As the name suggests, Canyonlands is home to thousands of marvelous Utah canyons. Even if you are only able to spend a half day in Canyonlands National Park, stopping here is essential on your Moab trip.
And, surprisingly, you don’t need a lot of time to explore the whole park.
Can You Do Canyonlands In Half A Day?
Yes, you can absolutely do Canyonlands in half a day and still fully experience the national park.
How Much Time Do You Need At Canyonlands National Park?
Although you could spend a couple whole days in Canyonlands National Park trekking the backcountry and canyon floors, you really only need 2-3 hours to see the most famous arches and canyons.
Similarly, Canyonlands National Park is one of the best U.S. national parks for non-hikers, as the majority of the best views don’t require any hiking time.
What Can You Do In A Half Day In Canyonlands?
1. Hike To The Most Photographed Arch In Utah, Mesa Arch (Half Day In Canyonlands National Park)
Start your half day in Canyonlands National Park by hiking to the legendary Mesa Arch.
Mesa Arch requires a brief 0.7-mile hike to reach. Although the hike involves some uneven rocky terrain, people of any hiking level should be able to reach Mesa Arch with ease.
Expect to spend about one hour at Mesa Arch including hike time. You can find a map of the Mesa Arch trail here.
In addition, Mesa Arch is the most photographed arch in all of Utah. (This means you definitely will not want to skip this hike.)
In fact, travel photographers flock to Mesa Arch every morning in hopes of capturing the sunrise that peaks just under the arch, just beyond the canyon. If you’re up for a pre-sunrise hike, the photos will definitely be worthwhile — even though the arch will likely be crowded.
If you’re not a morning person, don’t worry! You can still take an incredible photo of Mesa Arch. Try finding a unique angle or striking a silly pose if you’re aiming for a less touristy photograph.
Or, put your camera/phone away and simply enjoy all the uniqueness that makes up Mesa Arch.
2. See Shafer Canyon Overlook (Half Day In Canyonlands National Park)
The good news about Canyonlands National Park is that the majority of its attractions don’t require any hiking at all. In fact, all of the best views in Canyonlands besides Mesa Arch are parking-lot pull-offs.
Shafer Canyon Overlook is the first of these epic locations, boasting a viral view of a huge dirt-road-filled Shafer Trail canyon.
Expect to spend around 10 minutes here at Shafer Canyon Overlook to take in the magnificent landscape.
3. Buck Canyon Overlook (Half Day In Canyonlands National Park)
Next, Buck Canyon Overlook (another parking-lot pull-off) consists of a vast distant canyon that quite literally looks like a crack in the earth.
While maroon colored canyons spread across the other overlooks as far as the eye can see, this overlook features a giant whiteish canyon, also known as Buck Canyon, that sticks out among the red saturation.
Moreover, Buck Canyon will have you fearlessly romanticizing an earthquake and picturing the ground quite literally cracking in half — in a matter of seconds. You will only need a few minutes here to enjoy the touristy overlook.
4. Candlestick Tower Overlook (Half Day In Canyonlands National Park)
Lastly, Candlestick Tower Overlook is home to another seemingly unending canyon.
(Again, this overlook requires no hike, just a pull-off.)
The especially noteworthy part of this particular canyon that differentiates it from the others is the red-rock candlestick tower that steals the show in the distance.
Candlestick Tower Overlook is the best spot in Canyonlands for sunset, as the sun sets just beyond the featured canyon.
So, if you are spending your half day in Canyonlands National Park in the afternoon/evening, you will probably want to pack a picnic dinner and allot at least 30 minutes to watch the sunset here.
Otherwise, plan to spend 5-10 minutes at this overlook.
What To Bring For A Half Day In Canyonlands National Park
Luckily, because Canyonlands doesn’t solicit much hiking, you do not need a lot of gear or preparation to visit the park.
With that in mind, here are a few things you won’t want to forget.
- Your America the Beautiful annual park pass or $30 per vehicle for the Canyonlands entrance fee.
- Plenty of water.
- Snacks and/or a packed picnic.
- Sunscreen. The sun is harsh in the Moab desert!
- Hiking boots or comfortable walking shoes.
Pro tip: If you plan on visiting other Utah national parks on your Canyonlands trip, consider purchasing the Southeast Utah Parks Pass ($55 and valid for one month) or the America the Beautiful annual federal park pass ($80 and valid for one year) to save some cash.
You can find more information about the entrance fee to Canyonlands as well as the nearby national parks here.
Can You Just Drive Through Canyonlands?
Yes, you can just drive through Canyonlands National Park.
Because the park is mainly a series of scenic pull-offs and overlooks (as described in this article), it is very easy to drive through Canyonlands and see everything the park has to offer.
Is There A Scenic Drive In Canyonlands?
Yes, there’s a 34-mile scenic drive in Canyonlands called Island in the Sky. The Island in the Sky district consists of various pull-offs, overlooks (including those listed in this article), hiking trailhead and a visitor center.
In addition to Mesa Arch, Shafer Canyon Overlook, Buck Canyon Overlook and Candlestick Tower Overlook, the Island in the Sky scenic drive features other popular Canyonlands attractions like the Upheaval Dome and Grand View Point Overlook.
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