Upheaval Dome | Canyonlands National Park

Upheaval Dome is a short hike at the end of Upheaval Dome Road in Canyonlands Island in the Sky. This hike leads to a very odd, very unique crater. Scientists aren’t sure whether the crater was formed by a meteor, or by natural upheaval in a soft layer of rock. The crater is very interesting. It looks like a large bowl filled with sugar, or possibly salt.

What do you think caused the Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands?

The trail to Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands has three distances. There is a short hike to the first overlook that is just a third of a mile to the rim of the crater. However, this includes some climbing over rocky terrain as the trail is ascending to the lip of the crater. It is fairly steep, but with the short distance (0.6 roundtrip), anyone with sure footing should be able to do this easily. There is no shade, so bring sunscreen and water.

The trail is mostly up the side of this hill.
It is steep, but short.

Many people do this short hike up to the rim and head back to the car, but there is a second viewpoint around the rim to the left. Hiking to the second viewpoint exactly doubles the overall distance for Upheaval Dome to 1.2 miles roundtrip, though this section is considerably easier as it travels along the rim of the dome rather than climbing up the side.

We just walk to the first overlook.

When you look down into the large crater, it’s a little surprising. The entire dome consists of Utah red rock. That red rock surrounds you everywhere in this part of the state. It only varies right in the bottom of the crater, where it is white like salt or sugar. Large pinnacles of white jut from the bottom of Upheaval Dome like teeth. It really is a unique feature.

Such a unique spot in this park.

You can also walk all the way around Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands. This trail is called Syncline Loop, but it runs over 8 miles in a loop all around the base of the dome. We have not hiked this trail. We did enjoy the overlooks, which allowed us to see into this massive crater. For other family-friendly hikes in Canyonlands, visit this post.

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