Canyonlands - The Needles

The Needles District forms the Southeast third of Canyonlands National Park. It lies Southeast of the Colorado River and Southwest of the town of Moab. It is the smallest of the three parts of Canyonlands but is still massive. In addition, you have to really work to see much of this park. Your choices for getting around are pretty much foot or hard core 4-wheel driving. The roads and trails run over rugged slickrock or sand and huge canyons are everywhere. When hiking here, you definitely want to know how to find a trail and have a good map and compass with you.

The Needles is named for the bizarre spires of limestone and sandstone that occur in amazing abundance here. They form majestic rows of red and white columns marching along the desert floor and canyon rims. I'd been to the other two parts of Canyonlands, The Maze and The Island In The Sky, several times before coming here and Canyonlands was already my favorite national park. Seeing The Needles only added to my love of this amazing place.  

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These are shots of Elephant Canyon, a large deep canyon that separates the Chesler Park area, site of some of the best Needles formations, from the road. So in order to see Chesler Park, you have to go in and out of Elephant Canyon twice, once on the way out and once on the way back. Fortunately, it is spectacular so we didn't mind the two climbs out of the canyon too much. Actually, the climbs were kind of fun. They often involved what I call the 5 point climbing stance. You face away from the rock and use your 2 hands, 2 feet, and rear end to keep from sliding down the rock as you descend.



These three shots were all taken from the same point, looking east from Chesler Park into Elephant Canyon. You can really see the rugged terrain of this area. Note the trail markers in the 2 pictures on the left. Very often those markers were the only way to find the safest route through this area.



These are some of the formations in Chesler Park. Chesler Park is so named because it is almost fertile compared to the surrounding desert. You can see the vegetation in the picture on the left. 



More random shots of the bizarre Needles formations. 



This bluff and the spires in the background are just outside the Needles entrance station. I like this shot because it is a classic shot of the unique landscape in this part of Utah.


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