The Chocolate Drops is a rock formation in the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park. Its chocolate-colored sandstone spires rise high above the ridge separating Pictograph Fork from the South Fork of Horse Canyon, and are a prominent landmark from many parts of the Maze. The Chocolate Drops are comprised of the Organ Rock Member of the Cutler Formation, topped with a dollop of the White Rim Sandstone Member.
The hike itself isn't very difficult, but getting to the trailhead can be. A 4WD, high-clearance vehicle is required, and it can take five hours or more to drive the 35 miles from the Hans Flat Ranger Station to the trailhead. Summer temperatures can be hot (in the range of 90-100 degrees F), but the relatively flat elevation profile of the trail makes it a good hike for any season.
Getting to the trailhead requires a five hour drive over 35 miles of rough and technical dirt roads. A 4WD, high-clearance vehicle is required. From the Hans Flat Ranger Station (38.255222,-110.179739), the road heads roughly south to the Flint Trail switchbacks at 38.119108,-110.123777. From there you'll continue in a southerly direction until finishing the descent of the Orange Cliffs at Waterhole Flat (38.063331,-110.121342). The road then goes north across the head of Teapot Canyon which is the roughest part of the journey. Once you reach the Land of Standing Rocks, you'll find the trailhead at 38.17167,-110.014279.
The round-trip hiking distance is about 8.5 miles if you do a loop around the north end of the Chocolate Drops. The trail is fairly well-worn and cairned, making it easy to follow. Starting at the trailhead, the trail runs north and mostly follows the top of the ridge between two canyons. There's a loss of about 500' of elevation between the trailhead and the Chocolate Drops, but spread out over more than four miles it's hardly noticeable. You'll pass a few interesting rock formations along the way, and there are good views down into the Maze canyons, as well as looking back at the Land of Standing Rocks. Once you reach the Chocolate Drops the trail fades away, but you can continue in a loop around the rock formations then return to the trail and follow it back to the trailhead.
Permits & Regulations
Permits are required for all overnight trips in the Maze district. While this hike could be done without an overnight stay, the length and difficulty of the drive almost necessitates at least one night's stay, though multiple nights are recommended to experience what the Maze has to offer.
Backcountry permits are $30 and are available from the National Park Service. Permits are valid for up to 14 consecutive days--backpackers may stay up to seven nights in a single spot, and vehicle campsites may be occupied for up to three nights before having to relocate to another site. Vehicle campsites may be reserved in advance, and it's recommended that you do so during peak season (basically spring through fall).
Pets are not allowed anywhere in the Maze district--sorry dog owners! Portable toilets are required when using any of the designated vehicle campsites. Backpackers must bury their waste at least 300' from any water source or campsite, and all toilet paper must be packed out. Wood fires are prohibited. See the NPS' backcountry regulations page for a full list of restrictions.