A Needles Tour


Jan 17, 2012
Friday - Sunday, October 24-26, 2014

Since Diane and I had a great long weekend in The Maze over Memorial Day weekend I wanted to show her some of my favorite places in The Needles district this weekend so she could experience more of Canyonlands National Park. Plus, I've been having a great year in Canyonlands by finally completing the White Rim and backpacking Salt Creek Canyon, so I wanted to keep the momentum going!

I left work early Friday morning and we made our way through Moab and Indian Creek Canyon to The Needles. Of course, we stopped at Newspaper Rock along the way to check out the impressive petroglyph panel. After arriving at the park, we hiked the short Cave Spring trail before driving over Elephant Hill to our campsite for the next two nights in the Devil's Kitchen. The beginning of the Elephant Hill trail was the easiest I have ever seen it. It appears that the Park Service has removed the large loose boulders that would constantly move and then filled the trail in with sand and dirt.

I've stopped at Newspaper Rock numerous times in the past, but it's always worth another quick visit when I'm driving by.

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The cowboy camp at Cave Spring.

Cave Spring Cowboy Camp
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A few small pictographs near Cave Spring.

Cave Spring Pictographs
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Along the Elephant Hill trail on our way to camp.

Elephant Hill Trail
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we reached our campsite at the Devil's Kitchen there was some nice reflected light in the passages and slots behind our camp. I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod to take a few photos since I knew the light wouldn't last long.

by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Camp Chamber
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Intersection Glow
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Passage Light
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Fun With Light
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

While I was taking photos of the reflected light, Diane was nice enough to get our tent setup all by herself.

Devil's Kitchen #3
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The sky was clear when the sun went down, so I really didn't bother taking any photos at that time. However, I did wait until it was dark enough to take some shots of the Milky Way above.

The Milky Way over Devil's Pocket from camp.

Needles Milky Way
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane was inside the tent reading while I took this photo.

Night Camp
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

On Saturday morning we woke up with the sunrise, but there were no clouds again, so I didn't take any photos. Instead we had some breakfast and started our drive through Devil's Lane and over SOB Hill to the Joint Trail. We stopped at a few rock art sites on the way.

A well-known panel of pictographs right next to the road.

Hands & Feet
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Part of a larger Barrier Canyon Style pictograph panel that is very faded and hard to see.

Grabens Panel
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We enjoyed the short morning hike on the Joint Trail to the Chesler Park overlook and rested there in the shade. After a little while we heard and saw a large group of kids hiking through Chesler Park in the distance on their way towards the Joint Trail and we knew that it was time to get moving again. We did not want to get stuck near that group!

Entering the Cave of Cairns. There aren't as many cairns as there used to be in here. I've seen the Park Rangers knocking them over in the past.

Cave of Cairns
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Some nice light around the corner.

Cave Glow
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Trail through the joint.

Joint Trail
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The Joint
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Our view from the Chesler Park overlook. Maybe one day I'll finally catch a sunset here, but not today...

Chesler Park
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Diane heading back to the trailhead.

In the Joint
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After our easy morning hike we decided to leave the park and drive up to Ruin Park, Beef Basin and Middle Park to visit a few ruins and search for some new ones. Bobby's Hole had been washed out earlier this year but had been repaired in the past few months and was in the same condition I have always seen it in.

Leaving the park on the sandy trail.

Jeep in Sand
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A new granary I found this trip, with a little help from my friend Jared.

New Granary
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

These white pictographs were found next to the granary above. While lines of white dots are commonly found in these parts, the large egg-shaped figure in the middle of the line of dots is something new that I have not seen before.

Egg in the Middle
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We stopped to visit Farm House Ruin.

Farm House Ruin
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Before returning back to camp, we hiked to the Canyonlands Panel that I managed to find a few years back. This has got to be one of my very favorite petroglyph panels.

Canyonlands Panel
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Hunting Sheep
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Walk the Line
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

One of my favorite signs.

by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Sandstone spires come into view again as we get closer to our camp.

Return to the Needles
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Seashell Rock
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There were a few small clouds left in the sky this evening that turned magenta after the sun was down.

Last Light
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

On Sunday morning we finally had some clouds move into the sky about an hour before sunrise which created some nice color when the sun did come up. It was a very nice sunrise!

The clouds starting to change color.

Morning Clouds
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Sunrise over Devil's Pocket. The magenta light bouncing off of the clouds and onto the spires was pretty intense.

Devil's Pocket Sunrise
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A closer look at the needles.

Needles Sunrise
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Light on the spires when the color in the sky was gone.

Light on the Spires
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After breakfast and packing up camp we continued our drive around the Elephant Hill trail loop so that we could head back home. We did stop to hike to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers on the way out.

Nice light on the sandstone walls in the Devil's Lane.

Devil's Lane Light
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The sandy two-track through the Devil's Lane.

Devil's Lane
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Another faded Barrier Canyon Style pictograph that we passed by.

Faint BCS
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A view of the confluence from the overlook. I always enjoy seeing the two separate colors of each river where they meet.

The Confluence
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Hiking back to the Jeep from the overlook.

Confluence Overlook Trail
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Sandstone formations in Elephant Canyon as we drive back out.

Stone Scenery
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The final climb over Elephant Hill.

Elephant Hill
by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful, but we did stop in Moab for a nice lunch at The Blu Pig, one of our favorite restaurants in town :)

>> A Needles Tour Photo Gallery
>> The Original Trip Report on ADVENTR.CO\

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Great report and pics as always.

Memories of going up Bobby's Hole at dusk on Thanksgiving day 1976 in a Chevy Blazer. Bad move. Left an entire fingernail somewhere in the rocks.
I really love the needles. My season for Moab is Dec-Jan, I'm getting really excited.

Just curious, why that time of year? I'm dying to get back, planning for next April but wondering if I should go in winter as well…..
Just curious, why that time of year? I'm dying to get back, planning for next April but wondering if I should go in winter as well…..

My typical Moab time is in the late fall through winter months to avoid the crowds. Not sure if that's his reason, but it's mine.
Just curious, why that time of year? I'm dying to get back, planning for next April but wondering if I should go in winter as well…..

My typical Moab time is in the late fall through winter months to avoid the crowds. Not sure if that's his reason, but it's mine.

Randy has the right idea IMO. @NateGeesaman and I have camped at the willow flats campground with only one other vehicle, on a weekend the past three years. We've also been lucky to get a good layer of snow, which really make the layers POP IMO. Murphy's loop, and upheavel dome are an exquisite experience with no one around.
Just curious, why that time of year? I'm dying to get back, planning for next April but wondering if I should go in winter as well…..
The only months I haven't been there are Dec and Jan. July and August are my favorite months. The tourists are on the pavement and the back roads are quiet. Also... the daily thunderstorms and floods. Great excitement.
Needles District is one of my favorite Utah gems. Your pics of it are fantastic!
Happy trails out there.
That looks like an awesome trip. I wish I had known about that area with the caves when I was down there last year. Now I have a reason to go back!
Great report! You always have te most beautiful photography! Can't wait to get down to that area.
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