Syncline Loop - Hiking

Made possible by




Syncline loop is an 8.4-mile loop around Upheaval Dome, the site a meteor hit 200 million years ago. This hike is for experienced backcountry adventurers. By adding pre-hike joint to viewpoint for an overall perspective and the 4 miles into the crater, this a 12.4 mile demanding day.

Written by

Sallie Shatz


8.4 miles

The loop is 8.4 miles, plus a 4 mile hike out and back to see the actual dome (optional).

Destination Distance From Downtown

22.7 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

8 hours

6-8 hours


All Seasons

Dog Friendly


No dogs are allowed on this trail. Do not leave dog in car while hiking.

Fees Permits


Canyonlands $10 per vehicle for 7 day pass

Land Website

Syncline Loop



Syncline Loop is a unique hike around Upheavel Dome, which is the result of a meteor hitting the area about 200 million years ago. Five miles into the hike, there is the option of hiking 2 more miles into Upheaval Dome to see it upclose and personal. If you are fit and have time, add that mileage, it is worth it! This is a backcountry trail, long and strenuous with sections of bouldering and careful route finding. Attention should be paid to following the trail as it ducks in and out of washes and through bouldering fields.

What Makes It Great

It is a backcountry, long hike around and into an incredible site worthy of awe. 200 million years ago a meteor hit the earth’s crust with such impact it vaporized immediately creating a crater. Rock layers rebounded inwards and upwards to fill the void. Erosion removed the top layers and exposed the tilted broken core of the impact site. This all mixed with the thousands of feet of salt left by the inland sea that covered this area 300 million years ago.

Done counter clockwise, the trail wonders downward, then goes through a flat and even section along a graceful valley floor. The next section goes up, down and around massive boulders. The trail is well marked with cairns but has exposure, as well as some climbing around boulders and impressive step work before walking along the drainage visible below. As you descend, look for the kissing rocks up to your left.

If you have time and energy, go inside the Dome, it is worth the hike. The landscape is of the most unique in Utah, and it's especially cool to see the affects of the salt and upheaval on the earth’s crust. On your way out of the dome, make sure you are on the north side of the drainage and pass back by the sign into the dome. The trail heads towards the Colorado River drainage for 3/10 of a mile before a fork up a drainage for the climb out. The trail will be in and out of the drainage until the final steep climb out a ramp on your left.

Who is Going to Love It

Syncline loop is a long, strenuous hike that should not be underestimated, especially in the heat of summer. It has time consuming sections of scrambling around boulder fields, has sections with technical steep trail finding and a long steep climb at the end of the loop. The park estimates the loop along as taking 5-7 hours without adding the mileage of going into the crater. Venturing into the crater, will easily add 2 or more hours as the landscape is visually fascinating. This is a great adventure if you are of this level of backcountry adventurer.

Plan to carry all of your water, bring extra water. There is no water available at the trailhead.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Moab, drive north on route 191 for about 10 miles, take a left on route 313 following the signs for Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. Follow the signs into Canyonlands stopping at the gate to pay fee. In the winter and shoulder seasons, payment may be made at the Visitors Center further up the road. 6.5 miles from the Visitors Center, take a right following the signs for Upheaval Dome, the trailhead and parking are 5 miles from this turnoff. 

Entrance to the park is $10 for a vehicle and is valid for 7 days, Motorcycles are $5 each and entrance is valid for 7 days. Per person with no vehicle (bicycle) or parties of one are $5 and is valid for 7 days. Check the Park’s website as some days of the year such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veteran’s Day are free.

No dogs are allowed on this trail. Do not leave dog in car while hiking.

Similar Local Hiking Spots

See all

More Moab Activities

View Moab

More Upheaval Dome Trailhead Activities

Moab Recommendations

Local Moab Stories


Upheaval Dome Trailhead

Moab, UT,
38.4264, -109.926113

Get Directions