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Whale Rock – Canyonlands NP

Distance.76 mi
Elevation Gain105 ft
My Time23 min
Closest TownMoab
Food NearbyCanyon Steak and Waffle

Whale Rock

Whale Rock was an easier hike with lots of walking on the rocks that the kids really seemed to enjoy. It also led to some great views of the park.

The Hike

Honestly this wasn’t my first choice of hikes in Canyonlands. The park was extremely busy and it was hard to find parking at any of the trail heads. Well when life give you lemons, climb Whale Rock! It turned out to be really fun! The rock in question is a large half-football shaped section of slickrock that almost looks like a whale’s back breaching the water.

THe walk up to Whale Rock is almost exclusively on this bare sections of slickrock.

The trail starts with a bit of sand before becoming almost entirely sections of exposed rock. While the description calls for scrambling, the rock is pretty easy to manage and walk up. The elevation gain is more like a long ramp that is a little rocky.

The hardest part is knowing exactly where you are supposed to be going to get up and down the rock. There are a couple of cairns but otherwise there isn’t much to help with direction. As you are heading towards the rock, you will loop to the right so you are facing the main rock head on. Then its just a walk up the slant and you are at the top. You do not want to attempt to go up the sides of the main rock as that gets a little steep!

The Views

The views from the top of the rock are pretty impressive. When you are at Canyonlands, most of the sights are below you so if you have a chance to climb higher it just gives a nice perspective.

The top of the rock is mostly flat which gives you a chance to walk around and take in different angles of the park. It is also completely exposed to elements so be mindful of that if you go up with your kids. It was very windy when I was there and I’m sure in the summer the sun beats down quite a bit.

Overall it was a nice short hike with some great views. Its also a lot of fun to walk over all the rocks!

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around .76 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 105 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 5,820 feet. I was also moving for a total of 23 minutes.

I am a Pro member of Alltrails and love it. If you are interested in the platform, please consider using my affiliate link for AllTrails. It gives me a small commission with no extra cost to you.


This one seems a lot more difficult than it is. From the parking area you see a large whale back section of slickrock and assume it is a tough scramble but really it is a pretty easy walk up the side to get to the top. A lot of children were on top of the rock while I was there and seemed to really enjoy it.


This trail is about 80% walking on the rocks and about 20% walking on a sandy trail. The rocks do get steep at times but if you have the correct footwear it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I would really suggest a good pair of hiking shoes with good grip.


Whale Rock is located in the north-west portion of the Islands in the Sky section of Canyonlands. There is parking for about 15 cars in the parking area and there are no restroom facilities. Canyonlands is part of the National Park System and there is a $30 fee per private vehicle to enter. Annual and Lifetime passes are accepted.

Wrapping up Whale Rock

What a nice easy and fun trail. Walking up the rocks made me feel like a kid again. It was like summiting a small mountain! Nothing too challenging other than making sure you can find the correct way to move around the rocks on this one.

I think if you have kids they will enjoy this hike and the views are pretty fantastic on the top. If you have good hiking shoes you shouldn’t have too many problems with the rock itself so don’t be intimidated!

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at You can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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