The diverse and fundamental effects that aeolian processes have on the biosphere and geosphere are commonly generated by horizontal sediment transport at the land surface. However, predicting horizontal sediment transport depends on vegetation architecture, which is difficult to quantify in a rapid but accurate manner. We demonstrate an approach to measure vegetation canopy architecture at high resolution using lidar along a gradient of dryland sites ranging from 2% to 73% woody plant canopy cover. Lidar-derived canopy height, distance (gaps) between vegetation elements (e.g., trunks, limbs, leaves), and the distribution of gaps scaled by vegetation height were correlated with canopy cover and highlight potentially improved horizontal dust flux estimation than with cover alone. Employing lidar to estimate detailed vegetation canopy architecture offers promise for improved predictions of horizontal sediment transport across heterogeneous plant assemblages.