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Canyonlands National Park is epic nature beauty at its finest! It preserves a natural beauty like no other in its almost 338,000 acres of canyons, mesas, arches, and buttes. And to be honest, all of the overlooks in Island in the Sky are simply breathtaking!

Another key point about Canyonlands is that the park is divided into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers. However, none of the districts are connected or linked by any roads. For this reason, it will take you anywhere from 2-6 hours to drive from one district to the other.

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Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park

🏜 Districts in Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab and it’s the most visited one of all. The Needles is great for backcountry hiking and backpacking and requires plenty of 4-wheel driving. The Maze is the most remote district and it requires a lot of time (days). I wouldn’t recommend this district to non-experienced backpackers. The Rivers is the district that divides the other three and it’s great for boating and water activities.

shafer canyon overlooks in island in the sky canyonlands
Views from the Shafer Canyon Overlook in Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

As can be seen, Canyonlands–known as a high desert, is filled with incredible panoramic views. Additionally, this park is also well known for its adventurous backcountry roads. So, if you’re traveling to Moab and Arches National Park, then adding Island in the Sky in Canyonlands is an absolute must.

In fact, Canyonlands National Park is located within a 40-minute drive from Moab. So while you’re there, make this a definite stop and add it to your Utah road trip itinerary!

island in the sky backcountry roads

Go Prepared: Checklist for Hiking the Overlooks in Island in the Sky

The things you need for hiking in Canyonlands are pretty much the same as with any other hike. However, being that it’s a desert with full sun exposure and hardly any shade, some things are worth repeating.

  • Water. I recommend taking at least 4 liters (1 gal) of water per day. Keep in mind that even on cold temperatures, it’s easy to get hydrated in the high desert. With this in mind, even if you only visit the overlooks and do minimal hiking, it’s easy to get hydrated. You can refill your water at the Island in the Sky visitor center.
  • Sunscreen. Like I said, sun exposure is intense! Bring sunscreen and reapply often.
  • Weather. Summers are intense and winters are very cold. Therefore, dress accordingly and layer up. During the summer, I recommend long-sleeve shirts like this Columbia UPF shirt that I am wearing in these photos. For reference, summer temperatures range from 80 to 100º F, spring and fall 60 to 80º F, and 30 to 50º F in the winter.
  • Shoes. Being that the surface is both sandy and rocky, I recommend only hiking shoes or hiking sandals–like these Viakix outdoor sandals that I am wearing.
mesas in canyonlands national park
Canyonlands National Park in Utah

Overlooks in Island in the Sky that You Don’t Want to Miss

How much time do you need to see Canyonlands? Well, as for the Island in the Sky district, if you want to see all of the overlooks and some hikes, you’ll need at least 8 hours in this section of the park. Here are my favorite overlooks in this district.

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1. Shafer Canyon Overlook – one of my favorite overlooks in Island in the Sky

This overlook has an incredible view and you can see the backcountry roads as part of the landscape. As a matter of fact, I personally think Shafer Canyon Overlook is one of the best overlooks in Island in the Sky for its stunning scenery.

shafer canyon overlook in island in the sky
Shafer Canyon Overlook in Island in the Sky
best overlooks in island in the sky in canyonlands
backcountry roads in island in the sky
Backcountry roads in Island in the Sky Canyonlands
shafer canyon overlook
standing at the top of shafer canyon in island in the sky
Loving the views from Shafer Canyon Overlook in Island in the Sky

2. Green River Overlook

The great thing about the Green River Overlook is that you can actually see a small part of The Maze district. In fact, it’s actually the Green River that divides the Island in the Sky district from The Maze district.

Apart from this, you can also see the Orange Cliffs in the background, the Ekker Butte, and the Elaterite Butte which is a landmark in The Maze District.

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Green River Overlook in Island in the Sky
green river overlook in island in the sky
Walking in the Green River Overlook
the green river in canyonlands national park
standing on a canyon edge in canyonlands national park
Green River Overlook in Island in the Sky Canyonlands
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3. Buck Canyon Overlook

Here, I was surrounded by the beautiful desert landscape and panoramic views. In Buck Canyon Overlook I felt an incredible sense of peace and it was just perfect! Additionally, it’s the overlook where you can appreciate the details of the landscape the most.

best overlooks in island in the sky canyonlands
the views from buck canyon overlook in canyonlands national park
Buck Canyon Overlook in Island in the Sky
buck canyon overlook canyonlands national park
Buck Canyon Overlook in Island in the Sky Canyonlands
desert landscape in canyonlands national park

4. Orange Cliffs Overlook

Out of all the overlooks that I visited in Island in the Sky, I would say that the Orange Cliffs Overlook is the one with the most contrasting views. Everything feels different in this one. The rocks and the cliffs are just magnificent!

orange cliffs overlook in canyonlands national park
Orange Cliffs Overlook in Island in the Sky
selfie at orange cliffs overlook
orange cliffs overlooks in island in the sky
Orange Cliffs Overlook Canyonlands
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5. Grand View Point Overlook

This overlook is a must and you really don’t want to miss it! Regardless, I have to say that it was the one overlook where I experienced the most crowds of all. The beauty and the impressive vistas from Grand View Point Overlook really do take your breath away.

Furthermore, from this overlook, you can actually start the 2-mile out-and-back trail through the canyon edge.

sitting at the canyon edge in the overlooks in island in the sky
Sitting at the canyon edge in Grand View Point Overlook
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Grand View Point Overlook
Check out the 6 Best Overlooks in Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park! #canyonlands #utah @canyonlandsNPS Click To Tweet
grand view point overlook canyon edge photos
Stunning views from Grand View Point Overlook in Island in the Sky
best overlooks in island in the sky in canyonlands national park

6. Candlestick Tower Overlook

For this one, you can actually stay in your vehicle and view it from there. But of course, I recommend the opposite. It’s a very nice view of what appears to be a candlestick. Hence, the name Candlestick Tower.

candlestick tower overlook in island in the sky
Candlestick Tower Overlook in Island in the Sky
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The Candlestick Tower in Island in the Sky
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Final Thoughts

Overall, the Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park is one epic adventure! Out of all the Mighty Five National Parks in Utah, I have to admit this is the one where I was able to get some of my favorite photos.

Partly, it was because it wasn’t crowded and I was able to take my time. But most of all, it was simply because the beauty of these lands is just perfectly amazing.

Which of these overlooks in Island in the Sky is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!


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best overlooks in island in the sky district in canyonlands national park

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Outdoor travel blogger, photographer, and Vampire Diaries obsessed. I'm passionate about hiking, and exploring the outdoors is an essential part of my life. I also love the ocean and warm sunny days.

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35 Comments

  1. Canyonlands looks incredible! We only stopped in Zion when we were in the area, but we definitely want to go back and visit more placed, like Canyonlands. It’s awesome that you got your favorite photos from here.

  2. Loving all of these ‘islands’!! Saving this guide because overall it’s not as popular of a park and would make for some incredible photography sessions like you did! Especially grand view overlook – you can see for miles there!

    1. Wow! God’s creation is really stunning! You’re so lucky to see that personally. Really love the photos. It makes me energize.❤️

  3. Holy wow. This looks AWESOME! If we ever do that family road trip way out west, this is definitely making our dream stop list. Thank you!!!

  4. Squeeee these are all incredible!

    It’s even more amazing that you had some of these overlooks to yourself considering how busy I keep hearing parks are in the USA since covid-19! Shafer Canyon Overlook looks like you’d need to stop, eat and take in the views for ages, but I am also really drawn to the Candlestick tower overlook. Wowza.

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