Hiking in The Needles – Canyonlands NP

Moab, UT

Canyonlands National Park occupies a huge area west of Moab.   The park is divided into three large districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze.   On Thursday we decided to take our longest hike yet and explore the area known as the Needles.  This area in known for a landscape of sculptured rock spires, arches, canyons, and potholes.  The dominant landforms are the Needles – rock pinnacles banded in red and white.  We planned a hike that would take us right through an area filled with Needles.

The Needles area is quite remote.  It requires a drive of about 34 miles south, then 30 miles to the west just to reach the entrance, so we will probably limit our exploration of it to this one visit.

On the drive south, you pass Wilson’s Arch, a huge arch with a span of 91 feet and height of 46 feet.  Wilson’s Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby.

Wilson’s Arch

As we headed west toward the entrance to the park the views were very impressive.

The shapes of many of the rock formations along the way were very interesting.  The one below is called The Wooden Shoe.

We stopped at the visitor’s center and spoke with a ranger about a good hike with a view of some needles.  She outlined a hike that would take us out to an area called Chesler Park, where we would make a wide circle, then rejoin the main trail back to the parking area.  Total distance of this hike would be a bit over eleven miles.  If we did this hike, it would be the longest one we had ever done.  But it seemed that we would be hiking over fairly flat terrain, with little change in elevation, so we felt up to the challenge.  We drove about five miles back a dirt road to the trailhead and began our journey.  The trail began with a short climb up some very steep rocks, an indication of what was to come.

As we hiked the views were beautiful and constantly changing.  Below is the view to the northwest with the La Sal Mountains in the background.

Much of the early sections of the trail were over flat slickrock.  The trail over the rocks was well marked with cairns, small piles of rocks to guide hikers.

Sometimes the trail got a little narrow, passing through high rocky ridges.

As we gained a bit of altitude, we were treated to more great views.

The trail then passed through an interesting slot canyon . . .

. . . then under a rock ledge . . .

. . . and down a rocky gully into a wash below

Climbing out of the wash we scrambled along a slickrock ledge up the side of a canyon.

Rock formations along the trail tested the imagination.  Anyone see a pie below?

By the way, note the two dark streaks in the left center of the picture below.  We’ve cleaned the camera lens, but the marks must be inside.  Any ideas of the cause and/or cure?

The trail continued through another gap in the rock.

We then hiked along the edge of the rocks, with some great needles in front of us.

Part of the trail was along a Jeep road that lead to another trailhead.

The trailhead was just over the half way point in our hike, so we sat at a picnic table there to enjoy our lunch.  We checked the GPS app on our phone and found it had taken us over three hours to do five and a half miles through the rocks.  Since it was almost four o’clock we began to get a bit concerned that, if it took the same amount of time to do the return hike, we might end up in the dark, definitely something we wanted to avoid.  So after a quick bite to eat, we continued our hike.  The trail quickly entered a rocky canyon requiring some scrambling.

A crude staircase is very helpful

No staircase here, just climb up the rocks

Our scrambling paid off, as we then entered a long slot canyon called the Joint Trail.  Inside the slot the wind was very strong and the temperature dropped about ten degrees

A crude, but appreciated ladder

After exiting the Joint Trail, we hiked through the flat area known as Chesler Park.  We were hoping for a park bench next to a food vendor, but this park had neither.

The nimble hiker scoots through Chesler Park

Going back through the slot canyon

Mushroom rock formations

More needles

Hamburger?

Double hamburger?

Scrambling up the rocks

Final slot stairway as we near the parking area

The return hike didn’t take as much time as the first half, so we returned to the Jeep with time to spare!  After hiking eleven and a half miles, much of it over fairly rough terrain,  we sat a few minutes in the Jeep before heading out, tired but glad we made this cool hike.

A park resident nods good-by as we exit Canyonlands NP

It looks like tomorrow may be a day of well-deserved rest.  We have many adventures yet to experience in the Moab area, so the need to pace ourselves is important.   Besides, the weather report calls for a possibility of rain tomorrow and the Jeep needs an oil change.

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32 Responses to Hiking in The Needles – Canyonlands NP

  1. Lisa says:

    What an awesome hike! Jeez, I can’t wait until Hans and I can spend some quality time in Utah!!!! You two are hiking animals these days! Enjoy your day of rest.

    • placestheygo says:

      John and I were just commenting today that you and Hans would love the hikes we have been doing. They definitely aren’t for everyone but you guys would love the one we did in Needles!

  2. cathy says:

    Amazing hike! I’m so glad I found your blog…lots of GREAT hiking ideas!

  3. Gay and Joe Taylor says:

    Another great and picturesque day. You guys are sure adventurous. That was some hike…I sure enjoyed the views, but that’s easy for me to say as I sit in my recliner! Now I am hoping the two weeks we have planned to stay there next month is going to be enough.

    Have you taken your camera to a camera shop? I did invest in a filter for my lens…do you have one?

    Have a great rest day!

    • placestheygo says:

      Two weeks should give you plenty of time to see a little of everything.

      Yes, it turned into an adventurous day. Definitely found muscles I didn’t know I had. But what a diverse hike.

      There isn’t much in the way of camera shops around here I’m afraid. We’ll have to do a little internet searching. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Amanda says:

    Wow! Sounds like an epic journey. Love the Canyonlands scenery. Enjoy your day of rest.

  5. Dedra says:

    Wow! Thank you for your pictures.
    I’m planning on going there in may.
    Hope it won’t be hot? I like 68/70 degrees.
    GREAT Blog!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for joining us, Dedra! Glad you are enjoying the blog.

      It was in the low 70’s for the Canyonland hike and that was about as hot I would like it. Hopefully, May won’t be too hot.

  6. pmbweaver says:

    That is quite a drive before you get to start hiking.

    Wilson’s Arch is so awesome.

    I think I figured out why they call is The Wooden Shoe. Pretty cool.

    I just love seeing those snow covered mountains.

    What a work out. I hope you two are eating enough calories to keep strong.

    What a long long day you two had but what beauty. The photo are so beautiful. I would say you deserve a day or two off.

    Sent from my iPhone

  7. Pam says:

    Another amazing hike. I would feel claustrophobic in those slots, but the views coming out look like it was worth the challenge.

  8. Sue says:

    Wow, amazing pictures of an amazing hike. Thanks for taking us along, I’m tired just reading your blog! Enjoy your day off. Sue

  9. Sandra says:

    Hi friends

    We are so enjoying your blog. The pictures are almost as amazing as your stamina to get to these places. The narrow canyons in this blog are incredible as well as scary. Not where I would want to be in a rain storm. The weather looks perfect.

    We are in Yuma for the Fleetwood Rally which closes this morning. The rally was interesting, some good presenters and lots of good stuff to buy. We got a fire extinguisher specifically made to extinguish fires in the back of the refrigerator. A bit expensive but worth the peace of mind.

    Techs from Fleetwood came over and fixed the cabinets above the couch. They were starting to drop. The fix was a quick one and may not be permanent but will last till we get the coach to the Fleetwood factory next year if needed. We were very happy with the service.

    We have met lots of really nice people but no one as interesting or fun as you. The weather has been wonderful (mid 80s). We bought a bunch of microfiber stuff to clean the coach and ended up having it washed and waxed by a local service. I am sure we will use the microfiber stuff at a later time.

    We have not had time to do any sight seeing here. Tuesday we discovered the computer needed extensive repair and we have been without it since then. We took it to Staples for the repair. We would highly recommend Staples if you ever need your computer fixed. We are getting it back today. Sometimes I think of the “good old days” when we did not rely on electronic gadgets so much. Having the iPad is a real lifesaver.

    Tomorrow we head to Cottonwood for a week. My cousin is meeting us there and plans to explore the surroundings with his motorcycle. We are all also planning an over night trip to the grand canyon where we will be taking tours to both ends of the canyon. I am sure that if it were you you would be hiking to the base of the canyon then the whole length. Oh to be young like the nimble hiker in your blog.

    Hope we meet again on our journeys. Happy travels Sandy and Bob Silva

    Sent from my iPad

  10. sue says:

    I found your blog as a link from Two to Travel’s Phaeton Journeys . Your photography is gorgeous! We will be in Moab and that area the 2nd week in June and will refer to your travels for guidance. I suspect it may be too hot for 11 miles hikes by then but we plan to come back that way in the fall. Safe travels……..

  11. Allisoin says:

    Phenomenal photos of an epic hike! I am so impressed. Are you using a small camera with a lens that extends when you turn it on? If so, that’s probably dust/dirt/grit that was on the side of the lens and then was pulled into the camera when the lens retracted. My mountain biking camera has that smudge now, and I’ve seen it discussed on another West Texas blog. I don’t know if that type of camera can be serviced or if one just buys something new when it gets too bad.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Allison! Yes, it is a small camera with a lens that extends. The “J” isn’t on all of the pictures, however. It only appears at a certain zoom distance. We’ll have to do some research.

  12. Mary Klinger says:

    What shoes do you prefer?

  13. Leigh says:

    WOWOWOWOWOW – pictures are great, must have been amazing in person.

  14. Erin says:

    Another fantastic hike … looks like it would have been worth the 11 miles. Somehow we never got around to Canyonlands while we were living in Salt Lake City, so this will be virgin territory for us when we get there.

    I had a similar smudge with my Canon G12 … nothing I did got rid of it. The problem was that it was intermittent and I would see it on some photos and not on others. Interestingly, I sold the camera back to B&H for a decent price when I bought my SX50, so they must have felt they could clean it.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Erin! That’s our problem also. The “J” isn’t in all the pictures. When we finally get to a larger town with a Best Buy, we’ll take it back and see what they say.

      Canyonlands is so out of the way I can see why so many people never get to it. It’s not crowded!!

  15. Pam is your camera Panasonic Lumix? I had similar issues with two of my Lumix cameras. What you see are actually dust inside the sensors. Steve played surgeon and opened the camera and blow the dust away very very carefully. He followed a youtube video on how to clean/blow the dust inside the cam.

    Great Photos and great hikes, I have a feeling that you are really getting a good workout out there.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks so much for the video! John checked one out last night. Since the camera is only a month old, he doesn’t want to void the warranty. I guess we’ll wait til we hit the bigger town and return to Best Buy to see what they will do for us.

      We certainly are getting a full body workout!!

  16. LuAnn says:

    When you were questioning getting the 11-mile hike done, my reaction was “these two are hiking machines…no problem!”. Great photos! Wish we could pack up for Utah today. 🙂

  17. I see you do a huge amount of driving to get to your hikes. Have you tried staying in the campgrounds, or boondocking, in the areas you hike?
    For example you could stay at the CG in Arches NP. There are several campsites you could get your MH into. I’m guessing you are only about 40′ long. Here is a link to a website with info on the Arches NP CG: http://www.rv-dreams.com/campground-reviews-utah.html#Site93
    A few miles outside the entrance to the Needles section of Canyonlands, at Hamburger Rock CG there are a couple of sites large enough for you. Also just a short drive, less than 2 miles, down some of the dirt roads near the entrance to Needles there are boondocking spots. You would need to leave your MH somewhere and drive to the area to search out the sites. I think there are a few sites in the Needles CG which are large enough for you as well. I know the NP website says max RV length is 28′, but if you were to visit the CG and pace out the sites they should be large enough. I know there are a number of sites inside Zion large enough for you.

    It sure would save you a lot of driving and usually the scenery is much nicer than being in RV Parks viewing the RV parked next to you.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for the suggestions, Al and Sharon! Just saw your comment. For some reason it was in our spam. Occasionally, we do some driving to see a particular area. But, we try to park in a central area to visit a variety of places. We aren’t big on boondocking, especially with an all electric frig and no solar. This our home and we like our comforts which is why we try to stay in more resort type parks. Thinking about every move you make while dry camping isn’t fun for us. Trying to squeeze into a SP or NP doesn’t have the allure it does for some. But it’s nice to know people are thinking about us.

  18. Susan A. says:

    I love this hike. Onto the bucket list it goes. We’ve been to Needles twice, but both times it was too hot for an 11-mile hike. We did short hikes, but saw some we thought we’d really like if it were cooler.

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