Late Afternoon at the White Rim Overlook

Monument Basin from the White Rim Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Monument Basin from the White Rim Overlook

If you can only visit one overlook for close-to-sunset in Island of the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, I’ll give you two choices: 1) Grand View Overlook, and 2) White Rim Overlook.  Both offer fantastic views of the eastern Canyonlands and Monument Basin, and to be honest, while they’re very different, they offer a similar enough view that it’s hard for me to decide which one I like better.  But since Grand View is so popular, White Rim might be a slight preference since it offers a chance at a little more peace and quiet.

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 1.9 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Gain: 528ft. Pets: No Fees: $30/vehicle

Buck Canyon and the eastern Canyonlands from near the Gooseberry and White Rim Overlook Trailhead, Island in the Sky District, Utah
Buck Canyon and the eastern Canyonlands from near the trailhead

I started my hike in the not quite mid-afternoon on a weekday in November.  Snow and cold temperatures had driven most of the crowds out of Moab a couple of weeks earlier, so the entire area was pretty quiet.  There are less than a dozen or so parking spaces at the trailhead and picnic area combined, so come early in regular seasons.  That’s a hard one to say since the White Rim Overlook is best in the last few hours before sunset.

Setting out from the Gooseberry and White Rim Overlook Trailhead, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Setting out from the trailhead

Actually, the Gooseberry Trail (post coming soon!) and the White Rim Overlook share the same trail for the first few hundred feet.  Then the Gooseberry Trail turns left to scramble up some slickrock and plunge over the edge into relative oblivion, while the White Rim Overlook Trail goes right to stay on the mesa top.  Most of the parking spaces are taken by those hiking the Gooseberry Trail, so they should be finished and leaving about the time you’re looking to hike to the White Rim Overlook for sunset.

The White Rim Overlook Trail, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The White Rim Overlook Trail

The trail is fairly non-descript; typical sand-and-slickrock-follow-the-cairns tread with peek-a-boo views toward the Canyonlands.  Just before the end of the trail, the views open up tremendously down on Monument Basin (to the right).  On the left is a large rock formation with a little arch.

The La Sal Mountains through the little arch at the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The La Sal Mountains through the little arch

Keep walking down the narrow path to the actual viewpoint.  There are no railings, and you’re out on a fin in the canyon, so there are some serious drop-offs!

At the end of the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
At the end of the White Rim Overlook

The views from here are spectacular.  Monument Basin is the first thing that catches your eye – all of those rock formations!

Monument Basin from the White Rim Overlook in the mid-afternoon, Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Monument Basin from the White Rim Overlook in the mid-afternoon

But the La Sal Mountains are also fantastic!

The La Sal Mountains and cliffs over the Colorado River from the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The La Sal Mountains and cliffs over the Colorado River

Then there are the views of Gooseberry Canyon…

Spires in Gooseberry Canyon from the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Spires in Gooseberry Canyon (zoom shot)

And the White Rim Road…

A cyclist on the White Rim Road near the restroom for the Gooseberry Campsites from White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
A cyclist on the White Rim Road near the restroom for the Gooseberry Campsites

The Potash settling basins…

You can just see the Potash settling basins from White Rim Overlook in Island of the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
You can just see the Potash settling basins

Off in the distance, you can even see the Needles!

The Needles from White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The Needles

So many amazing views!

Rock spires in Monument Basin from the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Rock spires in Monument Basin

When you’ve finally had your fill of views (or when the sun goes down!) retrace your steps to the parking area.  It’s a short and sweet trail, but it’s so worth it to see the views!

Views from the overlook just before the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views from the overlook just before the White Rim Overlook

Round Trip Trail Length: 1.9 miles out & back

Elevation Gain: 528ft. (6,275ft. to 6,105ft.)

Facilities: One-seater primitive restroom in the picnic area; picnic tables

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

"Monuments" in Monument Basin, White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
“Monuments” in Monument Basin

Trail Notes: There are no railings.  I never felt in danger, but this might not be the best hike for young children.  The views are best in the few hours before sunset – too close to sunset and Monument Basin will be too shadowed for good photos, but the La Sals will be great all the way until dark (not that I recommend hiking back in the dark!)

Views over Gooseberry Canyon from the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views over Gooseberry Canyon

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

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

Overall Rating: ★

A Cooper's Hawk high in the sky over the Canyonlands, Island in the Sky, Utah
A Cooper’s Hawk high in the sky over the Canyonlands

GPS Coordinates for the White Rim Overlook

White Rim/Gooseberry Trailhead: 38.3228500°, -109.8494667° (N38° 19.371′ W109° 50.968′ / 38°19’22.2600″, -109°50’58.0800″) (6,271ft.) (0.0)

White Rim/Gooseberry Trail Junction: N38° 19.382′ W109° 50.903′ (6,226ft.) (300ft.)

White Rim Overlook: 38.3200000°, -109.8352667° (N38° 19.200′ W109° 50.116′ / 38°19’12.0000″, -109°50’06.9600″) (6,102ft.) (0.95)

End: 38.3228333°, -109.8494833° (N38° 19.370′ W109° 50.969′ / 38°19’22.2000″, -109°50’58.1400″) (6,232ft.) (1.86)

Views over the end of Gooseberry Canyon from the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Views over the end of Gooseberry Canyon

The gpx file for the White Rim 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: 32.9 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!)

More rock formations in Monument Basin as seen from the White Rim Overlook, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
More rock formations in Monument Basin

Getting to the White Rim Overlook 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 half a dozen or so parking spaces on the right next to the trailhead.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike to the White Rim Overlook in Island of the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike to the White Rim Overlook (Note: GoogleEarth has put its dropoffs in the wrong place, so the trail doesn’t actually descend steeply like the profile shows.)

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

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