2 or 3 DayTrip To Canyonlands National Park

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
Hi all,

I'm in the early stages of planning a trip to CNP in April of this year. This will be my first time to the area and I was hoping you guys might help me answer a few questions and also help with planning my trip.

It's going to be me and my good friend on this trip. We're planning two (maybe 3) nights and are very flexible on where to go. We'll be driving in from Denver early in the morning (probably around 5am) and hope to get to the park by noon or so. That would give us time for a short hike that afternoon and set up camp, for then a longer hike on day 2.

I think we'll likely spend our time in The Needles District, but again, we are very flexible and would consider elsewhere. We would also consider driving into one area, doing an overnight loop hike, and then driving to another district on day 2.

So just a couple questions...

*What are some of you favorite trails that would match what we're looking for?
*Are we better off doing a big 2-3 day loop or 2 separate loops and transport between them with our vehicle?
*When should we have our permits by? I hear April is a very popular time to go.

Cheers!
Dustin
 

Mph

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2013
Messages
61
The Needles is awesome. If you would like to car camp, you could hike until your legs fall off...there are loops everywhere. The NPS campground is not bad or you could stay free out along the Lockhart Basin Road. Right before the entrance to the park...

do you have 4wheel drive? I would recommend staying in the Devil's Kitchen area and hike from there. Awesome! Or camp and check out Lavender Canyon...awesome ruins and beautiful camping...

You could backpack Salt Creek if you wanted to do a backpack...

Random thoughts...You will have fun:)
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
We will have 4 wheel drive but it'll just be a rental from national so I'm not sure how much their vehicles can handle.

What are your thoughts on keeping our car and some gear in the squaw flat campground and using that as our basecamp. And then from there it looks like we could plan plenty of different overnight loops.

I went online to check out how the permit situation works. There are so many different options to choose from that it's a little confusing. If we wanted to park at squaw flat will we need a special permit or no? We were also considering the chesler park loop but online there are 5 options for this...how do I know which route I'm choosing?
 

Kullaberg63

Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2014
Messages
557
One of your main hurdles, besides choosing between dozens of worthwhile outings, is finding camping. April in this area is approaching peak season.

If you arrive in the late afternoon well known spots like Squaw are likely full. There are less regulated camps outside the Needles, but they are popular with climbers - who rival hikers in numbers.

One idea is to secure a multi-day overnight permit on the trail of your choice, and do it soon. Start backpacking the day you arrive, so you don't have to scramble for a car camping spot. Fully immerse yourself in this one area, whichever it is, and drive home when you come out.

Can't go wrong with Salt Creek. Number one choice. Available? Grab it.

Chesler Park etc is also good, but you must carry water.
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
One of your main hurdles, besides choosing between dozens of worthwhile outings, is finding camping. April in this area is approaching peak season.

If you arrive in the late afternoon well known spots like Squaw are likely full. There are less regulated camps outside the Needles, but they are popular with climbers - who rival hikers in numbers.

One idea is to secure a multi-day overnight permit on the trail of your choice, and do it soon. Start backpacking the day you arrive, so you don't have to scramble for a car camping spot. Fully immerse yourself in this one area, whichever it is, and drive home when you come out.

Can't go wrong with Salt Creek. Number one choice. Available? Grab it.

Chesler Park etc is also good, but you must carry water.

I was afraid of the overcrowding. How much earlier in the year would we need to go to avoid the crowd? Would mid-March do it? My buddy and I are both very flexible on the timing of the trip.

I'm still confused on the permits though. Here's the link.

https://canypermits.nps.gov/index.cfm?mode=sites

SOOOO many options and I'm just unclear what each one means.
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
Thanks dude!!! That map clears up the permit situation pretty well.

So I think I'm about ready to pull the trigger on the reservations/permits but I wanted to make sure I'm doing this properly.

Day 1: Arrive early to mid-morning. Do the Chesler Park / Joint Trail loop and then camp at one of the 5 CP campsites.
Day 2: Either do the Big Canyon to Elephant Canyon loop OR, the Squaw Canyon to Lost Canyon loop. And then camp in either the Squaw or Lost Canyon campsites.
Day 3: Make our way back to our vehicle (wherever that is. see below) and try to be on the road by late morning.

A couple questions...does the above itinerary make sense, logistically? What's the deal with the vehicle situation? Where can we park? Will we require a vehicle permit? If we stick with the above mentioned itinerary, won't we need to move our car between the Elephant Canyon trailhead area and the Squaw trailhead?

Thanks again. And sorry for all the questions. Total noob over here.
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
^^^^^BUMP^^^^^
SOS

Sorry if I'm being impatient but these available sites/permits are filling up fast. Can someone please help with the questions and the suggested itinerary in the thread above?
 

Nick

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I would piece together a 2 night loop that you can just leave your car at Elephant Hill the whole time. It shouldn't be hard. You don't need a vehicle permit. Just pay your entry fee on your way in. Water is an issue out there. The Chesler Joint loop is nice. Drop your stuff off in camp first.
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
I would piece together a 2 night loop that you can just leave your car at Elephant Hill the whole time. It shouldn't be hard. You don't need a vehicle permit. Just pay your entry fee on your way in. Water is an issue out there. The Chesler Joint loop is nice. Drop your stuff off in camp first.

All set!!! I just booked 2 nights at CP5. I wanted to do one night in CP1 and one in CP5, but CP1 was booked on both nights unfortunately....there's always next time!!!

So the plan will be to hike to our campsite from Elephant Hill as you suggested above, set up camp and drop all of our shiite off, and then go out exploring. How far/long of a hike should we expect to get to CP5 from Elephant Hill?

Also, when I was making my reservation it asked me to select my "entry point." I went with Elephant Hill...hopefully thats right...?
 

Nick

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So the plan will be to hike to our campsite from Elephant Hill as you suggested above, set up camp and drop all of our shiite off, and then go out exploring. How far/long of a hike should we expect to get to CP5 from Elephant Hill?

Mileage is listed on the park trail map. I think it's around 4 but don't quote me. Yeah, Elephant Hill entry point.
 

Craiger

Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2016
Messages
31
CP is awesome. The joint trail and CP loop is one of the highlights of the area. The only issue is there is no water around there. If you do a day hike to Druid Arch you can fill up on water along the way as there are a couple of sources along that route.
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
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Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
Yeah I'm not thrilled about having to carry 2.5 days worth of water to our campsite but we'll deal with it. And after looking at the map a little more closely, it does appear that it's about a 4 mile hike from Elephant Hill to our campsite. Is this an easy 4 miles or a strenuous 4 miles? And how long will it take each direction? Just trying to gauge how hard the first leg is going to be with all that extra weight and I'm also trying to figure out how long it will take us to get back to our vehicle when it's time to head home.

Thanks again all. Your help is much appreciated!!!!
 

Nick

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You probably shouldn't rely on packing in all of your water for 2.5 days. In April it could be nice out or it could be really hot. It was unseasonably warm when I did it in April and it was upwards of 90 out. We went through our water much faster than anticipated in those conditions. You need a lot of water for that. They say a gallon per day but for cooking and with a lot of exertion you could easily need more than that. It would be smarter to bring in enough for your CP loop and then move on through Elephant where you can replenish your supplies.

It's not a moderate hike, in my opinion. A good amount of ups and downs along with plenty of sand. It's also very important to keep an eye on where you're going. It's not a 'trail' like you might expect in many places.
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
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Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
We were able to get CP1...SCORE!!!

I hear that's the best site. Hopefully I can find a few photos of it on this website.
 

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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We were able to get CP1...SCORE!!!

I hear that's the best site. Hopefully I can find a few photos of it on this website.

I don't think you can go wrong with any of them, but it is pretty nice. Here's CP1:

5708666299_6f4f954205_z.jpg


http://backcountrypost.com/threads/backpacking-chesler-park.107/
 

Dustin Rand

Dustino
Joined
Dec 31, 2016
Messages
39
I don't think you can go wrong with any of them, but it is pretty nice. Here's CP1:

5708666299_6f4f954205_z.jpg


http://backcountrypost.com/threads/backpacking-chesler-park.107/


Looks so awesome. Mid-April needs to get here and PRONTO!!! I realize this could vary, but how many other groups might we see camping in CP1 on a Friday and Saturday night?

So the plan is to drive from Denver to the Moab area on a Thursday evening and then head into the park early a.m. on Friday.

Any good spots outside the park where we could car camp?
 

Nick

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Looks so awesome. Mid-April needs to get here and PRONTO!!! I realize this could vary, but how many other groups might we see camping in CP1 on a Friday and Saturday night?

If you reserved it then you should see exactly zero other groups camping in it. Each site out there is for one group only and the nearest site (CP2) is quite far away.

There is a nice 'back porch' view right behind the campsite overlooking Elephant Canyon that is good for sunset. And this one just around the corner from camp on the main trail with a similar view:
5709232620_a13ab5e49e_z.jpg


And don't miss the sunrise view of Chesler looking the other direction from camp:
5701804064_1038b2464d_z.jpg
 
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