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Realm of Rock: Elephant Hill to The Grabens

A Last Minute Trip into The Needles | Friday – Sunday, October 14-16, 2022

This weekend Jackson and I had made plans to go camping and hiking together but we were having trouble deciding where to go and running out of time, especially during this busy Fall Break weekend in southern Utah. On a whim Thursday afternoon we looked to see what campsites were still available in Canyonlands National Park and found that the New Bates Wilson site was open, so I booked it and quickly made last minute plans for us to head into The Needles. To get to the New Bates Wilson campsite we would have to drive over Elephant Hill, so this would also be a great opportunity for me to finally get my new Jeep on a real trail.

We left after work on Friday afternoon and headed south through Moab to The Needles and arrived shortly after dark. As expected, the campsites along the Lockhart Basin Road were packed full of people this busy weekend, so I took us out to a backup camping spot located outside of the park that was a bit more secluded. It was a beautiful and peaceful night as we got our tents set up and then went to bed early. The weather all weekend would end up being perfect for camping! On Saturday morning we were up early and on our way over Elephant Hill shortly after sunrise. We then spent the rest of the weekend Jeeping, hiking and camping around The Grabens near our campsite.

Driving through The Squeeze along the Elephant Hill Trail.

The Squeeze

Stopped for a photo below the Silver Stairs.

Silver Stairs

From the New Bates Wilson campsite we went on a loop hike that required us to hike two miles along the sandy two-track back into Devils Lane.


Two-Track Through The Narrows

Two-Track Through The Narrows

Descending the trail into Cyclone Canyon.

Descent Into Cyclone Canyon

Looking into the head of the short canyon that cuts through the horst between Cyclone Canyon and Red Lake Canyon.

Graben Canyon

A high overview of Cyclone Canyon.

Cyclone Canyon

Following the trail through Cyclone Canyon.

Cyclone Canyon Trail

We stopped to check out this sinkhole in Cyclone Canyon.

Cyclone Sinkhole

We had a pleasant walk through the horsts and grabens, although it did start to get a bit warm in the sun of the afternoon.

The Grabens

Little Graben

Cyclone Graben

After returning to camp and resting in the shade for a while we headed over to The Confluence Overlook to watch the sunset.

Confluence Overlook Road

Confluence Country

An evening at The Confluence Overlook. We just floated through there about a month ago.

An Evening at The Confluence

Lovely golden light on the cliffs with Junction Butte and the Island in the Sky on the horizon.

Confluence Cliffs

Below, we could see the final campsite we stayed at along the Colorado River after floating through Stillwater Canyon last month.

River Glow

At the Edge of Sunset

At the Edge of Sunset

Surprisingly, the large sandbar that was located just below The Confluence a month ago was now almost completely gone.

The Confluence

The Confluence at Dusk

Confluence at Dusk

When we returned to camp in the dark I decided to try a few night photos.

Jeep at Night

New Bates Wilson Campsite at Night

After a great night in the desert we woke up early on Sunday morning and climbed up onto the rocks above camp to take a few photos at sunrise.

Ekker Butte

Morning View


Morning Light at Camp

The Needles

The Needles

New Bates Wilson Camp

New Bates Wilson Camp

New Bates Wilson Tent

After sunrise we packed up camp we headed back over Elephant Hill and then continued on home since I had a concert to go to in the evening.

Headed Home


Rock Art of The Grabens

While I didn’t find any new rock art sites this weekend, we did pass by a couple that I’ve been to before, so here are a few photos of the rock art we passed along the way.

Devils Lane Pictographs

Lone Petroglyph

Top Rock Petroglyphs

High Faded Pictographs

Barrier Canyon Style

Petroglyph Panel

>> Elephant Hill to The Grabens Photo Gallery


  1. turbodb | Dan@AdventureTaco
    turbodb | Dan@AdventureTaco October 17, 2022

    Nice. Looks like the Jeep did well, and I always love the confluence as the water colors come together! Needles is a pretty cool spot – have you hiked Druid Arch from Joint Trail? Didn’t find that route in a quick search, and I think you’d like that one.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 17, 2022

      The Jeep did do well. I just need to replace the stock gas tank skid with the one that’s been sitting in my garage for months! Also, this Jeep came with AT tires and I’m not sold on them. I’ve always had MT tires before and might go back when I wear these out…

      I’ve been to Druid Arch a couple of times, it’s definitely a great hike! This was my latest visit:

      • turbodb | Dan@AdventureTaco
        turbodb | Dan@AdventureTaco October 18, 2022

        Ahh, I missed that one; only found the hike from the Elephant Hill Trailhead. I suppose we didn’t really know what we were looking for, since we didn’t see any petroglyphs (it was before I really knew to look), but I really enjoyed the scenery from the Joint Trail. It was my first real hike in Utah, I think.

  2. Bruce
    Bruce October 17, 2022

    I’ve spent several mornings enjoying the sunrise from the rocks above the New Bates Wilson camp with my dad in the years before he passed away. What a beautiful spot. Thanks for helping me relive the memories.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 17, 2022

      Sounds like you had some good times there! This was my first time staying at that particular campsite and I enjoyed it.

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