Syncline Loop is a 7.1 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Canyonlands, Utah that offers the chance to see wildlife and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, and camping and is accessible year-round.

7.1 miles
1,538 feet



trail running




washed out

no shade

no dogs

Loop trail around Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park: Islands in the Sky This strenuous backcountry route follows the washes on either side of Upheaval Dome. Spur trails partway around the loop provide access to the center of the crater (3 mi/4.8 km) and the Green River (7 mi/11.2 km.) Total elevation change is roughly 1,300 feet. The north side of the loop passes through a riparian area where water and shade are usually available. There is one designated campsite along the trail. Go clockwise for a more gradual uphill journey back to the trailhead. If you'd like a bit of a challenge and don't mind very steep switchbacks at the end of your journey, try counter-clockwise.

27 days ago

Incredibly memorable. I did this in the clockwise direction starting with a super steep descent. The trail was really varies and interesting the whole time and the views are amazing.

1 month ago

I did the upheaval dome then continued on with the sycline loop. Note the warning sign in the photos at the beginning of the trail. That was a fair warning for what’s ahead. The trail wasn’t that hard to follow except for a couple spots, but the rock scramble in the back of the loop was pretty difficult. I added a photo of that area although it’s hard to get an idea of the difficulty here. Definitely not for anyone afraid of heights or lack of mobility and strength to climb. It seemed like it took me about 20 minutes to get through that area. There was only a couple holes with water and wouldn’t want to drink it. One was a good place to soak and cool off.

2 months ago

Loved it!

I did this trail counter clockwise starting at 7am. It was fairly easy to navigate. The steep incline the last 1.5 miles was a great workout. The scrambling (since I did counter clockwise) was all downhill. As I’m very comfortable it was not difficult or scary but a. It jarring on the knees for those with injuries.

The signage for the trail is pretty threatening, while I get it, I think they could back off a tiny bit.

All in all, I’d do this hike again but only early as it got hot by 10:30 when I finished .

3 months ago

Very rewarding hike but try to avoid going on the switchbacks when going counter clock wise during the middle of the day during summer. Sun saps the energy out of you.

4 months ago

My wife and I hiked this path without reading other reviews or doing any research. The [my] decision was solely based off the official NPS map and its descriptions. Sure it was in the difficult section but it was harder than I imagined. Some context, we live in zero elevation coastal town, work in offices, and exercise a lot less than we should. Our hike started around 9:30am in early June. Went clockwise and had a blast the first 3.4 miles. Had a short lunch at the canyon wash marker sign. Our last picture taken (fun, free-spirited, enjoyment mode) was at the white steps before the trail sign that split to the canyon spur. This is when the ascent began. The trail was iffy in some spots but eventually finding the cairns we were able to press forward. I am now familiar with the terms switchbacks and scrambling. So many times I thought we were going to climb out of this canyon only to see a never-ending uphill in front of us. To the person who put the "trail" sign there, thank you. The few times we were able to find shade under an outcropping we took it. I thought the breach was going to be a narrow flat canyon on the map. Nope. At about 3 o'clock on the trail clock face the scrambling ended and it just became a gradual upward climb, then down, then up and down. We brought 6 liters of water but ran out. Probably poor rationing and inexperience is the main cause of this. It was easily 95 degrees for most of the hike. While we were properly equipped, this trail was physically and mentally challenging for us. Luckily I was able to keep a positive outward appearance to my spouse. I told her a couple of times, please yell at me when we get to the car - not in the middle of this hike. Many times I swear I heard cars thinking the end was near to only later find out it was the wind rustling through the distant trees. In the beginning of the hike the screaming bugs (youll know what i mean if you hiked this trail) caught me off guard and had me swatting at them. By the end I could not care less and was focused only on continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Finally seeing a real car was such a welcome site. We made it out and I nearly drown my self in water in the car. We finished at around 5:30pm and the total hike was in the 8 hour mark.

All negatives aside I am happy we did it and conquered it. To the inexperienced, please pass or prepare better. I would say there are many better views in the park than this trail. A high effort to lower reward hike. If I could do it over I would have hit the overlooks and all other scenic easy trails and left this loop for another visit. This is a beautiful park which has had a profound impact on me and I cant wait to return.

4 months ago

So strenuous but worth it! Go as early as you can. I start at 7:45 am finished 4 and 1/2 hours later in the hot, hot sun.

4 months ago

Hard, but a lot of fun

7 months ago

Counterclockwise is the way to go for the more challenging, but more rewarding (view wise) hike!!!! Absolutely amazing hike, 8.3 miles

7 months ago

Vary niceee!

7 months ago

I have to be honest, I was a little concerned about doing this hike, especially because I was taking my wife who hadn’t backpacked in 22 years and my 12 and 16 year old daughters who had never backpacked. We reserved the back country site for the 20th of March. I read just about every review and guide and watched several videos on YouTube. I heard things like the most strenuous trail and areas of exposure. I even read that in one area you had to hold on to a cable and swing your leg over a precipice. After reading all those things I really didn’t think we’d be doing the hike but we decided to go and talk to a ranger before we got the permit. I fully expected the ranger to tell us it wouldn’t be wise to backpack the trail. When I started to rattle off all of things I read about the trail he looked dumbfounded. Instead he highly encouraged us to go. I think my wife was hoping he would have said the opposite. The ranger also told us we could find water close to the campsite. This was the best thing I’d heard because I was going to be carrying the majority of the water. There was plenty of water a few hundred yards up the canyon from the campsite. I don’t know if the water source diminishes later in the year. So we set off. It really was one of the best experiences that we all have ever had. It took us about 4 hours to get in to the campsite and about the same time coming out. Don’t get me wrong it was tough but totally worth it. It is definitely a doable trail even with loaded backpacks, two teenage girls and a hesitant wife. There was no cable and there was never a time that I felt we were in danger. I don’t think that we’d stay overnight again. It was very cool being there by ourselves, seeing the stars and enjoying the quiet. But I think it’s best done as a day hike. If you get a chance definitely do the hike. Take the negative and over exaggerated dangers of the trail with a grain of salt. Be prepared, be careful and you’ll have a awesome time. One last thing I had heard that the rangers have to rescue more people from getting lost on this trail more than any other trail. I really don’t see how you could get lost on this trail unless you tried really hard to. It was very well marked with cairns. We had zero problems following the trail. Can’t wait to do the hike again!

8 months ago

Obviously, a lot of people love this trail, but it is my least favorite hike in the Moab area. I did it a couple of years ago, going counter-clockwise (against the prevailing wisdom), so I thought I would give it another try in the clockwise direction. The elevation change looks to be much more gradual during the ascent if you go clockwise, but it consists of climbing over dozens of humps, where you go up 20 or so feet and then come down the other side. So you are constantly going up and down, and as a result the whole hike is more tiring than you would predict from just looking at the mileage and elevation change. At the mid-point, there is a section that, as others have said, is not for anyone afraid of heights or lacking shoes with good traction. Although there are signs that warn that the trail is hard to follow, it is very well marked. I guess I am spoiled, but there are many hikes with more varied and spectacular scenery in the area, i.e. the nearby Lathrop canyon for example. In my opinion, this hike has a poor exertion to reward ratio. The loop is 8.3 miles.

9 months ago

This is an insanely beautiful trail - some rock scrambling, but nothing too dangerous. Highly recommended.

11 months ago

Wow that was awesome!! Going clockwise along the rock, down a long section of steep switchbacks and stairs, through scree and sand along the bottom, scrambling up and down rocks before making its way back to the top. Weather was perfect, and I had time for two other short hikes and lots of gawking at views to boot. =)

Definitely 8.2 miles. There are signs clearly stating this at the trailhead. Plenty of cairns marked the way very clearly.

11 months ago

Started the hike late in the day, so only went to the "split" and then turned back (The Devil you know is better when you are chasing sunlight hours). Will definately complete this hike on my next trip to Canyonlands. Was fantastic. Started clockwise, as others have stated. Well marked with cairns and footpaths.

11 months ago

Go clockwise! Did it in 5.5 hrs but in a poor health condition.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

WOW is all I can say. One of my favorite hikes ever. I did the hike alone in November so weather was perfect and I didn’t encounter another person until the last hour of the hike. I had 3L plus of water and it lasted me the whole hike. Per my GPS watch the 8.3 mile estimate seemed short of the mark, but I still completed the hike in about 5 hours with plenty of stops for pics along the way (I am relatively fit and determined, but no iron man). Scenery changed the whole hike and the best part was standing at the meeting point of the opposite legs of the trail (as marked by the trail sign) with the 360 degree panorama of the scenery. Truly stunning.

I hiked the trail clockwise which was great for avoiding a tough hike up the switchbacks at the end. Trail is pretty well marked and I only got off course a couple times (and easily found my way back). Also, although I love scrambling/bouldering, I am not a fan of significant heights at all and definitely found a couple parts very challenging as a result. However, for me overcoming the fear inducing points made the trail even more satisfying. After all, that’s the sacrifice and reward of the outdoors!

Friday, November 10, 2017

We did the hike clockwise. Would recommend doing it this direction (unless you want steep punishment at the end of a long hike). Not “Colorado 14’er” strenuous, but a pretty decent workout. Great views and good variety. Mostly good footing. Some skree, sand, and a little scrambling. Nothing major. It is the best hike we did in Canyonlands.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Easily the best hike we did in Canyonlands!!! It was tough and required some careful stepping up and down rocks, but the geography changed so much that it was constantly interesting ! We did it backwards which made us hike up the stairs at the end .. the toughest part of the whole trip but it was the most rewarding!! I'd rate it a 9/10 !! Took us about 6.5 hours, bring lots of food and water! Your energy gets really depleted!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fantastic hike!! If you are going in the afternoon, go clockwise, for afternoon shade which almost takes you into this other world. It was absolutely gorgeous. Stunning views of the canyon. If you go clockwise there is a steep initial descent, and then a pretty steep ascent around mile 4-4.5 which is probably the hardest part but its fun. A lot of exposure so take a lot of water and snacks.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's 14 km loop, not 11. Hard, no shade. You must take a lot of water.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Really fun hike! Loved the scramble boulder section. You encounter Very few others

Monday, June 19, 2017

Great views along the way of the surrounding crater from the outside, and an awesome Boulder scrambling section.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

This hike was AWESOME. The views are breathtaking along the entire hike; both up top looking down and along the canyon looking up.

That said, I'm sure you, the Alltrail member reading this, are experienced enough for this hike. If you're taking people with you, though, make sure they are also as capable. This is a challenging and potentially dangerous trail. The park-guide notes that the majority of rescues occur on this trail, and that's not a surprise after hiking it.

My wife and I took my parents, who are in their mid 50s and work-out 5-days per week. They are in better shape than us. That said, this hike was at the edge of my mother's ability, and we didn't make sure they brought enough water, making it a bit more challenging than it needed to be.

The clockwise descent at the beginning is steep switchbacks into the canyon. The clockwise ascent at about the 4-mile point, just after the crater trail spur-off, is fun and just scary enough to get your adrenaline going. It's not for those scared of heights, as there are a few exposed spots. The scrambling is more flat-incline scrambling than bouldering, but there is a little shimmying and climbing around boulders.

As an east-cost hiker, my biggest suggestion here is to take at least 2-liters of water each. I've done a similar 7-9 mile 2000+ foot trails (Old Rag is a good example) with a Liter per person, but slightly under-estimated the desert sun and dry-air sweat evaporation. My parents only brought 1L each, ran out at 4-5 miles, and put some stress on my wife and I by rationing the group on the return-ascent.

All in all, Amazing hike! Be Cautious and Prepared and you'll have an amazing time!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

I completed Syncline Loop on May 1. It was sunny and about 70 degrees at the trailhead. It felt 10 degrees warmer at the bottom of the canyon. I consumed every drop of 3 liters of water that I brought with me. Clockwise direction is recommended since it provides nice shade in some parts of the latter half of the trail. There is a sign at the beginning of the trail warning that the trail is strenuous and difficult to follow. The strenuous part is certainly accurate, but there are plenty of cairns to show you the way.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hike was totally worth the effort. Great views of the surrounding canyon walls. Exposed climbs on steep areas that gets the heart pumping (with a bit of fear too). Did it clockwise which I recommend because I find it easier to go up the really steep areas - you dont have to look down! It is a strenuous hike but the warnings about trail being hard to follow are wrong. The cairns are placed wonderfully and the trail is well boot marked.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Awesome hike! Went clockwise as it was recommended for an afternoon hike. The initial downhill leads to a spectacular opening to the canyon and the view is unbelievable. I liked going clockwise because it gave me a chance to climb UP some pretty cool parts of the trail. Lots of rock scrambling/bouldering in the middle of the hike as mentioned by another reviewer, it's so much fun!! That being said, this IS a strenuous trail, I can see how it would be difficult and exhausting for inexperienced hikers and possibly those with less than adequate cardiac endurance. Be sure to bring enough water and snacks!
Would love to go into the dome next time. This is a great trail and I highly recommend you check it out when you're out at Canyonlands!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

They have a sign that tells you difficult and strenuous. They are NOT lying !! They suggest going counter clockwise but if I did it again I would go clockwise. Who ever marked this trail with cairns did an awesome job. You would spend a lot of time trail finding without the cairns. It is a gorgeous and fun trail.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

want to get away for some quiet geology geek time? it is in a loop trail!!! keep an eye on the cairns and dont forget your water. passed one spring(potable?...wouldnt tempt it...) in september '16 on the north side, watched by a mountain goat. start by going left early in the day to be in shadow for much of the hike - it helps, this is a tricky hike with some fun bouldering. channel your inner Abbey and let the silence speak to you on this one

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Great trail. Definitely some climbing involved. My wife and I did the trail counterclockwise to end with the aggressive climb. We were happy to do it this way as we usually like to hike up the steeper inclines. Most of the steep incline out of the canyon had steps set into the cliff side as well and made the elevation gains a bit easier.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I love love loved this trail. I hiked it in November, so Sun and heat were less of an issue...the middle section of the hike is a lot of fun rock-scrambling- I liked doing that part on the uphill, which was doing the loop clockwise.

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