Whale Rock Canyonlands

Whale Rock is located above Upheaval Dome, a unique natural feature on the western end of a magnificent mesa in Canyonlands National Park known as the Island in the Sky. There are two popular theories for what caused the bizarre dome/crater, but neither explains how a whale of a rock ended up stretched across the mesa nearby. This long sandstone formation looks like a giant beached whale that came ashore on the Island in the Sky. A one-mile round trip hike ascends 250 feet to the top of Whale Rock for a fun view of Upheaval Dome and surrounding canyons.

Prickly Peak Cactus Canyonlands
Prickly Pear Cactus blooming along the trail

The sides of Whale Rock are too steep for hiking, so the gravel trail instead aims for the tail of the whale, which provides a more gradual approach. Turn left up the sandstone slickrock and follow the cairn-lined track up the back of Whale Rock. The cairns are actually cemented in place, making the course secure and easy to follow. Walk out atop the whale’s head and raise your periscope! You will be treated to a fine view of Upheaval Dome to the west and expansive canyons to the south.

Whale Rock Hike
A rock shaped like a face

When you are ready to return to port, follow the cairns back off the whale and down the trail to the parking lot. Canyonlands National Park has an entrance fee, but no permit is required to hike Whale Rock Trail, so get out and enjoy!

To get to the trailhead: From the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive south for 6.5 miles. After passing the Mesa Arch turnoff, turn right onto Upheaval Dome Road. Drive 4 miles the trailhead parking area for Whale Rock on the right side of the road.

Trailhead address: Upheaval Dome Road, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT 84532
Trailhead coordinates: 38.42685, -109.91401 (38° 25′ 36.7″N 109° 54′ 50.4″W)

Trail Map
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Elevation Profile
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Photos

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These photos were taken in June of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Canyonlands hike Upheaval Dome
This 1.7-mile hike visits two overlooks along the rim of a puzzling three-mile wide crater.
Canyonlands hike Aztec Butte
This is a 1.8 -mile hike ascends a dome-shaped butte that houses Puebloan granaries and offers nice views of Taylor Canyon.
Canyonlands hike Mesa Arch
This 0.7-mile loop visits a picturesque arch spanning across the mesa's edge.
Canyonlands hikes More trails in Utah
Explore other hikes in Canyonlands National Park and elsewhere.
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Tagged with · Island in the Sky
Distance: 1 mile · Elevation change: 250 feet

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