Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park

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Photographs of Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome is an amazing metamorphic feature whose origin is the subject of some debate. In stark contrast to the otherwise flat sedimentary rock formations across all of Canyonlands, this is a crater, 2 miles wide, surrounded by a ring of raised Kayenta and Wingate sandstone in which the strata have been buckled and twisted. At the center, some way below the rim, sits a blue-grey mass of distorted rock; the basin resembles a volcanic crater but it is thought either to result from meteorite impact or an upsurge of salt deposits from deep below the surface. It was described by an eminent geologist in 1943 as the most remarkable geological site yet discovered in Utah.


Map of the Island in the Sky.


A paved road leads to the dome, branching off the main scenic drive at Willow Flat, at the center of the Island in the Sky, and also passing several overlooks and trailheads (Whale Rock, Alcove Spring, Aztec Butte and Wilhite - see trail index). From the parking area at the end of this road, a short path (the Crater View Trail) climbs to the top of the rim to a viewpoint above the steepest section of the crater walls, and another branch continues half mile westwards to a second overlook, perched right on the edge of the cliffs and giving an excellent view of the crater.

Upheaval Canyon

A rougher path (the Syncline Loop) circles around the crater. In a clockwise direction, this descends gently at first, following just below the south rim, then drops more steeply into the upper end of Upheaval Canyon, a dry, 3 mile long drainage that joins the Green River. A separate trail runs beside the streambed of this canyon and meets the White Rim access road at a flat area next to the river (Upheaval Bottom), site of the primitive Labyrinth Campsite. The combined route is the quickest way to hike to one of the rivers from the Island region, although it is rather strenuous at some points. The Syncline Loop continues around the north side of Upheaval Dome via Syncline Valley, and is again steep at first but more level for the 1.5 miles back to the carpark. Upheaval Canyon can also be reached by climbing down the cliffs at the end of the Crater view trail.

Upheaval Dome itself is one of the most memorable features in Canyonlands National Park, partly because it is so unexpected, and so different from the surrounding terrain.

Rocks by Upheaval Canyon
Upheaval Canyon
Center of Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail

Trail across undulating land, climbing a little, to two viewpoints on the southeast rim of Upheaval Dome, a deep crater possibly resulting from meteoric impact

Length: 1 mile

Elevation change: 200 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Type: One way. Much more of the dome can be seen via the Syncline Loop Trail, which circles all around the edge

Usage: High

Season: All year

Trailhead: Parking area at the end of a side road; 38.426,-109.925

Rating (1-5): ★★★★


Nearby Trails

Aztec Butte Trail

Gooseberry Trail

Grand View Trail

Mesa Arch Trail

Murphy Point Trail

Neck Spring Trail

White Rim Overlook Trail

Wilhite Trail

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