Many people ask if you can visit both Arches and Canyonlands in one day. The answer is yes!
If you’re wanting to see all the things and do several hikes, you won’t be able to do both in one day. But if you’re short on time and don’t plan to hike a lot. It’s definitely doable!
Keep reading for a suggested itinerary for visiting both parks in the same day.
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One Day in Arches and Canyonlands Island in the Sky District
- One Day in Arches and Canyonlands Island in the Sky District
- Arches National Park and Canyonlands in One Day
Short on time and trying to decide between Arches or Canyonlands? You can actually choose both!
Although you won’t be able to see everything in each park, you can hit the highlights of each park and still see a lot!
If you stay in Moab, you’ll have relatively quick access to both Canyonlands and Arches. While Canyonlands isn’t near as popular as Arches, trust me when I say it’s worth visiting.
The entrance to Arches is just north of Moab. Canyonlands is a bit farther. The distance between Arches and Canyonlands is about 35 minutes (entrance to entrance).
A little bit of background on Canyonlands, it’s actually composed of 3, unconnected sections:
- Island in the Sky
- The Maze
Each section of the park must be visited separately. This post will focus on the Island in the Sky District. This is the only section I’ve visited so that’s all I can give recommendations on. Plus it’s the easiest section to reach from Moab.
To get to Canyonlands Island in the Sky District, head north out of Moab on Highway 191 and turn left (west) onto Highway 313.
After having visited both parks, this would be my suggested itinerary:
See the Sunrise at Mesa Arch
Make sure you read my post about visiting Mesa Arch at Sunrise. You will need to get there early if you want a good viewing spot (and parking spot). This is one of the coolest things you will see so I consider it a must-do!
The trailhead is located about 10 minutes past the visitor center on the left. It’s marked & was easy for us to find in the dark.
Grand View Overlook
After Mesa Arch, head further into Canyonlands, all the way to the end of Grand View Point Road.
This is one of my favorite views in the park. For great views, take the mostly flat 0.9-mile trail to get fantastic 360-degree views of Canyonlands.
CAUTION: This trail has steep rock ledges with no railings.
Check out Buck Canyon Overlook
Head back towards the entrance, about 5-minutes down on the right is Buck Canyon Overlook. This is another one of my favorite views in the park. The views from this overlook are absolutely stunning.
Aztec Butte and/or Upheaval Dome
Heading back towards Mesa Arch from Buck Canyon Overlook, take a left onto Upheaval Dome Road. The next parking lot on the right is the Aztec Butte Trailhead.
The Aztec Butte Trail is only 0.6 miles but is moderate and involves a rock scramble (my favorite!).
Upheaval Dome is at the very end of Upheaval Dome Road. You do not have to take the entire Syncline Loop Trail to see the dome. Head out on the trail and when presented with the option to turn left or keep going straight, go straight. This 1.4-mile out-and-back trail will lead you to the rim of Upheaval Dome.
If you’re short on time, my personal preference would be to skip upheaval dome & do the Aztec Buttes.
Now that you’ve seen the best of Island in the Sky, it’s time to head to Arches National Park! This will be about a 45 to 50-minute drive.
Tip: To see both Arches and Canyonlands in one day, I would try to be done with Canyonlands by noon at the latest. Arches is going to have a lot you’ll want to see & you’ll want plenty of time to explore. If you’re visiting during winter where the daylight is shorter, feel free to skip Aztec Buttes and Upheaval Dome altogether.
From the Upheaval Dome parking lot, head back where you came from, turn left onto Grand View Point Road. Keep heading north on Grand View Point Road. It will eventually turn into Highway 313. Stay on 313, then turn right onto Highway 191 when it dead ends. The entrance to Arches will be up on your left on 191.
This is a quick must-see in Arches. Balanced Rock is about 9 miles into Arches on the right. You’ll see it. It will be about 15 minutes from the entrance.
Double Arch & the Windows
If you’re going to have several hours of daylight left, I would definitely recommend doing the Double Arch Trail and the Windows loop. If you’re short on daylight & want more adventure, skip this and head to the Devils Garden Trail.
Note: Double Arch Trail and the Windows Loop are much easier trails than Devil’s Garden.
To get here, turn right on The Windows Road, which is on the right just past Balanced Rock. Head all the way to the end and you’ll see a trailhead for Double Arch and the Windows Loop.
The Windows Loop is a moderately easy 1.0-mile loop and the Double Arch Trail is a 0.5-mile easy, out-and-back trail.
Devils Garden Loop
About 15-20 minutes from the Double Arch trailhead, the Devils Garden Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park.
To get there, head back on The Windows Road, turn right onto Arches Scenic Drive and go all the way to the end.
Now, there are many options for the Devils Garden trail. The full “lollipop” is about 5 miles. The main trail is a moderate, 2.1-mile out-and-back trail. The primitive trail is a moderately difficult 2.2-mile trail.
Please do your research ahead of time to decide which one you want to do. Use AllTrails or the National Park iOS app to check out all your options with this section of the park.
Note that the primitive trail is fantastic, but requires good hiking boots and no fear of heights. There are lots of ledges and steep slickrock that will need to be climbed.
If you’re going to be short on daylight, or not into hiking moderately difficult trails, opt for the first right spur of the trail. It will take you down to several arches that are easy to access.
Now it’s time for the finale: Delicate Arch! Head back towards the entrance, at around 6 miles turn left onto Delicate Arch Road.
The trailhead will be about 1.2 miles on your left. Note that parking may be limited.
I’ve created a whole post on hiking to Delicate Arch for sunset. If you don’t want to be hiking back in the dark, make sure to give yourself enough time.
I will go ahead and tell you I did not like the first half of this hike but it was totally worth it! Hiking uphill on slick rock with zero shade was not fun but getting up close and personal with Delicate Arch makes it worthwhile.
If You Don’t Have Much Daylight
Yes, this is a very busy Arches and Canyonlands itinerary. You can do it if you’re a fast hiker & visiting when the days are long.
Note: I personally feel like early fall is the best time to visit Arches and Canyonlands.
If you’re visiting in winter and the days are short (or if you’re just a slow hiker- no judgment!), you will very likely need to chop something from the list. If I had to cut things out, here’s what I would choose to skip out on:
- Aztec Buttes
- Upheaval Dome
- The Windows Loop
- The full “lollipop” of the Devils Garden Trail (opt for the main trail, out-and-back)
Remember if you’re visiting during summer to bring plenty of water. It’s hot and dry out there with minimal shade.
Arches and Canyonlands One Day Itinerary Overview:
- Sunrise at Mesa Arch
- Grand View Overlook (skip the hike if short on time/daylight)
- Buck Canyon Overlook
- Aztec Buttes (skip if short on time/daylight)
- Upheaval Dome (skip if short on time/daylight)
- Balanced Rock
- Double Arch & the Windows Loop (skip the hikes if short on time/daylight)
- Devils Garden Trail (remember to research your options)
- Delicate Arch Trail
I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to visit Arches and Canyonlands in one day. If you’ll have more time in the area, I’ve written posts on how to spend one day in each park. Check them out below: