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The Needles

Friday – Sunday, February 23-25, 2018

After spending the previous weekend exploring Cedar Mesa, Diane had to travel to San Diego for work this weekend, so I was on my own. I decided to leave work on Friday and spend the weekend in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park even though Diane and I would be headed back there in two weeks for our first backpacking trip of the year. If I had to choose just one favorite district of Canyonlands National Park, I think I would have to go with The Needles. This section of Canyonlands has amazing hiking, challenging Jeep trails, beautiful scenery in every direction and plenty of hidden rock art and ruins. The Needles has it all!

During my drive down to Squaw Flat on Friday evening it started to snow a little as I was driving through Indian Creek Canyon. While the storm didn’t last long, it did end up dumping enough snow to cover the ground in that short time. I was originally planning on driving over Elephant Hill in the morning, but with this new snow on the ground, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to drive the trail by myself. Since I knew that this would be a possibility at this time of the year, I had backup plans ready to go. I pulled my Jeep into the first site at the Squaw Flat Campground and quickly got into bed. The weather forecast was predicting temperatures would drop into the low teens this night, but it ended up not being too cold and only dropped down to 24 degrees when I woke up shortly before sunrise. I then drove over to the Elephant Hill Trailhead and started hiking the Chesler Park Trail into the heart of The Needles.

There was a fresh dusting of snow on the ground as I left the Elephant Hill Trailhead shortly after sunrise. I had brought my microspikes along on the hike, just in case, but I never needed to use them.

Elephant Hill Sunrise

Morning Sandstone

Morning Stone

My first view of the Needles this morning as I made my way to Chesler Park.

Needles Morning View

Following the trail down into a narrow joint in the sandstone.

Into The Abyss

A distant view as I hiked along the Chesler Park Loop. You can see the snow was beginning to melt off a little by this time. It would all be gone in a few more hours. An unusual story from this part of the hike is that when I first hiked through the pass into Chesler Park this morning, I came across two tents that were set up right in the middle of the trail and not in a proper designated campsite? I think I might have woke them up as I hiked right between them…

Potholes With A View

Hiking through a beautiful canyon.

Wash Hiking

Sandstone needles all around…

The Needles

Climbing up the constructed stairs of the Joint Trail.

Joint Stairs

The glowing light in this chamber is always nice.

The Chamber

Hiking through the narrows of the popular Joint Trail.

The Joint



Since I was in the area I stopped at the Cave of 200 Hands.

Cave of 200 Hands

Pictographs of backpackers along the back wall.


There are handprints everywhere you look in this small alcove.

Cave Hands

The highlight of my day was finding and visiting this amazing Barrier Canyon Style panel.

The Stellar Panel

A closer look at the right side.

Ancient Spirit

Canyonlands Spirits

Canyonlands Spirits

I even managed to catch a sunstar over the panel while I was here.

Barrier Canyon Style Sunburst

I finished the day off with this view toward the La Sal Mountains from my site at the Squaw Flat Campground.

View From Camp

After spending a second night at the Squaw Flat Campground, I woke up early on Sunday morning to hike the Peekaboo Trail before heading home in the afternoon. While I have visited Peekaboo many times before, it has always been by hiking or driving through Salt Creek Canyon. I thought it would be nice to finally hike the trail there from the Squaw Flat Trailhead. This morning the temperature had only dropped down to 29 degrees but there was a cold wind all day which made it feel much colder out than on Saturday.

I started hiking about forty minutes before sunrise and caught these iced-over potholes along the trail in the early dawn light.

Icy Dawn

The sun came up over the horizon as I reached the sandstone divide between Squaw Canyon and Lost Canyon.

Lost Canyon Sunstar

I just can’t get enough warm golden light on sandstone…

Divide Sunrise

I’m glad I finally hiked the actual Peekaboo Trail because the views and scenery were amazing! I highly recommend this hike!

Peekaboo Trail

The trail even went through this small arch along the way.

Trail Passage

Climbing down the ladder into Salt Creek Canyon near Peekaboo Spring.

Peekaboo Ladder

I’ve been to the pictograph panel at Peekaboo many times before, but I had to make another stop since I was in the area.


Before heading back, I spent a little time exploring Salt Creek Canyon and found this nice granary.

Needles Granary

There’s not much left of this granary tucked back under a very short overhang.

Little Remains

I found a large cave that contained a good number of handprints, too.

Messages From The Past

White Handprints

I almost missed these four pictographs since they were pretty small.

Four Guys

Faded Fremont Figures

White Arc Panel

Hiking back to the trailhead above the Salt Creek drainage with North Six Shooter Peak on the horizon. It was another great weekend exploring Canyonlands and I can’t wait to return in a few short weeks!

Salt Creek Canyon Country

>> The Needles Photo Gallery


  1. Nancy Jaycox
    Nancy Jaycox March 6, 2018

    I really enjoy reading about your travels with pictures and descriptions! We love Utah and Canyonlands more than anything and can’t wait to get out there again. Living in Glade Park near Grand Junction, we will certainly use your website and journeys to help us plan future trips. Thank you soooo much!! Keep up the good work!

  2. John Spurr
    John Spurr March 6, 2018

    Simply wonderful images as always!

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