This short family-friendly hike visits the top of a massive sandstone dome that resembles a whale. From the top hikers are treated to panoramic views of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.This trail is suitable for children and adults of all skill levels but does have some mild slopes and uneven terrain that may be difficult for some. Watch children closely near cliff edges.


This hike begins at the Whale Rock Trailhead (38.426803,-109.913830) near Upheaval Dome in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. To reach Island in the Sky 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 4.0 miles to the signed Whale Rock Trailhead on the right.

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

The Hike

From the parking area, begin hiking on the trail heading north toward Whale Rock. For the first quarter mile, the trail winds up and down across a mix of slickrock and sand before reaching the east end, or the ‘tail’ of Whale Rock. Turn left here following a series of rock cairns to the top of Whale Rock (38.428676,-109.916614).

A large flat area on top of Whale Rock offers a place to sit and take in the outstanding view of the Island in the Sky area. Aztec Butte can be seen to the southeast and the rim of Upheaval Dome is visible on the horizon to the northwest. For the best view, make the short climb to the top of the small dome on top of Whale Rock. When you’re done taking in the view, return the way you came.

Rules & Regulations

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

Special Considerations

  • 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.