Hiking Trails National Parks Travel

Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook

Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook

For the final day of our Mighty 5 Utah road trip, we visited Canyonlands National Park. The night before, we spent some time in Moab taking in our last moments of freedom one can only feel while on vacation. We stopped at the local market which was a lot of fun, because we got to see a tiny glimpse of what life is like for the locals. I can definitely see myself living in a place like Moab some day. For dinner, we were in the mood for Italian and ate at Pasta Jays. After eating at Pasta Jays, we made our way back to the Moab Diner to grab some hot tea and cinnamon rolls for desert. I slept incredibly well that night, dreaming of cinnamon rolls and arches.


Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
Pasta Jays
Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
I Took Two Of These Down With Me

Canyonlands National Park is the largest National Park in Utah. The park is broken down into four districts: The Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and The Rivers. For this trip, we only visited the Island in the Sky district, as it was closest to Moab. The Needles is the next closest district to Moab, but we didn’t have the time needed to make it down to see it.

We got an early start on our final day with a plan to arrive in Canyonlands National Park before sunrise. In just about every book and online post, you’ll see that sunrise at Mesa Arch is a “must see” event. Having now seen the sunrise over the arch, I can say that it definitely is impressive. What’s even more impressive is that there were already 15-20 at the arch when we arrived. I’m glad we got to the arch when we did because that crowd grew to 30+ by the time the sun began to break over the horizon.

The hike to Mesa Arch is .5 miles with 100ft of elevation gain. 


Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
Sunrise At Mesa Arch
Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
Crazy Crowds
Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
Peaking Through

After watching the sun rise at Mesa Arch, Julia and I drove to Upheaval Dome. Upheaval Dome is an impact crater. The formation of Upheaval Dome is not known for certain, but the prevailing theory is that it formed through a meteor impact. As crowded as it was at Mesa Arch, there was no one on the trail for Upheaval Dome. It was really nice to have the trail to ourselves to fully enjoy the later stages of sunrise.

The hike to the Upheaval Dome lookout is 1 mile roundtrip, with the option to tack on another .5 miles by walking to the second lookout. This trail gains 50 ft. 


Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
Upheaval Dome

After finishing our hike out to Upheaval Dome, Julia and I spend some time driving around to some nice lookouts, before making our final stop at the White Rim Overlook. The White Rim Overlook trail totals 1.5 miles out and back, but we only walked about half of it.

In the canyon we could see the 100 mile long White Rim Trail, which stretches across the canyon floor. It’s a great option for hikers and backpackers looking to do a fun adventure. The next time I visit Canyonlands I’m going to take the mountain biking option.


Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
Buck Canyon Overlook
Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook
White Rim Overlook

After our hike around the White Rim Overlook, we made our way back to Moab to take a quick shower and check out of our hotel. As excited and satisfied as felt having just visited The Might 5 National Parks of Utah, I was sad to be leaving it all behind. Southern Utah is one of those places that really leaves an imprint on your heart and mind. I’m finding that it’s near impossible to shake.


I'm Drew, creator of Trail to Peak. Trail to Peak brings content to life on the web through breath-taking photography and captivating video. I launched Trail to Peak in 2014 with a goal to inspire readers to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. I have traveled to 19 countries, walked Camino de Santiago, hiked the John Muir Trail, trekked through the Andes of Peru, and am constantly seeking new adventures in my home state of California. Joining me on my weekly adventures is my partner, Julia, our son, Owen, and our two goldendoodles, Isla and Lilly.

17 comments on “Canyonlands National Park: Sunrise At Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and White Rim Overlook

  1. Really great sunrise photos. Did you do any 4 x 4 ing while you were there?

  2. Oh my that sunrise photo!

  3. I agree. That sunrise photo is stunning. All your photos are stunning!

  4. Wow! We didn’t make it to Canyonlands or Arches when we visited Utah, so I really want to return and visit both. Gorgeous shots! Was everywhere busy with crowds, or were some places relatively quiet?

    • Only the “main attractions” that are close to the roads had large crowds. Most people visiting National Park just drive through and takes photos, so it’s really easy to avoid the masses by hopping on a trail and hiking in. Out of the 5 parks we visited, there were only 3 or 4 times we felt like we were in a crowd. We also went in one of the least crowded times of year. I don’t know what it would be like in the summer!

  5. Thanks again. This is another on our road trip next year. Your photos are beautiful and certainly fill us with excited anticipation. Great tips.

  6. Where worldwide land?

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