Upheaval Dome and Syncline Loop

  • Across the dome, crater, late light - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Upheaval Canyon exiting the crater west - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Southern rim in late sun - © William Mackesy
  • Upheaval Canyon exiting the crater west towards the Colorado - © William Mackesy
  • West beyond Upheaval Canyon , late light - © William Mackesy

Key information: Upheaval Dome and Syncline Loop

  • Inspect or walk around the remarkable Upheaval Dome, a probable a meteor impact crater.
  • An amazing place. 

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating87
  • Beauty33
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest2
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating87

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice
  • Maximum Altitude: N/A
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
Upheaval Canyon exiting the crater west - © William Mackesy


The Upheaval Dome is a very peculiar feature in the north-west of the Island in the Sky. A ring of huge, bright and often sheer sandstone cliffs surrounds a great hole some 5km across (depending how you measure), with what looks like a white miniature mountain range, actually underlying shale, at its centre, with spires of what look like vitrified rock or volcanic plug protruding. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upheaval_Dome for excellent information and aerial photos, which show concentric rings, which aren’t apparent as you approach by road, as you drive in through a wide gap in the outer ring.

There are two theories, either that it is the heavily eroded remains of a meteor impact crater, and this is borne out by aerial photos and recent research, or an upheaval pushed by the great salt layers that underlie the area, which gave the area its name.

A must is the short walk from the roadhead to the two Upheaval Dome Overlooks perched on the inner ring, which give a fascinating view of the heart of the crater. The dramatic bare, smooth sandstone ridge of the Whale is also very worthwhile.

The famous walk here is the Syncline Loop, a demanding 13km/8mile circuit which runs between the rocky rings, much of the time in spectacular dry red sandstone canyons; as a result, you will not get much sense of the overall Dome, so will need to divert to the Outlooks en route. You can also walk in to the weird white centre of the Dome; and out west through the great gap in the cliffs and down the Upheaval Canyon trail to the Green River. This is tough walking, and can take 6-8hrs, so plan carefully. Bring lots of water. Some scrambling using a cable required; those with a poor head for heights, beware. 

This can be tough walking in hot, dry conditions. Come fully prepared, including carrying plenty of water.

See video clip here.

The book is Canyonlands and Arches National Parks by Bill Schneider for Falcon Hiking Guides. Find this and other relevant books on Amazon.

We want to tell more - please send us your ideas, suggestions, experiences and photos.

See our Canyonlands National Park page for more general and practical information and photos.

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Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

West beyond Upheaval Canyon , late light - © William Mackesy

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

© William Mackesy...

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