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Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

We did a 4 days 3 nights backpacking trip at 2016 Memorial Day weekend (May 28, 2016) to explore The Needles district in Canyonlands National Park. Here is the trip report.

Our itinerary was:

  • Day 1, start from Squaw Flat trailhead to Big Spring Campsite 2.
  • Day 2, to Elephant Canyon Campsite 3; then day hike to Elephant Hills; then day hike to Druid Arch.
  • Day 3, to Chesler Park Campsite 1; then hike the Chesler Park loop trail.
  • Day 4, back to car.

Temperature was low 50°F to high 80°F. Under the sun, my themometer showed more than 90°F during some hikes. The most challenging part of this trip was lacking of water source. Before the hike, we stopped by the visitor center and confirmed there was a spring flowing on the way to Druid Arch. This seemed to be the only water available during the hike. To be 100% safe, we still carried tons of water! The spring indeed flowed at N38° 05.754' W109° 49.928' but it was very very thin.

The best hike was Chesler Park loop trail. Nice views were everywhere. Near the campsite 1, there were actually two nice viewpoints. One was the classic spot at N38° 06.814' W109° 50.691', which is best for sunset; another one was a little hidden at N38° 06.867' W109° 50.729'. Another impressive viewpoint along the loop trail was at N38° 06.217' W109° 51.445'.

If I did the hike again, I would skip the day hike to Elephant Hills on day 2 as the day 4 covers part of it. Instead, I'd like to spent more time around Druid Arch area. The hike to Druid Arch was not particularly easy because of rocky trail condition although it was not hard either. When you approach to the arch, if you follow the trail you will climb over a ladder and continue up until you reach the bottom of the arch. At afternoon, however, this spot will be in backlight. Agood strategy, though I had not tried, was after you get here, explore a bit; then go down to the other side of the arch to wait for the sunset if you wanted. But I have to warn you that if you want to hike at night (like we did) it could be dangerous and easily get lost. You will need a VERY strong flash light to find the cairns.

My GPS treks can be downloaded here: Canyonlands Needles.gpx

Sunset at Chesler Park, Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

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Sunset at Chesler Park

The photo was taken at N38° 06.814' W109° 50.691' a view point near the campsite CP1. This is one of iconic photos of the park. A 70-200 mm lens was used. I wish I had a longer lens but I do not have luxury to carry one in a multi-day backpacking trip.


Sunrise in Big Spring Canyon, Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

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Sunrise in Big Spring Canyon

The photo was taken at N38° 07.522' W109° 48.707', a hill next to campsite BC2.


On the way to Druid Arch, Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

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On the way to Druid Arch


View to the north under Druid Arch, Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

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View to the north under Druid Arch


Night sky at campsite EC3, Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

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Night sky at campsite EC3


Sunrise at campsite EC3, Canyonlands National Park - The Needles

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Sunrise at campsite EC3

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