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A Needles Tour

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

The cowboy camp at Cave Spring.

Cave Spring Cowboy Camp

A few small pictographs near Cave Spring.

Cave Spring Pictographs

Along the Elephant Hill trail on our way to camp.

Elephant Hill Trail

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.


Camp Chamber

Intersection Glow

Passage Light

Fun With Light

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

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

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

Night Camp

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

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

Grabens Panel

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

Some nice light around the corner.

Cave Glow

Trail through the joint.

Joint Trail

The Joint

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

Chesler Park

Diane heading back to the trailhead.

In the Joint

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

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

New Granary

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

We stopped to visit Farm House Ruin.

Farm House Ruin

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

Hunting Sheep

Walk the Line

One of my favorite signs.


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

Return to the Needles

Seashell Rock

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

Last Light

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

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

Devil's Pocket Sunrise

A closer look at the needles.

Needles Sunrise

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

Light on the Spires

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

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

Devil's Lane

Another faded Barrier Canyon Style pictograph that we passed by.

Faint BCS

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

The Confluence

Hiking back to the Jeep from the overlook.

Confluence Overlook Trail

Sandstone formations in Elephant Canyon as we drive back out.

Stone Scenery

The final climb over Elephant Hill.

Elephant Hill

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


  1. Pat
    Pat November 14, 2014

    lovely and interesting photo essay

  2. Jennifer
    Jennifer November 14, 2014

    Did you have to make a reservation to camp at Devils Kitchen?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat November 14, 2014

      Yes, a permit is required to camp at Devil’s Kitchen, and it’s best to reserve one in advance since there are only 4 sites.

  3. Susan McDermott
    Susan McDermott November 14, 2014

    O how I love your photographs! I grew up in Grand Junction, CO. On the weekends we looked for rock art or Indian artifacts and picnicked in the pinion of Utah and Western CO. Your photographs transport me back to those GREAT childhood memories 50+ years ago. Keep them coming!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat November 14, 2014

      Thank you Susan!

  4. Sanna
    Sanna November 15, 2014

    I really love your photographs and I hopefully can visit the wonderful southwest one day again. Thank you for sharing!!!

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat November 16, 2014

      Thank you Sanna!

  5. John Spurr
    John Spurr December 5, 2014

    Great adventure! Great trip report! Great photos!

  6. Robert Burton
    Robert Burton February 24, 2018

    Randy, just wanted to thank you for these great photo’s and giving my wife and I ideas of new places to go.
    Are two horses and a pack mule ok in these remote trails, and is there any water for our animals?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat February 25, 2018

      Thanks Robert! I just checked the regulations for pack animals in Canyonlands, and it looks like they are only allowed on roads in the park:

      Many of the hiking trails climb steep ledges and go through narrow slots which I think would give pack animals a lot of trouble. Water can definitely be an issue in the park depending on how dry it’s been.

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