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.
LocationMap 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.
A rougher path (the 8 mile 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.