Hiking, boating, kayaking, biking, backpacking and rock climbing are a few of the suggested activities the vast 337,598-acre park has to offer. I had just a few days to visit the park and found that the Island in the Sky was the easiest to get to from Salt Lake City and had many short hikes with impressive views, a convenient campsite, and helpful guides. Orienting yourself to the park by driving from the visitor's center to the Grand View Point overlook along the paved road is a scenic sight alone. Stop by the many pullouts along the way with short hikes to the overlooks. Check out Buck Canyon overlook and White Rim overlook. The 0.5-mile loop trail to Mesa Arch is easy and you can rest right beneath the arch and view the layers of canyons. Aztec Butte takes you around the butte to see small Native American granaries. This trail is short but steep and slick.
For a longer hike, consider the Syncline or Murphy's Loop. Murphy's Loop can take roughly four to six hours and makes a steep drop into the canyon, connects to White Rim Road and then loops back to the trailhead. There is very little shade on the trail and it is very steep on the return. As always you should bring lots of water and wear sunscreen. If you are unsure about which trail to take and which hike would be appropriate for your and your group, ask at the visitor's center. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle there are a number of roads that offer further exploration of the park on the White Rim Road, Shafer Trail, and Potash Roads. If you wish to explore the Colorado River, you must have a four-wheel drive vehicle while in Island in the Sky.
The Willow Flats Campground has 12 sites and they fill up rather quickly. As reservations are not allowed, you must either arrive early or camp outside the park. The fee at Willow Flats Campground is $10 per night. If the campground is full, and it usually fills by 10 a.m., I recommend camping at Horsethief, located just outside the park for $12 per night. It is convenient to the park, there is plenty of space, and outdoor toilets and fire grills are on site.
Because of the remote location of Canyonlands National Park, it makes for an ideal location for stargazing. Spend time to relax on your camp chair and view the stars. You might even want to bring along an astronomy guide and a telescope. If you are not up for camping, Moab is a short drive and is loaded with motel and hotel rooms and a variety of places to eat.
Take time to talk to the rangers. I found every park ranger helpful in offering suggestions and answering my questions. The visitor's center is a great place to start and offers trail maps, friendly rangers, and a small gift shop that sells mostly Utah travel guides.
Do not expect to find water, food or sunscreen and any other necessary hiking goods anywhere in the park. You must pack in your own water. At the Grandview Point overlook Ranger Talks cover the geological history and other topics and are usually given twice daily. The geologist who conducted the talk I attended was knowledgeable, friendly and passionate about rocks - a nice addition to few days of hiking and camping.