Canyonland Views from Murphy Point

Early morning views from Murphy Point, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Early morning views from Murphy Point

The Murphy Trail in Canyonlands National Park can be a little bit confusing – not because hiking it is all that difficult (it’s a trail and it’s pretty hard to get off of it), but because the name is actually used for two trails: The Murphy Point Trail and the Murphy Hogback Trail.  They share a parking area and the first 0.4 miles of trail, but then they become two different entities altogether.  Murphy Point is a fairly flat hike to the rim of Island in the Sky with fantastic views of the Green River, White Rim Road, and Canyonlands.  The Murphy Hogback Trail steeply descends off of Island in the Sky, turns onto the White Rim Road near “Murphy’s Hogback”, and then returns back up to the rim via a slightly different route for part of the hike.  This post is about Murphy Point, not the Murphy Hogback Trail (which I hear is very nice in its own right, but so far I haven’t had the opportunity to hike it).

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 3.5 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Change: 343ft. Pets: No Fees: $30/vehicle

The Murphy Trail crossing the desert meadow between the road and the rim, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The Murphy Trail crossing the desert meadow between the road and the rim

The trail begins in a small dirt parking area – I gather the parking area can be quite crowded on busy days.  Hiking early is a good idea, anyway, since the views are better earlier than later in the day (though late enough that the light can get over Island in the Sky to the canyons below!) since the view is mostly west-facing.

Old fences and other relics from the ranching era of Canyonlands National Park, Murphy Point Trail, Island in the Sky, Utah
Old fences and other relics from the ranching era of Canyonlands National Park

At first, the trail meanders across a grassy plain, passing by some old ranching relics.  There isn’t much in the way of views in this section, though I enjoyed the desert meadow effect.  At 0.4 miles, the trail forks.  A sign points toward Murphy Point and the Murphy Trail to White Rim Road.  Turn right, following the arrow toward Murphy Point.

This part of the Murphy Point Trail looks like an old road.  Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
This part of the trail looks like an old road

As the trail gently descends, views open up more and more to the Canyonlands.  You can almost taste what it’s going to look like when you finally get there!  Shortly before the end, the trail becomes rougher, descending slickrock and navigating around some rocks.  It looks like this part of the trail was once a road.

The roughest part of the Murphy Point Trail - if this was a road, it was a rough one!  Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The roughest part of the trail – if this was a road, it was a rough one!

Keep your eyes open for a view out on the right – Candlestick Tower from this vantage point is pretty awesome!

Unofficial viewpoint of Candlestick Tower along the Murphy Point Trail, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Unofficial viewpoint of Candlestick Tower along the trail

About 1.7 miles from the trailhead, the trail more or less disappears in a lot of slickrock and brush.  From here, it’s pretty easy to scramble as close to the rim as you dare – there aren’t any guardrails.  If people are congregated here, walk/scramble along the rim for a bit in either direction – there are fantastic views from many points along the rim!

Murphy Hogback from Murphy Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Murphy Hogback

To the southeast is Grand View Point and Junction Butte; Murphy Hogback is very obviously due south (it’s just a stretch of butte that extends out further from the canyon wall than most others – the White Rim Road crosses the Hogback, and I hear it’s quite an infamous stretch of road).  Beyond Murphy Hogback on the other side of the river is Ekker Butte with the Henry Mountains in the distance.  To the northwest, Candlestick Tower is obvious; the canyon between you and Candlestick Tower is called Soda Springs Basin.  The Green River winds through it all.

The Green River winding through the Canyonlands from Murphy Point, Island in the Sky Distrcit, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The Green River winding through the Canyonlands

When you’ve picked your jaw up off of the ground at the incredible beauty of the area, be sure to look down at the White Rim Road.  Chances are you’ll see vehicles on it – a telephoto lens or binoculars are useful for seeing the road and vehicles close-up.

A Jeep Gladiator on the White Rim Road from Murphy Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
A Jeep Gladiator on the White Rim Road

Actually, a zoom lens or binoculars are useful just for exploring the canyons with your eyes.  There’s so much to see here, from strange rock formations to the Green River to slickrock domes to canyons you might not be able to distinguish with the naked eye.

Rock formations along the Colorado River using a zoom lens from Murphy Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Rock formations along the Colorado River using a zoom lens

When you’ve finally had your fill of views, return to the Murphy Trailhead.  It’s a short and sweet trail, but it packs a punch in terms of views!

Candlestick Tower and the cliff walls of Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Candlestick Tower and the cliff walls of Island in the Sky

Round Trip Trail Length: 3.5 miles, not including scrambling along the rim

Elevation Gain: 343ft. (6,241ft. to 6,049ft.)

Facilities: None, not even a restroom or picnic table

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

Trail Notes: Try to hike this one in the morning if you can – the views to the west (aka most of the views) will be better.  This is not a great trail for children or for those with a fear of heights, since there are no guardrails and it is an exceedingly long way down.  (That said, my group member who hates heights did just fine – and the trail doesn’t go to the edge, so you can just approach it as close as you want to.)

We just happened to see a V-22 Osprey fly over Murphy Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
We just happened to see a V-22 Osprey fly over

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

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

Overall Rating: ★

Views of Soda Springs Basin and Candlestick Tower from Murphy Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views of Soda Springs Basin and Candlestick Tower

GPS Coordinates for Murphy Point

Murphy Point Trailhead: 38.3550333°, -109.8638167° (N38° 21.302′ W109° 51.829′ / 38°21’18.1200″, -109°51’49.7400″) (6,038ft.) (0.0)

Point vs. Hogback Junction: 38.3514167°, -109.8701333° (N38° 21.085′ W109° 52.208′ / 38°21’05.1000″, -109°52’12.4800″) (6,165ft.) (0.44)

Murphy Point: 38.3421333°, -109.8890333° (N38° 20.528′ W109° 53.342′ / 38°20’31.6800″, -109°53’20.5200″) (6,049ft.) (1.71)

End: 38.3549500°, -109.8639667° (N38° 21.297′ W109° 51.838′ / 38°21’17.8200″, -109°51’50.2800″) (6,209ft.) (3.48)

The White Rim Road descending off of Murphy Hogback, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The White Rim Road descending off of Murphy Hogback

The gpx file for the Murphy Point Trail 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: 41.2 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!)

Close up of Candlestick Tower from Murphy Point, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Close up of Candlestick Tower

Getting to the Murphy Trailhead

From the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, head south 8.7 miles to the Murphy Trailhead, on the right, staying left when the road to Upheaval Dome turns right.  The dirt parking lot can be easy to miss, but it’s obvious once you’re there.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for the trail to Murphy Point, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Visual trail map and elevation profile for the trail to Murphy Point

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For even more hikes in Canyonlands National Park, check out this Falcon Guide to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks – the book covers just about every easily accessible hike in Canyonlands, so you won’t be disappointed.