Monday, August 24, 2009

Canyonlands, Needles District, Utah

Planned for spring 2010


  • Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau by Michael R. Kelsey, Kelsey Publishing Provo UT
  • Utah’s Incredible Backcountry Trails by David Day, Rincon Publishing Orem UT
  • Canyonlands National Park Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails by David Day, Rincon Publishing Orem UT
  • Needles District Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic
  • NPS Website -
  • NPS Map -

Following is a plan for our spring trip in 2010. If anyone has experience in this area and would like to make suggestions we would welcome them.

This will be broken into two separate loop hikes. We will move the car in between. The first part includes a loop of the Chesler Park area and then a larger loop down to the Colorado River, up the river to the Confluence with the Green, and then back to the car. Part 1 looks like four days for us. The second portion will be in upper Salt Creek. The car will be relocated to the Cathedral Butte area. We’ll hike north in the West Fork of Salt Creek, and back to the car in the main fork. Part 2 looks like 3 days. This plan omits hiking into the Big Springs, Lost Canyon and Squaw Canyon. We only have so many days.

Day 1

Drive the Car to Elephant Hill. Hike 2 miles to campsite EC1. Bring 1 extra gallon of water per person. Drop the packs. Day hike without packs down to Chesler Park via Chesler Park Loop Trail, jeep trails, and the Joint Trail. Depending on our feelings at this point, we could go down to see Druid Arch or not. Then back to EC1. Distance without packs: 7.5 to 11.1 Miles.

Day 2

Using that extra gallon of water we carried on day one, hike down to the Colorado River via Lower Red Lake Canyon Trail. Distance: 8.3 Miles.

Day 3

Hike down river without packs as desired. With packs, hike up the Colorado to the Confluence with the Green. Distance: at least 4 miles.

Day 4

Hike back to the car at Elephant Hill. Distance: 7.5 Miles. Shower. Camp at Squaw Flat.

Day 5

Drive the car to Cathedral Butte. Hike down into Salt Creek. Before reaching Kirk’s cabin, cross over to the West Fork. Hike North in the West Fork. Camp in the West Fork, near the confluence with the main fork. Get water from main fork if necessary. Distance: 8-10 Miles.

Day 6

Leave packs at junction with main fork of Salt Creek. Day hike up to Angel Arch. Come back. Pick up packs and hike down to campsite SC3. Distance: 9-11 Miles, 5 without packs.

Day 7

Hike back to the car in the main fork of Salk Creek. Distance 9 Miles. Drive back to Salt Lake City.


Gritz said...

We get out there at least once a year and have been on many of the trails you are going on.

We're actually gonna be out there the last part of April for 5 days.

1)EC1 is good, but EC2 is EPIC! Change to that site if you can.

2) The Druid Arch trail is deceivingly strenuous and will require at least 4-5 hours out and back to appreciate it fully. (it's a GREAT hike though)

3) You will most likely find filterable water in Elephant Canyon during the spring.

4)The climb back up from the river on Lower Red Lake Canyon Trail can be a pain, but if you are doing each way on separate days, that is easily do-able.

5)The road out to Cathedral Butte can be impossible to drive if there has been much moisture, even w/4wd.

6)The climb back out the top of Salt creek can also be a huck.

Those are pretty much all the cautions I can see. You are gonna have a blast. That trip sounds great.

Hit me back if you want any pics of the are that we've taken over the years.

good luck,

Norm Kern said...

Gritz, thanks for all this information. Our plan has us dropping our packs and our extra water at EC1 and doing a long day hike, out the C.P. loop trail, and back on the joint trail, then maybe the druid arch trail and then back past EC2. The 4-5 hours, for the D.A trail is from what point? We will be coming up from the river near the confluence. Any photos of the foot of that trail would be appreciated. The other major concern is finding the trail down into the west fork of Salt Creek. Any photos of that trail head would be greatly appreciated.

Gritz said...

Oh yeah, the 4-5 hours to Druid Arch is from the the EC1 campsite area. (that's assuming a 30-45 mins or so of rest @ the Arch itself.)

rd said...

Hello Norm, sorry to resurrect an old post, but did you ever hike down the West Fork of Salt Creek like you mentioned here? I am interested in someday doing a loop of the West and Main forks, but haven't found any info regarding how rugged is the terrain (particularly entering the West fork from the top), how dense the bushwhacking, how available, the water, etc. If you did that route, please let me know!



Norm Kern said...

Ryan, sorry to report that we have not been back. As we did our out and back, it was not obvious how we would have exectuted the original plan. That is, the cross over was in no way obvious. Norm