Monument Basin Overlook via the Gooseberry Trail

The spires of Monument Basin from the overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The spires of Monument Basin from the overlook

Last week, I posted about hiking the Gooseberry Trail, better known as the fastest route between the rim of Island in the Sky to the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park.  This week, I’d like to take you along on our trek from the bottom of the Gooseberry Trail to an overlook of Monument Basin with its fantastic formations.  Along the way, you’ll get some pretty great views.  But be warned: There is no trail in some sections and you’ll be scrambling up some definite Class 3 slopes.

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 8.3 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Gain: 2,716ft. Pets: No Fees: $30/vehicle

A thin rib of rock above the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
A thin rib of rock above the Monument Basin Overlook

Actually, there’s no reason you couldn’t just walk along the White Rim Road to the rim of Monument Basin and have a fairly flat trail the entire way.  The problem with this route is that it’s 2.4 miles longer – each way!  And considering that you’re already hiking the 5 mile (RT) Gooseberry Trail, you really don’t need any extra mileage.

The La Sal Mountains over red cliffs, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The La Sal Mountains over red cliffs

The other good reason to hike the overland route is that you get views of Monument Basin sooner.  We were racing against daylight, so we didn’t end up taking the entire route down to the rim of the basin; instead, we stopped at the top of the pass and enjoyed the great views from up there.

Looking down on Monument Basin, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Looking down on Monument Basin

I first read about the possibility of doing this hike over on the American Southwest website (a great resource!)  Then the website owner listed it as one of his favorite hikes in all of Canyonlands.  I was sold, and he was right: It’s a really beautiful hike!

Gooseberry Campsite A along the White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Gooseberry Campsite A

From the bottom of the Gooseberry Trail, turn right (south) on the White Rim Road.  Pass by the two Gooseberry Campsites (Campsite B has a primitive restroom about 0.4 miles from the Gooseberry Trail) and continue along the road.

The road to Gooseberry Campsite B, White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The road to Gooseberry Campsite B

You want to go around one small arm off of the main arm of the mesa (the White Rim overlook is up on top of the mesa somewhere!)

Three hikers on the White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Three hikers on the White Rim Road

About 0.9 miles from the bottom of the Gooseberry Trail, you’ll cross a wash.  There have been several washes up to this point, but this is the biggest yet and obviously heads south toward a saddle in the arm of the mesa that extends out across the White Rim.  (This is why the White Rim Road is so much longer than the overland route – it has to go around this arm, whereas we’re going to climb over it.)

Leaving the White Rim Road for a cross-country hike to Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Leaving the road – this is not actually the wash (see below)

Turn right (south) up this wash.  (Note: On the map, you can see that I continued on the road a short distance further to the point where the road takes a sharp turn to travel due east – I went off-trail back to the wash, but just walking up the wash is easier.)

Hiking cross-country toward the saddle and Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Hiking cross-country toward the saddle (the arrow)

At first, the wash is somewhat wide, sandy, and easy walking.  Keep your eyes open for fantastic rock formations and great views in this section (especially back toward the La Sal Mountains).

Views from the wash of the La Sal Mountains en route to the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views from the wash

As you approach the arm of the mesa, the wash becomes much rockier.  It may even look impossible.  However, you can skirt most of the large rocks and continue generally up the wash.

I'm about to drop down into the wash en route to the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
I’m about to drop down into the wash

As you climb, choose your route carefully.  There are plenty of impossible ways to do this and a few good ways to do the same thing.  Also, some slopes are more stable than others.

Climbing up the head of the wash en route to the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Climbing up the head of the wash

My group scouted out several routes to ascend into the saddle.  The easiest one we found was a little to the left of the head of the wash via a crack in the rim rocks.  I was grateful for a hand up this, as it would be easier for taller people.  Even so, it was a definite Class 3 scramble.  A bit more zigzagging and scrambling brought us up to the top of the saddle.  Yay!

Some of my group members scouting out the best route.  They finally came back toward me.  Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Some of my group members scouting out the best route. They finally came back toward me.

Look back down at the way you’ve come.  There are some pretty good views in this direction, especially in the fall/winter when the sun is pretty far south.

Looking back down the wash toward Gooseberry Canyon from Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Looking back down the wash toward Gooseberry Canyon

It’s an easy walk across the top of the saddle and over to views down on Monument Basin.  Wow!

Views down on Monument Basin from the Saddle, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views down on Monument Basin – this is without zoom, so you know how far away you are!

You can also see quite a stretch of the White Rim Road and the cliffs of Island in the Sky.

The White Rim Road and Junction Butte near Monument Basin, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The White Rim Road and Junction Butte

And if you look south and a little east, you can see the Needles!

The Needles from Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The Needles, far away

Unfortunately, the sun deserted us about this point, so my pictures aren’t the best for two reasons: 1) it was cloudy/hazy, and 2) shooting south in October just doesn’t work very well due to the sun making its way further south.  But the conditions did make for some interesting lighting.

The White Rim Road above Monument Basin, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The White Rim Road above Monument Basin

From here, I’ve heard that it’s possible to walk to the right and scramble down an arm of the mesa to get to the White Rim Road.  From there, it’s a simple thing to walk over the very rim of Monument Basin.

Spires in Monument Basin, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Spires in Monument Basin

Unfortunately for me, we were racing against daylight, so we didn’t try this.  Instead, we stayed on the southern rim of the saddle and enjoyed the views.

Rock formations in Monument Basin, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Rock formations in Monument Basin

Return the way you came: Back down through the crack in the rock, back down the wash, back up the White Rim Road, and then back up the Gooseberry Trail to the parking area!

Hiking back down into the wash from the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Hiking back down into the wash

Round Trip Trail Length: I ended at 8.75 miles; without some of my little detours, I’d put it closer to 8.3 miles from the Gooseberry Trailhead to the saddle overlooking Monument Basin and back

Elevation Gain: 2,716ft. (6,275ft. to 4,596ft.)

Facilities: Picnic facilities and one primitive restroom at the Gooseberry Trailhead.  A primitive restroom is located near the second Gooseberry Campsite.

Fees: $30/vehicle, valid 7 days.  Southeast Utah Parks Pass and America the Beautiful passes are also accepted.

A fun little rock formation near the wash en route to Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
A fun little rock formation near the wash

Trail Notes: Much of this route is off-trail.  Be very comfortable and experienced in off-trail navigation, trail-finding, and scrambling before you attempt this route.  Be wary of vehicles on the White Rim Road – most drivers are very courteous of hikers, but it pays to be careful.  The route is very exposed and dry; don’t try this one in the summer or on a hot day.  Be sure to look at views down on Gooseberry Canyon as you walk by its head – it’s incredible, especially in the afternoon.

Views of cliffs while walking along the White Rim Road, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views of cliffs while walking along the White Rim Road

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

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

Overall Rating: ★

Cliffs across the desert.  The White Rim Overlook is up there somewhere!  Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Cliffs across the desert. The White Rim Overlook is up there somewhere!

GPS Coordinates for the Gooseberry Trail to Monument Basin Overlook

Gooseberry Trailhead: 38.322842,-109.849479 (38°19.37052′, -109°50.96874′ / 38°19’22.2312″, -109°50’58.1244″) (6,262ft.) (0.0)

White Rim Overlook Junction: 38.323031,-109.848374 (38°19.38186′, -109°50.90244′ / 38°19’22.9116″, -109°50’54.1464″) (6,255ft.) (340ft.)

Begin descent: 38.323210,-109.847540 (38°19.39260′, -109°50.85240′ / 38°19’23.5560″, -109°50’51.1440″) (6,260ft.) (0.13)

Wash: 38.328575,-109.846638 (38°19.71450′, -109°50.79828′ / 38°19’42.8700″, -109°50’47.8968″) (5,074ft.) (1.12)

Views and rocks along the wash en route to Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views and rocks along the wash

Sign at White Rim Road: 38.335104,-109.829010 (38°20.10624′, -109°49.74060′ / 38°20’06.3744″, -109°49’44.4360″) (4,736ft.) (2.49)

Return to White Rim Road after lunch: 38.335132,-109.828774 (38°20.10792′, -109°49.72644′ / 38°20’06.4752″, -109°49’43.5864″) (4,732ft.) (2.87)

Gooseberry Campground: 38.330379,-109.827081 (38°19.82274′, -109°49.62486′ / 38°19’49.3644″, -109°49’37.4916″) (4,794ft.) (3.28)

Leave Road: 38.325929,-109.820630 (38°19.55574′, -109°49.23780′ / 38°19’33.3444″, -109°49’14.2680″) (4,829ft.) (3.80)

A fossil on a rock near the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
A fossil on a rock

Top of pass: 38.318661,-109.823884 (38°19.11966′, -109°49.43304′ / 38°19’07.1796″, -109°49’25.9824″) (5,125ft.) (4.54)

Return to the White Rim Road: 38.326581,-109.821305 (38°19.59486′, -109°49.27830′ / 38°19’35.6916″, -109°49’16.6980″) (4,824ft.) (5.32)

Gooseberry Trail/White Rim Road Junction: 38.335119,-109.82884 (38°20.10714′, -109°49.73040′ / 38°20’06.4284″, -109°49’43.8240″) (4,733ft.) (6.24)

End: 38.322847,-109.849497 (38°19.37082′, -109°50.96982′ / 38°19’22.2492″, -109°50’58.1892″) (6,262ft.) (8.74)

The La Sal Mountains, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The La Sal Mountains

The gpx file for the Gooseberry Trail to the Monument Basin Overlook can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 170.6 KB Downloaded 4 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Standing on the edge of the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Standing on the edge of the overlook

Getting to the Gooseberry Trailhead

From the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive south on the main road.  Continue straight toward Grand View Overlook when the road to Green River Overlook, the Campground, Upheaval Dome, etc., goes off on the right.  About 11.3 miles south of the visitor center, turn left, following the sign for the picnic area and restrooms.  Halfway around the one-way loop, there will be a half a dozen or so parking spaces on the right next to the trailhead.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my trek down the Gooseberry Trail (on right) and then over to the Monument Basin Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Visual trail map and elevation profile for my trek down the Gooseberry Trail (on right) and then over to the Monument Basin Overlook

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

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