Canyon Rims: Better than Island in the Sky

Evening at Canyonlands Overlook

Canyon Rims Recreation Area is a fairly small, fairly undeveloped park that overlooks Canyonlands National Park.  It can be compared to Dead Horse State Park and Island in the Sky (Canyonlands National Park), but this is better than either one, offering stunning views of the Colorado and Green rivers and the heart of Canyonlands itself.  (Canyon Rims also lacks the crowds of Canyonlands and Dead Horse State Park.)  The park is located about thirty two miles south of Moab on Utah 191.  (Six miles north of entrance to the Needles district of Canyonlands, and twenty miles north of Monticello on Utah 191.)

The road into Canyon Rims is paved, unlike many of the roads in the park.  The most of the rest of the roads are gravel, and are readily accessible by a low clearance vehicle, although some sections of the road have quite a bit of washboard, which makes for slower driving.  Follow the paved road past one of the campgrounds (Windwhistle Campground) and to a Y in the road.  If you take the left fork, it will take you on a paved road to the Needles Overlook.  This is a spectacular overlook with a paved parking lot, port-a-potties, and a picnic area overlooking the Needles district of Canyonlands.  It also has some nice trails that take you around the edge of the canyon, giving you a very nice view of the needles and the rest of that part of the canyon.  One word of caution is that there are also a lot of steep drop offs at this overlook, with only a fence to keep you away from the edge—somehow those fences look awfully flimsy on the edge of such a drop!

If you go back and take the right fork of the road, it goes down a good gravel road to some other overlooks.  The first road off the main dirt road is on the right and goes to Hatch Point Campground.

Those who make it to Canyonlands Overlook can expect great views into the canyon, and across into Dead Horse State Park

The next road off the main road is on the left and goes to Canyonlands Overlook.  This road in not as good as the main road, and is likely to be impassable to two wheel drive low clearance vehicles.  We made it most of the way down the road in a two-wheel-drive high-clearance van, but about a mile from the end of the road, the road became impassible to two wheel drive vehicles, so we walked the last mile to the overlook.  Even though it is a bad road, if you can make it out to the overlook you will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views in the entire park.  The view allows you to see all the way from The Needles in the south to Island in the Sky to the north and The Maze to the west.  You can also see further north beyond Island in the Sky, and if you look a little bit to the northwest you can see Dead Horse Point State Park.  This overlook does not have any fences around the edges of the canyon, and it is a very long way down.  The only facility at the end of this road is a small dirt parking area and a rustic port-a-potty.

The view from Miner Overlook

The next overlook off the main road is on the left and goes to Miner Overlook.  This overlook is a road that goes to the edge of the canyon and loops around a butte and gives more nice views of a part of the canyon that looks more like the Grand Canyon.  If you climb up onto the top of the butte that the road circles, you can look east and have a nice view of the La Sal Mountains and other rock formations to the east.

The next marked road off the main road is on the right and goes to Trough Springs, which is a hiking trial that descends into Kane Creek Canyon on an old cattle road.  It is 2.5 miles long and descends 1100 feet.

A small arch we found at Anticline Overlook

At the end of the main road is Anticline Overlook.  This overlook gives you a look at beautiful views of a different part of the canyon that has different rock formations than at the other end of the canyon. It is a must-do for anyone who likes crazy roads: from the overlook we saw ATVs and jeeps going up and down a road that would give an engineer the shivers.  It twists and turns, and eventually crosses a butte.  You can also see the potash plant that is on the other side of Moab, and there are some educational signs about the forming of the canyon and how potash is made.  Anticline Overlook also has picnic tables and port-a-potties at it.

Canyon Rims Recreation Area is not very well known, but it is a must-do for anyone traveling between Moab and Monticello—the views won’t let you down.

Fees: None

Open: All year

Closed: Some of the dirt roads may be impassible when wet

Camping: The park has two campgrounds, one on the paved road and one on the gravel part of the road.  Fees are $12/night (3/10), and both campgrounds have toilets, water (mid-April through late-September), and picnic tables.  Windwhistle campground has 15 sites, Hatch Point, 10.

Lodging: None.  The closest lodging is in Monticello, over 20 miles away.

Trail ★★★☆☆

Road ★★★☆☆

Signs ★★★☆☆

Scenery ★★★★★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

This Week’s Featured Product!

There is so much to see both within and outside of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks! This guide gives you a taste of what there is to see around Moab.


30 thoughts on “Canyon Rims: Better than Island in the Sky

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  9. Anne


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