Canyonlands is known for its rugged land and untrammeled wilderness. It is carved into three districts, Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Needles. The Maze district appeals to only the most intrepid adventurers and requires a GPS unit, compass, and topographic map. Both Canyonlands and Arches are located near Moab, UT, a mecca for biking, hiking, climbing and other adventuring activities.
Summer in Moab is hot! May through September daily highs are in the 90s to 100s Fahrenheit. With little shade and a very dry climate, midday runs should be avoided. Take your runs in the morning or evening (when temperatures are cooler) and make sure you are drinking plenty of water before and after!
Canyonlands NPS Map Moab Running Guide
Colorado River Overlook
7 miles out-and-back. Start: Needles Visitor Center
Located in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, this route follows a 7 mile dirt road. Leave from the Visitor’s Center and lose yourself in the beautiful scenery for as many miles as you please.
The surface is mostly sand and dirt with a bit of sliprock (which is hard to avoid in this park). Along this route you can enjoy views of Salt Creek and Monument Basin. Run for as long as you please and lose yourself in the scenery. Although this route is along a road, chances are you won’t ever see a car on your run.
Canyonlands: Neck Springs
If you are looking for a longer run and up for a bit of a challenge, Neck Spring Loop is for you. One of the most secret trails in the Island in the Sky district, this loop offers great wildlife views and remnants of Ancestral Puebloan and weathered ranching gear. The Neck refers to a narrow natural land bridge that connects the Island in the Sky with the wider plateau to the north. This well packed dirt loop is for the most part level and leads you to the rim of the canyon and back. The parking lot for the trailhead is shared with the Shafer Canyon Viewpoint, about a half mile south of the Island in the Sky Visitor’s Center on the left side of the road.
Canyonlands: Murphy Point Overlook
This well established 1.8 mile trail leads to amazing views of Candlestick Tower, Turks Head, Soda Spring Basin and the Maze district. The best time to run this is in the evening, it is famous for the sunset views it provides!
The trail crosses a section of the expansive island mesa to an overlook that provides views of the canyons and mesas of the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park as well as glimpses of the Green River and many prominent buttes, spires and rock formations such as Cleopatra’s Throne. For the most part this trail is flat and non-technical, however at the very end there are stairs climbing up about 100ft leading to the edge of the mesa.
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