island in the Sky & The Needles campgrounds; 2) On paved roads & in parking lots; & 3) on the Potash/Shafer Canyon Road between Moab & Island in the Sky.

Map of Canyonlands Hikes


Arches National Park

1) Mesa Arch Trailhead

3) Upheaval Dome Hike

2) Grand Viewpoint Hike

4) Pothole Point Trail

Grist Mill Inn

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park

1) Mesa Arch Trail (.6 miles round-trip) 

For a hike that’s less than a mile, you’ve got one of the most iconic viewpoints in all the national parks: the insane view of the canyon through Mesa Arch.  If you only have time for one hike at Canyonlands: make it this one.  The trail is short & flat, making it easy for all ages.  Park at the Mesa Arch Trailhead, which lies in a turn-out off of Grand View Point Road. 

Pro Tip: Go at sunrise for the BEST shots through the arch!!

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park, Girl Who Travels the World, Mesa Arch Trail

Visit iconic Mesa Arch at sunrise for the best photographs.

2) Grand View Point Hike (2 miles round-trip) 

This is another iconic one: the hike to Grand View Point Overlook.  The trail here runs right along the canyon’s edge ~ but don’t worry: the trail itself is wide & flat, giving you plenty of room to roam.  This hike is significant because it sits at the end point of the popular Island in the Sky mesa, meaning it’s one of the busier hikes in the park.  You’ll find the trailhead at the very end of Grand View Point Road (where it dead-ends), close to Mesa Arch Trail.

Pro Tip: Grab water, maps, & advice from park rangers at the Islands in the Sky Visitor Center, which is also on Grand View Point Road.

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park, Girl Who Travels the World, Grand Viewpoint Overlook

Grand Viewpoint Overlook.

3) Upheaval Dome Hike (1.6 miles round-trip) 

This hike takes you to two overlooks that are perched along the rim of a 3-mile wide, 1,000-foot deep crater, that some geologists surmise was created by a meteor crash!  If you’re interested in geology & don’t mind a bit of uphill (more than the previous two hikes): this is the hike for you.  You can find this trailhead at the end of Upheaval Dome Road, which also has bathrooms & some picnic tables.

Pro Tip: If you’re short on time, just go to the first overlook ~ which is only 0.6 miles round-trip with less climbing involved.

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park, Girl Who Travels the World, Upheaval Dome Hike

Geologists are unsure exactly how Upheaval Dome’s crater was formed, but one theory is that it formed after a meteor crashed into earth.

4) Pothole Point Trail, in the Needles District (.6 miles round-trip) 

This is another very short hike that kids may especially get a kick out of: because huge potholes lie all throughout your adventure!  Pothole Point Trail is in the Needles area of the park ~ which is an area I LOVE; it’s absolutely stunning.  The “Needles” are distinctive-looking reddish spires that protrude from the landscape in a very phallic way.  The potholes are created from acid rain deposits that collect & create shallow depressions in the ground.  Fascinating!  This trailhead lies on Highway 211, past the Needles District Visitor Center.

Pro Tip: Another great short hike in this area is the Roadside Ruins trail, which is only 0.3 miles long ~ & takes you to ancient Pueblo ruins.  This is another one kids will enjoy!

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park, Girl Who Travels the World, Pothole Point Trail (Needles in Distance)

One of the best easy day hikes in the Needles district of Canyonlands is the Pothole Point Trail ~ with astonishing views of the “Needles” spires in the distance.

Where to Stay at Canyonlands

Canyonlands is close to both Arches National Park & Moab ~ both which are highlighted on the map above.  But my top pick for accommodations by Canyonlands is the charming & slightly quirky Grist Mill Inn in Monticello, Utah ($75+/night).  The family who runs this inn are AMAZING!!  They took me & my friend off-roading in their ATV….just for fun!  So incredibly nice.  Rooms here are large; the hotel is actually an old, Victorian-style house with a lot of history (ask about the guy who may have died here….), so if charming & slightly old-fashioned is your thing: this is a great spot!

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park Girl Who Travels the World, Grist Mill Inn

The Grist Mill Inn is a super-charming B&B run by a GREAT family, in Monticello, near Canyonlands National Park. Setting foot in their home feels like you’re stepping back in time a bit….& they even host “Murder Mystery” parties here on certain nights!

If glamping is more your style, try Under Canvas Moab ($149+/night), which will have you camping in luxury tents under the stars, just outside of Arches National Park.  And finally, if none of the above appeal & you’re looking for true luxury after hiking all day: try Sunflower Hill, a Luxury Inn ($200+/night), in Moab.

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park, Girl Who Travels the World, Under Canvas Moab

Live out your “Out of Africa” dreams at Under Canvas Moab ~ a short drive from both Arches & Canyonlands.

For a more complete discussion of great hotel stays near both Arches & Canyonlands National Park, read this article.

Best Easy Hikes at Canyonlands National Park

 I love helping people find new adventures, & I hope you’ve found some great new bucket-list hikes to add to your list!  Where have you hiked & stayed by Canyonlands National Park?  Let me know in the comments below…

xoxo Noelia 

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