"Needles: Chesler Park/Joint Trail Overview" Top 5 Page for this destination Canyonlands National Park Things to Do Tip by goodfish
Canyonlands National Park Things to Do: 152 reviews and 316 photos
We drove the 75 miles from Moab just to do this one as the raves were irresistible: it's consistently rated a 5-star for scenery, and some call it one of the best hikes in the U.S. It's also supposed to be the most popular route in the park although we saw less than a dozen people on its entire 11-mile length. I'll cover some specifics about both trail sections in separate tips but here's some general info to know before you go:
Chesler Park is a fun journey over a ridge in Elephant Canyon to a huge and astonishing "city" of pinnacles and hoodoos rising from grassy meadowland. Joint takes you deep into fractures as narrow as 2 feet wide. Together, they create more drama than you can shake a trekking pole at. You can do either trail individually but will be retracing all of your steps unless taking a different (and probably longer) loop back to the trailhead than the Chesler/Joint combination. By doing these two as a loop, you will still retrace 3 miles of ground but have another 8 that are one-way. 11 too much for you? Then just do the 6-mile RT to Chesler Park (3 in and 3 out) as it'll be the shortest of the two to access. 11 too little for you? Add another 4 miles by tacking on a spur to Druid Arch.
The trailhead starts at the end of 3 miles of dirt road at the Elephant Hill parking area. There are vault toilets but no water: make sure your packs are well stocked with what you need to rehydrate and refuel. Averages are 5-7 hours to do the loop depending on how speedy you are and how many photo stops you make. It took us about 7 but we had a little complication with the weather...
I'm including a very nice route description, with thanks to David Day and Utah Trails, as the park directions are a little sketchy and it's nice to know more exactly where you are along the way. Ignore the bit about taking the 4-wheel drive road in as the Elephant Hill section is described in the park materials as "one of the most technical 4-wheel-drive roads in Utah." Due to recent heavy rain, it wasn't even passible by jeep when we were there.
And speaking of rain, do NOT do the Joint if there are any all-day showers in the forecast. If there is a chance later in the day, do the route clockwise and go into the Joint early so you're well out of there before the clouds open. The route I've provided is counterclockwise and has the Joint towards the latter half of the hike; just reverse it. Yup, we got caught in an unexpected downpour and just guess where we were?? I repeat: do NOT do the Joint unless it's sure to be a dry day...
Address: Needles, Canyonlands National Park
Directions: Elephant Hill parking area is about 7.5 miles from the visitor center
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