UT – Canyonlands NP, Needles District – Chesler Park, Joint and Druid Arch Trails

Canyonlands is divided into three areas, Needles District, Island in the Sky District and the Maze District. This would be a quick overnighter into the Needles District, as Ranger Joan (aka Rambling Hemlock) was working at Arches National Park and had time off limited to weekends. We started our hike from the Elephant Hill Trailhead where we watched 4×4 drivers work on their technical skills. It’s always confusing to me when the word “trail” is used for 4×4 roads. 

I seem to be missing photos depicting the vehicle antics and first views. I’m sure I wanted to wait until we were off the road and on proper trail.

The hiking guidebook indicates, “the next section of trail involves a gradual climb up to a junction with the trail going through the Pinnacle to Devils Kitchen Camp.” I can’t help but chuckle reading Joan’s post about how she told me the trail was flat. Oh perceptions and memories. I’d call this selective sharing of details to increase recruitment odds. Good thing we are such compatible partners. I huff n’ puff up the hills, while she floats up them, enjoys the views, and finds plenty of photo subjects while patiently waiting for me to catch up.

The thing about putting together a post a year later is the details. This could have been from where we came or where we’re going. Either way it’s the views and unknowns that motivate me to keep climbing. I’m pretty confident however that this is Chesler Park.

We bypassed Chesler Park and continued onward to the Joint Trail. 

The Joint Trail is high on WOW factor, and gets a 5+ cherry pickin’ scale rating from me. The guidebook description, “This is a most unusual hike, an excellent choice for those who want a little adventure . . .  The hike starts out uphill on a moderately rugged, rocky trail with cairns showing the way.” Photo credit: Joan 

“From here it’s like hiking in a very narrow slot canyon for about 1/4 mile.” We loved this section!

Although we wanted to go back for a repeat, we needed to continue our forward progress in order to make it to Druid Arch and back to our permitted campsite at Chesler Park before dark. With plentiful terrain challenges it had taken us (me) about 2.5 hours to cover these nearly 5 miles.

Of course we had to take the short detour to the viewpoint.

Soon enough we were climbing up pour overs.  Good thing Joan was ready to slay any monsoons determined to wash me away!

Slickrock walking is so much fun. Photo credit: Joan 

Climbing ladders is even more fun. 

Druid Arch

Plenty of other WOW views as we headed to Chesler Park. 

My home for the night at Chesler Park.Who needs television? 

This 14.5 mile day was a challenge for me with all the ups and downs combined with plenty of technical terrain. My friend Joan on the other hand, considered it flat. I want her legs and lungs! Asthma sucks 😦

The next day we had a short 4+ mile jaunt back to Elephant Hill. 

I had time to take WOW photos like this. 

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: March 4-5, 2017
  • Our lollipop loop of about 19 miles with 4,200′ of ascent and descent.


  • Backcountry permits are required for overnight camping
  • Wag bags are required
  • This area is prone to flash floods; check on weather in advance
  • Check on water availability in advance (if I remember correctly, we had to carry 100%)



Important Note:

Please remember to turn off location services or automatic geotagging when photographing rock art or other heritage sites- especially if you plan to post your photos in social media. Avoid showing the horizon or identifiable features in the background that would help people navigate to the area. Better yet- only post photos of public archaeology sites. Those sites can generally be identified by the presence of interpretive signs or appear in materials distributed by the land-managing agency. While remote and little-known sites may no longer protected by being difficult to find, easily accessible sites have been targets of vandalism for decades. Public education is our best defense- please spread the word: rock art (both prehistoric and historic), structures, and archaeological deposits are wonderful to visit but impossible to replace when they are damaged or destroyed. Please enjoy these treasures, but don’t destroy them. Source: Utah Heritage Stewardship Program

10 thoughts on “UT – Canyonlands NP, Needles District – Chesler Park, Joint and Druid Arch Trails

  1. Hey Jan! My family and I are potentially adding Canyonlands to our agenda for a trip to Utah/Arizona in April. I’d love to know the guidebook you’re referring to in this post and if you recommend it for trail research and such. 🙂

    • I can’t say enough great things about this book, “Hiking from Here to WOW: Utah Canyon Country” by Kathy Copeland and Craig Copeland http://amzn.to/2DmOLtR

      I’ve only been let down once and I think it was more about timing than the actual experience. Joan and I first used this book during our initial intro week back in 2015. It’s now dog eared with most of my Utah adventures planned around their recommendations.

      • Thank you so much for the reply! If you like it this much, I know it’s worth purchasing, which I’m going to do right now through your link. Thanks again! 🙂

        • You’ll LOVE it! When my friend Nancy (WhyNot?!) joined me in Utah last fall and we were looking at options she bought the book as mine was at home (hadn’t planned on extended time in Utah). Ha, I’m keeping the book in print. Thanks for buying through the link it’ll help me buy another book or map for my travels.

          • Absolutely to purchasing it through the link. I know the expense of keeping up a blog, and yours is such a tremendous value to the hiking community so it’s the least I can do to show my appreciation! :-). Just ordered it and can’t wait to see it in the mail!

            • Yesterday I met a couple new to the area while visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park. It’s so nice to refer them to the blog for finding options.

              I was involved in a local MeetUp group when I started the blog. I found myself repeating information so rather than getting snarky or short-cutting, I decided to make it easily available and a resource to all. Having a forum to share stories and photos made it a win win! It’s sure evolved over the years, especially once I started traveling.

              • I hear ya for all the reasons to start (and maintain) a blog—it’s such a fun hobby for me and a great way to relive the experience. My kids never look at mine which I think is a little funny, since so many of my stories revolve around their experience, but I imagine it might mean something to them one day, to have a written record of all the fun places we explored. Looking forward to exploring more of Utah soon, thanks to all your info! 🙂

                • I really hope our timing is such that we can connect. I’m looking for a way to print mine in case WP or Google crashes. I’d cry if I lost all my memories. I like having the digital version but would also like a binder organized by state. But time . . . not yet a priority. Hope I don’t regret. I’d planned on it this winter but I’ve chosen to catch up on my blog instead. I think your kids will appreciate your stories some day. I’ve lost all the stories of my parents and their parents because they didn’t journal nor have photo albums. It’s just a hodgepodge of photos and slides that future generations will consider trash.

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