fun things to do with kids in canyonlands national park   Travel for Kids
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Canyonlands National Park


Canyonlands National Park is comprised of four different districts – Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, the Rivers – each with a different landscape, and quite far apart. The most accessible district is Island in the Sky, a high plateau between the Colorado and Green Rivers. Island in the Sky has panoramic canyon views, and is where we spent our time when we visited Canyonlands.


Dead Horse Point State Park On Rte 313 to Canyonlands, it's well worth taking a detour (23 miles) to Dead Horse Point State Park. The overlook in the state park is our favorite panorama of canyon country (better than Grand View Point in our opinion).

      In the visitor center, check out exhibits about the plants and animals in this area (bighorn sheep live in the canyon) and early people who explored this wild landscape. If the weather isn't so great, the visitor center has good views of the canyon from an observation room.
Dead Horse Poiont Overlook
    Dead Horse Point Overlook From the overlook, kids can see all the different layers in the canyon formation you're standing on red-brown Kayenta Sandstone, then dark red Wingate Sandstone cliffs, blue-green Chinle Formation, red, yellow, brown Moenkopi Formation, and the green Colorado River winding around and through the canyon. There's lots of covered picnic tables, so bring your lunch.
    Canyonlands Visitor Center The visitor center has info about different geologic layers in Canyonlands, and a touch table with bighorn sheep skull, mule deer antlers, sandstone pieces and petrified wood. Borrow an Explorer Pack with books (guides to desert life, scat and animal tracks), binoculars, family activities and other goodies.
Mesa Arch
  Mesa Arch Everyone in the family can hike the half mile trail to Mesa Arch. At the start of the trail, pick up the brochure with info about "living" soil crusts, plants and animals that survive in this dry environment, and how Mesa Arch was formed. The view through Mesa Arch stunning pinnacles, buttes and cliffs in the canyon, snow-covered peaks in the distance.
    Whale Rock This is a fun hike for kids as they can pretend they're walking on the back of an giant whale, frozen in stone. The trail goes up and over on the "whale's" back, marked only by cairns. It's not a hike for little kids (the rock is wide, but there are steep drop offs and no guard rails) and don't do the hike if a thunderstorm is brewing.
    Upheaval Dome Upheaval Dome, chocolate and white rock layers at the bottom of a crater three miles across, is a geologic mystery. Was it caused by a meteor smashing into the earth, or other geologic forces that pushed the rock layers up? Take the Crater View Trail (1 mile round trip) to the overlook of this geologic curiosity. Near the parking lot are covered picnic tables.
    Grand View Point
White Rim trail
    White Rim Overlook Trail & Grand View Picnic Area Take the turnoff to the Grand View Picnic Area, a super picnic area with covered picnic tables out of the sun.
    The White Rim Overlook Trail (1.25 mile roundtrip) is one of our favorites. Follow the level trail out on the peninsula for super views of the canyon below and La Sal Mountains in the distance. Along the trail, we imagined all sorts of shapes in the rocks dolphins, manta rays, and undersea grotto with holes for moray eels. On this trail, it really felt like we were on "island in the sky."
      Grand View Point Overlook From this overlook, the whole national park is spread out before you. To the southeast is the Totem Pole Formation, Monument Basin, the White Rim and Colorado River. To the southwest are cliffs, buttes and the Green River.
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