This short but strenuous trail visits two overlooks perched high up on the rim of Upheaval Dome a curious geologic oddity in Canyonlands National Park. Shaped like a circle and nearly 2 miles wide Upheaval Dome remains somewhat of a mystery to scientists. Some think that it is the result of an eroded salt dome from an ancient sea while others think it may be the result of a meteor impact that occurred more than 60 million years ago. Regardless of how it may have formed it is a magnificent sight to behold.Reaching the second overlook is moderately strenuous; with significant elevation change and exposed ledges it is only advisable for older children and hikers in good physical condition. The first overlook is much easier to access and is suitable for most adults and children.


This hike begins at the Upheaval Dome Trailhead (38.426318, -109.926128) in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. To reach the trailhead from Moab, UT:

  1. Drive north on Highway 191 to the signed junction on the left for Canyonlands National Park.
  2. Drive approximately 20 miles, following signs to the Island in the Sky entrance station.
  3. From the entrance station, continue 7.4 miles and turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road.
  4. Continue on Upheaval Dome Road for 4.8 miles to the Upheaval Dome Trailhead at the end of the road.

There is a $25 per vehicle fee to enter Canyonlands National Park.

The Hike

From the Upheaval Dome Parking Area, begin hiking on the marked trail for Upheaval Dome Overlooks. The path soon intersects with the Syncline Trail, a long, strenuous route that circles the outer edge of Upheaval Dome itself. Keep hiking past this junction and toward the Upheaval Dome Overlook. Soon after this intersection the trail begins to climb the slope ahead.

After gaining 0.3 miles and approximately 100 feet of elevation gain, a junction leading to the first overlook appears on the right. An interpretative sign at the overlook explains the scientific theories of the dome. There are plenty of places to sit and take in the view.

To continue to the second overlook, go back to the main trail and keep hiking west along the rim. At times the trail is only marked by rock cairns as it descends to a low saddle offering more fantastic views of the floor of Upheaval Dome below.

Continue hiking as the trail climbs steeply to a small pass before descending an interesting narrow ledge that is chipped into the side of a cliff. After 0.8 miles from the trailhead, the route ends at the second overlook. A fenced area offers another outstanding view of Upheaval Dome, although it isn’t much different than the views from along the trail. The adventurous route to the second overlook is well worth the extra distance, however.

Rules & Regulations

  • $25 per vehicle fee required to enter Canyonlands National Park. (Annual and regional passes are available.)
  • Pack out all trash.

Special Consideration

  • This area can be extremely hot during spring, summer and fall. Carry plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing.
  • Use extreme caution near cliff edges.


This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.