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.