Crater View Trail, Island in the Sky: Upheaval Dome Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Crater View Trail - 1.7 miles

Island in the Sky: Upheaval Dome Trailhead

The Crater View Trail

The Crater View Trail

Round-Trip Length: 1.7 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,675' - 5,632' (5,812' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +7' net elevation gain (to 2nd view point) : +410' total roundtrip elevation gain
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Crater View Trail - 1.7 Miles Round-Trip

The Crater View Trail runs .85 miles over brilliant slickrock benches to the Upheaval Dome overlook. In a landscape of predictable sandstone layering, Upheaval Dome stands out as one of Utah’s most curious geological features.

The Upheaval Dome Crater is over 2 miles wide, ringed by downwarped rock layers called a Syncline. Rocks in the center of the crater have been pushed up into a circular structure called a dome, and in this case more specifically, an Anticline.

Geologists are not sure how this oddity was formed, but two strong theories have emerged:

Salt Dome Theory

A thick layer of salt left by evaporated inland seas underlies much of southeastern Utah (see the Paradox Formation in Arches National Park). Under pressure from overlying rock, salt can flow like hot plastic, or ice moving at the bottom of a glacier.

Over time and under the right amount of pressure, salt can flow up through rock layers as a salt bubble, and emerge above the surface as a dome. Energy from this process would ripple out and deform surrounding rock.

Research suggests that a salt bubble - as well as any overlying rock - have been entirely removed by erosion, and the present surface of Upheaval Dome is the pinched off stem below the original bubble.

Impact Crater Theory

Geologists estimate that a meteorite (or meteorite debris) roughly 1/3 of a mile across hit this location about 60 million years ago. The impact created a large explosion, forming a large crater that would partially collapse on itself. As the perimeter stabilized, underlying rocks heaved upward to fill the void left by the impact.

Subsequent erosion has washed away remains of the meteorite, exposing the crater’s original interior, and rock layers once buried thousands of feet underground.

Crater View Trail

Whatever its true origin, scientists can agree the formation we see today is the result of erosion on a structural dome. Rock layers at the surface within the dome were once buried at least a mile underground, and are not visible anywhere else in the area.

The Crater View Trail runs up and down through a magnificent slickrock landscape to two crater overlooks (.3 miles : 5,812’ and .85 miles : 5,632’).

While the viewpoints are fascinating, the trail itself is equally compelling. Visitors will enjoy open travel over multicolor slickrock benches with exceptional views that reach the Green River. Follow cairns closely – despite the short distance, it’s quite easy to loose track in this indistinguishable landscape.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 25.576 W109 55.567 — 0.0 miles : Upheaval Dome Trailhead
  • N38 25.737 W109 55.752 — .3 miles : Crater Overlook #1
  • N38 25.901 W109 56.119 — .85 miles : Crater Overlook #2

Worth Noting

  • The Syncline Loop Trail leaves from the Upheaval Dome Trailhead and follows the washes and canyons that ring the crater. This is a primitive, strenuous trail that should only be attempted by experienced hikers.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips in Canyonlands National Park. Permits can be acquired at Visitor Centers the day of or day before your trip. Advance reservations can be made up to 4 months out and are recommended during peak season.

Call the Backcountry Reservation Office for more information: 435.259.4351

Click here to access the online reservation system.

  • There's a $30 fee per party to backcountry camp in Canyonlands National Park.
  • Hikers must camp in designated sites where explicitly stated. You may otherwise choose your own campsite in designated at-large zones.
  • At-large sites must be at least 1 mile away from any road and 300' from any archeological site, historical site or water source.
  • Mountain Bikers and 4WDs must stay on established roads and camp in designated sites at all times.
  • Fires are not permitted at backcountry campsites or within the backcountry in Canyonlands National Park.
  • Desert water sources are scarce and fragile. Do not bathe or wash dishes in creeks or pools. 

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 fee per vehicle to enter Canyonlands National Park (defined as private passenger cars with 15 people or less). Passes are good for 7 consecutive days.
  • $15 per motorcycle.
  • $10 per person (walk or bike).
  • Dogs are not permitted on trails in Canyonlands National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Upheaval Dome Trailhead is located 11.3 miles from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center on Upheaval Dome Road.

Contact Information

Canyonlands National Park

2282 SW Resource Blvd

Moab, UT 84532

Island in the Sky District: 435.259.4712

Backcountry Reservation Office: 435.259.4351

Park Administration: 435.719.2100

Trip Reports

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