Backpacking in the Needles – Canyonlands NP

Day 1

Our backpacks are packed and ready to go, we leave at 8:30am to drive over 80 miles to The Needles District of Canyonlands NP to begin our hike for two days. We had to carry-in over 15 lbs of water because there is no water available in this area of the Park. We started at the Elephant Hill Trailhead to hike just over 3 miles to our campsite (CP1) in Chesler Park. The signature features in The Needles are the colorful sandstone spires hundreds of them poking up from the desert floor, and as we hiked along the trail these rock pinnacles heavily banded in red, white, orange and pink dominated the views in all directions. We were happy to reach the grassy meadows of Chesler Park and our campsite, CP1, after scrambling over rocks and through steep, narrow cracks between massive sandstone slabs.

This campsite is amazing, nestled amongst the huge sandstone spires, and a large flat space to set up our tent. Our new camp chairs were so comfortable that it was hard to leave and explore more of this area. After about 2 hours we set out into Chesler Park with excellent views of the Needles and the colorful Grabens to hike the Joint Trail. What a fun trail to hike as we drop down into narrow slots, about 20 inches wide, looking up hundreds of feet to the sky above, you don’t want to be claustrophobic walking through these. Heading back to our campsite the sun was shining on the beautiful sandstone spires, as we were surrounded by hundreds of these delicate stone needles everywhere we looked. After dinner we watched the setting sun in the distance casting a pink glow all around us.

Day 2

We woke up to slightly overcast skies but not a lot of rain. We packed up our campsite and got on the trail around 10 am to hike to Druid Arch. We scrambled over rocks and ledges for over 2 miles to Elephant Canyon, we had another 2 miles to Druid Arch so I dropped my pack, as the trail follows along the canyon floor and back to this junction. The last .25 miles of the trail are strenuous, Bob dropped his pack here, as we had to ascend a ladder, climb up a dry waterfall and climb/scramble up a very steep boulder choked ravine to a sandstone bench with a fantastic view open to Druid Arch. High on the rim of Elephant Canyon stands the stately, chiseled profile of Druid Arch, that reminds one of Stonehenge, hence its name. Druid Arch is notable both for its height, 450′, and its shape, with 2 main openings and one small, even more impressive than Delicate Arch. The view looking back down Elephant Canyon from its base is also spectacular, and hard to imagine that we hiked up it. We stayed for awhile enjoying this beautiful, isolated, free-standing arch, the best one we have seen so far, maybe because of the effort it took to hike here!

Finally it was time to leave and head back the 5.5 miles to our Jeep at the trailhead. We arrived back after 5 pm, drove the 80 miles to Moab, showered and went out to the Moab Brewery to celebrate Mother’s Day and another successful hike with some great beer! CHEERS!

Video of our two day hike in The Needles