Thursday – Sunday, March 14-17, 2019
Last March Diane and I had such a nice time backpacking through Chesler Park and Elephant Canyon in Canyonlands National Park on our first backpacking trip of the season, that we decided to head back to The Needles for another early season backpacking trip this year, too! I think this might become one of our new annual traditions, at least for a couple of years! The Needles is a great place to get back into backpacking mode after taking a few months off, so at the end of last year I reserved a couple of campsites during the first full weekend that the park was back open and operational again in the middle of March for our trip. This year we decided to hike a loop through Lost Canyon and Big Spring Canyon because it had been almost seven years since the last time I hiked through Lost Canyon and I wanted to get back to explore it more thoroughly.
Diane hikes ahead of me up the sandstone divide between Squaw Canyon and Lost Canyon on our first morning in The Needles.
We left after work on Thursday evening and camped outside the park near Indian Creek so we could get an early start on Friday morning and would have plenty of time to explore Lost Canyon after setting up camp. The weather for the weekend was looking pretty nice with no precipitation predicted and daytime temperatures in the 50’s. However, the overnight temperatures were a bit concerning to me since they were supposed to drop down into the low 20’s. I frequently car camp in temperatures this cold, but I have never gone backpacking in temps this low before and I was worried that my 25° Western Mountaineering sleeping bag was not going to keep me warm enough, especially since campfires are not allowed inside Canyonlands. I made sure to sleep in this sleeping bag on Thursday night to see how it would fare and when I woke up on Friday morning my feet were freezing cold! I knew that if I didn’t do something I would not have an enjoyable weekend, so as a last minute decision I packed my Kelty 0° bag instead which takes up more space in my pack and weighs quite a bit more (I bought it for car camping, not backpacking), but would definitely keep me warm. It was a good call and I slept comfortably the entire weekend! Thankfully, I found out the day before that I didn’t need to carry a hard-sided bear canister, which was required last year, so that helped me offset a little bit of the extra weight in my pack. Anyway, here are some photos from our first backpacking trip of the year!
Descending the steep trail into Lost Canyon on the other side.
A view along the Lost Canyon Trail in the late afternoon. With the wet winter and spring we’ve had, we found water everywhere this year! Many of the potholes in the sandstone were full and all of the creeks in the canyons were flowing, even the smaller side canyons. There was also still plenty of snow and ice in the north-facing shaded areas.
We visited a nice Fremont pictograph panel.
The remains of a large round ruin. Possibly a kiva…
Shark Fin Rock
Diane spotted this large cavern ruin that we climbed up to.
Overlooking Lost Canyon
Metate In Pieces
I almost missed this ruin, even though I was standing right below it for a while.
Yellow Man Pictograph
I was hoping to photograph these three nice ruins in the shade, but it didn’t happen this time…
This sandstone butte was in the middle of the rincon that our campsite was located in.
A nicely preserved metate we saw.
Back at our campsite shortly before sunset.
There was an arch visible from our campsite across the canyon.
Watching the sunset from the trail to our campsite.
Warm light before a very cold night…
A morning reflection in Lost Canyon.
Exploring untracked side canyons…
We found this nice ruin built on top of a large boulder.
Right next to the main doorway is a smaller door to a small storage space, kind of like a closet.
Walking among large boulders.
You just can’t beat the scenery of the canyons in The Needles.
Hiking out of Lost Canyon on our way to our next campsite in Big Spring Canyon.
Light & Shadow
Climbing up to the divide between Squaw Canyon and Big Spring Canyon.
Stopped in a large shaded amphitheater.
The view on the other side of the divide.
Just a colorful alcove found along the trail.
A crack in a cave that we had to jump over.
Descending into Big Spring Canyon in the evening.
Diane hiking down through the chute below.
We got our tent setup in Big Spring Canyon and had some dinner.
After dinner I climbed above camp and watched the sunset.
Looking down to our campsite below.
Sunrise above our campsite in Big Spring Canyon on Sunday morning.
A morning reflection along the Big Spring Canyon Trail.
Hiking through a final tunnel along the trail shortly before reaching the trailhead.
Very nice, I can almost smell the juniper! We have to wait until October for our third visit to Needles, on our annual desert trip.
…your “nice Fremont Panel” looks more BCS to me.
Awesome photos and trip report! (and blog, for that matter… I just got sucked into looking at a bunch of your trip reports after seeing this one linked to on BCP). I’m heading there next week and am now even more excited for the trip. I had no idea there were so many ruins and art panels in that area; I’ve hiked through Salt Creek but didn’t know there were so many in the area around Lost Canyon. Did you know beforehand that these were there, or did you just wander around and happen upon them? Do you have any tips for finding these (such as hints for general areas to be looking) or recommended resources to read about these? My guide book (the David Day book) doesn’t mention those (although he does mention a cowboy camp), but they look really nice.
Compared to Salt Creek Canyon there really isn’t much in the way of ruins and rock art in Lost Canyon….just a couple of sites. I’ve been to a couple of them in the past and revisited them on this trip and then just searched and found a few new ones along the way. There are no resources that I am aware of that will help you find them, just need to get off the main trail and see what you can find! I visited the cowboy camp back in 2012 and it’s pretty cool.
Thanks for the info! Hopefully we’ll have time for some side explorations out of Lost Canyon.
You mentioned that there was plenty of water when you went. Do you think there will probably still be reliable water near the EC3 campsite (elephant canyon) and in Lost Canyon (we’ll be at LC2 there)?
We stayed at LC3 last March when it was much drier out and had no problems finding water near there. With as much water that was in Lost Canyon just a week and a half ago when I was there again, I can’t imagine it would be dry yet.
Sounds good, thanks!