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Canyonlands National Park: Upheaval Dome

Is it a meteorite or a salt formation? Gather your own conclusions about the origins of this mysterious ring of rock on this challenging, 7.6-mile loop in Canyonlands National Park.

Trip Tools

The literal centerpiece of this 7.6-mile loop is an anomaly in an already otherworldly landscape. Two theories attempt to explain the deformed rock in the 3-mile wide Upheaval Dome area, but whether it’s a meteorite or a long-dissolved salt formation, you’ll catch a spectacular panoramic view of the jumbled geology near the trailhead.
From the parking area, the route turns right and follows the Syncline Loop Trail counterclockwise through pinon and juniper woodland along the east side of the formation. The trail descends steadily until just before mile 2 and then turns more sharply downhill before following a cliff band through a pour-off and into a shady, riparian landscape near the top of the Syncline Valley. The trail follows the valley floor until joining the Upheaval Canyon trail at mile 4.5. You’ll follow the Upheaval Wash west for a quarter mile and then turn uphill. The first mellow mile of climbing is followed by a steep scramble back toward the Island in the Sky.
A difficult climb and navigational challenges (read: scattered cairns) are almost guaranteed on this hike and extreme desert temperatures are always possible. If you question your route-finding skills, fitness, or level of preparedness consider the short-and-sweet Overlook Trail as an alternative.
-Mapped by Steve Howe

To Trailhead

From Island in the Sky Visitor Center, continue 6 miles south, then turn right (west) on the Upheaval Dome Road. Go 4.8 miles to the trailhead.

Upheaval Canyon

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