Island in the Sky was our favorite district within Canyonlands. Although it was definitely more crowded, you can drive between all of the attractions, and the hikes are all short and easy with just as rewarding payoffs. If you only have the time or energy for one, definitely do Grand View Overlook (at sunset for an extra bonus), because the view of the white rim is stunning.
Mesa Arch Trail
Elevation Change: None
Trailhead: Google Maps
One of our must-sees of Canyonlands, we were very excited to see Mesa Arch. We parked in the Mesa Arch Parking Area and started walking on the very flat trail. In the beginning of the hike, it's hard to imagine that a large arch is nearby, and you really don't see it until the very end.
Most of the famous photos of Mesa Arch are taken at sunrise, and I could see how the sun shining from beneath the arch could light up the underside of the arch beautifully.
Although other hikers may walk to the top of the arch for that much-wanted photo, please note that climbing on arches may damage them.
We hiked back on the loop, which was nice because I much prefer loop hikes over out-and-backs.
Links to other trip reports:
Whale Rock Trail
Elevation Change: 100'
From the Upheaval Dome parking lot, it's a steep climb up the 'tail' of the whale. There are handrails to provide assistance, and it was fun to climb up this unique rock to see the view from the top. We took an alternate route down, and ended up having to hike through some bushes to get back to the car.