The Best Things to do in the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park

Heading to the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park? In this guide we’re sharing all the best things to do in the Needles, plus where to stay, tips for the area, and more!

One of our final stops during our 2 month Southern Utah road trip was the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park. When first planning our time in Utah, we weren’t sure if we would visit this area, as it’s a little bit of a trek from the other Moab area parks and we weren’t 100% sure what there was to do there.

But after some research, we learned that this area was home to some pretty amazing hikes (and less people) and quickly added it to our itinerary. And we are SO GLAD we did! 

While we enjoyed the other Moab area parks, like Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, we think that the Needles District at Canyonlands was our favorite of the three! The remoteness, combined with the epic sandstone formations makes this area of Canyonlands unlike anywhere else we visited in Utah.

And even though our day in this area of the park consisted of 17.4 miles of hiking (not fully intentional, but more on that later), we had such a blast exploring the Needles District and could not recommend it more if you want to experience an epic day of hiking and escape some of the wild Moab crowds.

Want to see how we spent a day in the Needles District at Canyonlands?  Watch our experience here.

In this guide we’re sharing the best things to do in the Needles District at Canyonlands, as well as some itinerary options whether you just want to take it easy in the park or experience some of the park’s best features by hiking some longer trails. We hope you fall in love with the Needles District like we did!

Leave No Trace Principles

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

  1. Plan ahead & prepare. Make sure you research and prepare for every adventure so that you know the rules, stay safe, and to minimize resource damage.
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas, as well as the required length away from water sources.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Whatever you pack in, pack it out! Make sure to carry out your trash, as well as any trash you find. If you have a dog, please do not leave poop bags on the trail. For human waste, use a trowel to dig a hole far from water sources or use a wag bag (sometimes required).
  4. Leave what you find. Do not take any items from the trail with you, including rocks, plants, or artifacts.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. Know the rules of where you can and cannot have campfires and if allowed, use designated fire rings. Use local firewood to prevent bringing any pests or diseases to the area you’re visiting and make sure to fully extinguish your fire.
  6. Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from wildlife, control your pets on the trail, and never ever feed them! Make sure to keep your food stored properly as well (we like this bear canister).
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. Be respectful to others on the trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way on hikes and it’s always courteous to let those quicker than you pass. Avoid playing music out loud, talking loudly, and having your pets bother others.

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Canyonlands National Park

Island in the Sky Canyonlands National Park

Located in Southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park became a national park in 1964 and preserves 337,598 acres of amazing Utah desert scenery. You’ll see colorful canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires all over these gorgeous lands. 

The park is made up of four districts, the three land districts of Island in the Sky, The Maze, The Needles, and then the two rivers, the Green and the Colorado, that divide the park. 

These districts may look close on the map, but there are no roads directly connecting them and traveling between them requires 2-6 hours. Each district offers its own unique character to experience and adventures to be had. 

However, not only does the park protect natural beauty, but it also protects human history. Throughout the three land districts you’ll encounter markings and structures left by Ancestral Puebloan peoples and other Native Americans in the form of petroglyphs and stone and mud dwellings. And more recently, early explorers and Mormon pioneers left behind structures as well.  

Read our Island in the Sky guide for the best hikes and overlooks to check out in that district of Canyonlands National Park.

About The Needles District at Canyonlands National Park

Druid Arch Trail Canyonlands National Park

The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is located in the southeast corner of the park and gets its name from the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that jut up from the ground. And while it is the second most visited area of Canyonlands National Park, it still gets a lot less visitors than Island in the Sky due to its more remote location.  

It is only 15 miles south of the Island in the Sky District as the crow flies, but you have to travel 107 miles on the road to get between the visitor centers. And despite it being relatively close, the scenery is extremely unique from Island in the Sky, making it feel like a completely different national park.

In this area you’ll find canyons, sandstone spires, arches, and domes, which are absolutely stunning, as well as much longer hikes. And while Island in the Sky can be easily explored by car, the Needles District is best explored by foot and to see some of the best scenery in this district, you’ll have to put in a lot of energy and effort. 

But trust us, it is 100% worth it. While we enjoyed our time at Island in the Sky, with its shorter hikes and overlooks, we absolutely LOVED the Needles District and it was one of our favorite areas we visited out of all 5 of Utah’s National Parks.

When to visit the Needles District at Canyonlands

Moab Weather

The Needles are accessible year round, but there are some seasons that are better to visit than others.

Winter

Winter is a great time to visit to beat the crowds, but you may run into some very cold weather and the very occasional snow and ice shutting down the roads. 

If you choose to visit in the winter, make sure to bring microspikes for the trails, as they can get extra slick with ice and snow. Also, keep in mind that the Needles visitor center is closed between December and February, so if you plan to visit during this time, make sure you are extra prepared.

One other important thing to know is that outside of the park, in Moab, a good amount of businesses shut down or limit their hours for the winter season, which typically starts in November and goes until Spring Break. You’ll definitely still be able to get groceries and eat out, but you will have less options and may not get the full experience.

Spring & Fall

The most temperate and popular seasons to visit are April-May and mid-September-October, when the daytime highs average between 60-80ºF. We visited in April and the mornings were VERY cold, but the afternoons were super nice, with lots of sunshine and perfect temperatures. 

If you choose to visit around April, keep in mind that schools across the US will be on Spring Break, making the park busier. And Memorial Day in May also brings more crowds to the area. 

Whenever we go back, we’d love to visit more in October, when crowds have died down some, the weather is still nice, and spots in town are still open.

Summer

While many people visit in the summer, we’d highly suggest visiting during the other times of the year, as the temperatures routinely climb over 100ºF in the summer, along with frequent afternoon thunderstorms.

As we write this guide in July, the current temperature in Moab is 109ºF, so if you do plan to visit in the summer, pack LOTS of water, get started early, stay somewhere with a pool to cool down, and wear tons of sunscreen. We did get a bit warm in Moab even when the temperatures were in the 80s, so we cannot imagine hiking in 100 degrees.

Getting to + around the Needles District at Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park is located in Southeastern Utah, in the town of Moab, right by Arches National Park. However, the Needles District, unlike Island in the Sky, is southwest of Moab and is a bit of a trek from Moab itself.

Here are some options of how to get to the Needles District!

Flying to the Needles District at Canyonlands

If you plan to fly to visit Canyonlands, the best airports would be either Denver (DEN), Salt Lake City (SLC), or Las Vegas (LAS). All major airlines fly into these airports, so getting a flight should be pretty easy and affordable. 

Depending on which you fly into, here’s how long you can expect to drive to the Needles District:

Salt Lake City, Utah: 5 hours 14 minutes, 313 miles
Las Vegas, Nevada: 6 hours 45 minutes, 467 miles
Denver, Colorado: 8 hours 35 minutes, 584 miles

Some of the smaller towns in Utah offer daily connecting flights from Salt Lake City and Denver. Here’s how long you can expect to drive from these towns:

Moab, Utah: 1 hour, 24 minutes, 74 miles
St. George, Utah: 6 hours 11 minutes, 413 miles
Grand Junction, Colorado: 3 hour 12 minutes, 187 miles 

Driving to the Needles District at Canyonlands

Arches National Park: 1 hour 36 minutes, 80 miles
Capitol Reef National Park: 3 hours 47 minutes, 219 miles
Zion National Park: 6 hours 13 minutes, 372 miles
Bryce Canyon National Park: 4 hours 32 minutes, 260 miles
Page, AZ: 4 hours 21 minutes, 268 miles
Grand Canyon National Park: 5 hours 30 minutes, 320 miles

Getting around the Needles District at Canyonlands

Unlike some national parks, Canyonlands does not have a park shuttle, so you will need to either rent a car or drive your own to get around or hire a tour to show you the top sites. If you want to do any of the 4×4 trails, we recommend getting a Jeep (Twisted Jeep Rentals in Moab is a good option!).

Where to Stay in the Needles District

The Needles District of Canyonlands is pretty remote and while the address is technically in Moab, it’s a 1.5 hour drive from town. Despite this, Moab will be the best place to stay if you plan to also visit Island in the Sky and Arches National Park, as it has way more options than the area right around the Needles. However, there are a couple options right by the Needles as well, if you want to stay the night in the area before or after adventuring.

Below are some Airbnb, hotel, and camping options both in Moab and close to the Needles District.

Airbnbs & VRBOs

If you want to be able to cook meals and relax in a more homey environment while exploring the Needles, we’d suggest renting an Airbnb. Here are some good options:

In Monticello

While the park is technically in Moab, Monticello is the closest town. Here is an Airbnb option close to the Needles District, which would be convenient to explore the Needles, but a bit far if you want to spend most of your time in Moab.

Off Grid Canyonlands Stargazer Tent: This glamping tent is SO nice and provides the comfort of a home with a big bed, but also giving you more of an off grid experience. You will have a shared bathroom, your own private patio, grill top, and picnic table for eating and hanging out, and some fun amenities, like french press coffee everyday and board games.

They have a handful of these tents on the property and you can check all of their availability here.

In Moab

Moab will be a good spot to stay if you plan to just spend a day in the Needles and return to the Moab area, as it has more amenities and is close to other spots you’ll likely want to visit.

Bright & Charming Home Right in Town (1 bedroom, 1 bath): This cabin has high cathedral ceilings, tons of windows, a washer and dryer, and patio, making it a great place to relax after long days in the national parks.

Casa Moab Casita (1 bedroom, 1 bath): This super cute casita is in a complex located in downtown Moab, with a full kitchen, great living area, and shared sauna, grill, and fire pit.

Kayenta, Westside Flats (1 bedroom, 1 bath): This apartment has a queen bed, full kitchen, private covered patio, and is walkable to town!

West 9 Cozy Cabin (1 bedroom, 1 bath): This studio cabin sleeps 4, with a bed and bunk beds, making it a good option for families exploring. While it doesn’t have a full kitchen, it has a mini fridge and microwave, with a shared grill in the common area. This is a good hotel alternative!

Hotels

Moab has all the standard hotel options you can think of, which can be a bit pricey, especially during the busier season. A handful of the ones we’d recommend are:

Campgrounds

The Needles Campground
There is one campground in the Needles District. There are 26 campsites at $20 per night. Some sites are reservable spring through fall, but the rest of the year the sites are first-come first-served. There are no RV hookups, but there are toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings.

Creek Pasture Campground
This is where we stayed when visiting the Needles and we loved it! We arrived on a Friday afternoon and snagged one of the last few spots (they are all first-come, first-served). The sites are $15 a night (you can pay by cash or check) and can fit up to 2 cars and 10 people and have a picnic table, a fire ring, and vault toilets, but there is no water at the campground. 

Hamburger Rock Campground
This campground offers 10 first-come first-served campgrounds for $15 a night (you can pay by cash or check). The sites offer a picnic table, a fire ring, and vault toilets, but there is no water at the campground. If this campground is full, you can try Lockhart Road, which is under the Boondocking section.

Needles Outpost
The Needles Outpost is located just outside of the Needles District and offers dry (no water or power) tent and RV sites, at $25 a night. This is a great spot to stay to be close to the Needles if you are unable to get a spot at the Needles Campground.

Willow Flat Campground
There is one campground in the Island in the Sky District. It has 12 sites and it is first-come, first-served. It costs $15 per night and they go fast in the Spring through Fall. There are pit toilets and fire rings in the campground.

Willow Flat Campground would be less ideal to explore the Needles, but if you plan to spend most of your time in Moab, it may be a good option.

Under Canvas
Located just north of Moab is Under Canvas, which is a luxurious campground complete with private bathrooms, fire pits, clean sheets, and many more amenities. It’s not exactly “roughing it” and it’s not cheap, but we hear it is a nice experience.

Boondocking

Right by the Needles District

Lockhart Road
This free camping area is located very close to the Needles District, just past a paid campground and offers incredible scenery for the best price of $0!

In Moab

BLM 144 Dispersed
On our most recent visit to Moab, we stayed mostly at this boondocking spot. It’s a little more of a drive out of town (30 minutes or so), but it definitely has the least amount of other campers so it makes for a quiet and reliable stay. Just be careful if it rains it can get quite muddy!

Willow Springs Trail Dispersed
This is a very large and very popular boondocking spot. We have stayed a couple nights here during previous trips and it’s a good spot if you need a night to sleep, but it can get INSANELY busy! During our last visit, we drove in at night to try to sleep and it felt like the parking lot of a race track, with RVs crammed in everywhere and tons of people out.

Klondike Bluff
We slept here a couple times when we wanted to be closer to the parks than our favorite BLM 144 spot. It isn’t anything fancy, but it’s WAY less busy than Willow Springs, despite just being down the road (we always found a spot).

A couple other options along US 191:
Dalton Wells Road Dispersed
Lone Mesa
Strike Ravine Dispersed

How much time do you need in the Needles District?

Druid Arch Trail Canyonlands National Park

One full day in the Needles District will let you see the highlights, but since the park is full of really big hikes, two days will give you the ability to enjoy it at a slower pace and do more than one hike. We only spent one full day, which was very long, but felt that we got to experience all that we wanted to.

We’re including some options of how you could spend one or two days in the Needles (with easy and hard options) at the end of this guide!

Things to know & tips for visiting the Needles District

Druid Arch Trail Canyonlands National Park

Before visiting the Needles District at Canyonlands, here are a few important things to know!

Cost to Enter

It costs $30 per vehicle ($25 for motorcycles) to enter Canyonlands National Park, which covers 7 days inside the park, but does not cover you at Arches National Park nearby, but will cover you in the other districts of Canyonlands. 

If you’re visiting more than one National Park on your trip, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and will get you into any National Park, monument, or forest for free.

Arrive early

We highly suggest starting your Needles District adventure at sunrise. Since many of the hikes are long and fully exposed to the sun, you’ll want to start in the coolest part of the day and to ensure you have enough time to finish your hike.

Dogs are not allowed

Dogs are not allowed on any trails, at any overlooks, in the backcountry, or in any buildings at Canyonlands National Park. So please leave your furry friend at home or in a safe, cool spot! 

Learn what we do with Kona when she cannot join us. For this park, she stayed at Moab Veterinary Clinic.

You may need a permit

While most activities in the park do not require a permit, overnights in the backcountry, off road driving (like Elephant Hill), and river trips require a permit. You can learn more about how to obtain a permit and when they become available on the National Park website.

Food & Drinks in the Park

There is not a restaurant in the park, so we’d highly recommend packing meals for your day at the Needles, as unlike Island in the Sky where you could pop into Moab for food, there are way less options nearby.

The only real food option close to the Needles is the Needles Outpost, which is outside of the park and has snack items, drinks, some household items, and gas (although it’s pretty pricey). We grabbed some cold drinks and Snickers bars after hiking here.

What to Bring to the Needles District

The Needles District Canyonlands

To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time in Canyonlands, here are some items we’d suggest bringing with you! 

HIKING SHOES

Hiking along canyon rims, on sandstone, and in canyons require a sturdy shoe, so you’ll want to wear proper hiking shoes. We love our Lowa Renegades (Kathryn) and Altra Superiors (Adam)!

LAYERS

Make sure to pack warmer clothes! If you go in the Spring or Fall, temperatures in the high desert can swing up to 40 degrees in one day!

SUNSCREEN

All of the overlooks and hikes along and into the canyon are very exposed, so you’ll get lots of sun! Make sure to cover up with sunscreen or a hat to stay protected. We have been using Bare Republic, which is a “better for you” sunscreen, although it may give you a nice white, vampire-esque sheen. 

WATER

We love our Camelbak bladder for hikes because it stores a ton of water and it’s easy to drink from while moving. Since it is a long hike, you’ll want to bring lots of water. The National Park Service recommends 1 quart for every 2-3 hours on the trail per person. Even if you start early, it can get warm and the sun will take it out of you!

ALLTRAILS Map

We’d highly recommend downloading the AllTrails map before you go. While all the trails in the park are easy to follow, we like to use the map to track our progress along the trail. You will need an AllTrails Pro membership to download maps, which is $30 a year and so worth it!

Things to do in the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park

As we have mentioned above, the best attractions in the Needles District are longer hikes, but there are still ways to see the park without hiking for miles and miles. Below are all of the best things to do in the Needles District at Canyonlands, including hikes, overlooks, and unique history.

Curious how to organize your day or two in the park? We’ve included itinerary options at the end of the guide as well!

Go for a hike

There are over 60 miles of interconnecting trails that take you all over the park to amazing scenery. What’s great about these trails is that you can follow popular routes or combine multiple paths to create your own adventure. Just make sure you download the offline AllTrails map before you go so you don’t get lost!

Note: While there are markers at some junctions, many of these trails are marked by cairns (rock towers), so keep an eye out for them! 

Druid Arch to Chesler Park

Miles: 11.2 miles
Elevation: 2,162 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

This is the #1 hike we suggest when visiting the Needles District! Our plan was to hike this exact route until we read on the sign at the beginning of Elephant Hill Road that there is a length limit that our van exceeded, so we had to start at the Squaw Flat Campground, which made this already long hike MUCH longer (over 17 miles! View our recording here). But for most people, this exact route would be doable (unless you have a long Sprinter van).

Even with the extra miles, which were exhausting, this hike is AMAZING! You get to see two of the Needles District’s best features in one hike: Druid Arch and Chesler Park. Druid Arch is a uniquely shaped arch, with two narrow openings and incredible views of the area, both along the way and at the arch.

Chesler Park is an open area with a large concentration of the “needles,” the sandstone spires that the district gets its name from. You feel like you’ve stepped onto another planet in this area, the needles are SO cool! 

While this hike is long and has a good amount of elevation gain, the hike includes a mix of steep sections, flat sections, and some scrambling (close to Druid Arch mostly), so you do get some breaks from uphill stretches. You will walk on top of exposed slickrock, go through narrow rock walls, walk in washes, climb a ladder, and even get to see a really neat cave. The diversity on this trail keeps it interesting and distracts you from the difficulty of this hike.

If you have the ability to hike this distance, you MUST do this hike in the Needles District! It was one of our favorite hikes in Utah and of all time!

Druid Arch Trail

Miles: 10.4 miles
Elevation: 1,641 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

If you just want to see Druid Arch, you can hike directly there from the Elephant Hill Trailhead. This route isn’t that much shorter than if you were to combine it with Chesler Park, but it does have less elevation gain, so if you are shorter on time, this will still be a phenomenal hiking experience, with a little less sweat involved.

Chesler Park Loop Trail

Miles: 10.4 miles
Elevation: 1,820 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

Chesler Park is an open meadow area with tons of sandstone spires surrounding it and is one of the few grassy areas in the park. If you just want to experience Chesler Park, then this is the trail for you!

This trail leaves from the same place as the beginning of the Druid Arch Trail, Elephant Hill Trailhead, and you’ll follow the same route the first nearly 2 miles before splitting off to the west and doing a big loop through Chesler Park, before meeting back up where you split off.

Confluence Overlook Trail

Miles: 10 miles
Elevation: 1,371 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

The Confluence Overlook Trail takes you from the Big Spring Canyon Overlook down into the canyon, to where the Green and Colorado Rivers come together, which is considered a very sacred spot by many Native American groups. What makes this hike extra unique is that unlike Druid Arch and Chesler Park, you actually get to see the rivers that flow through the park, which is a gorgeous view.

Peekaboo Camp via Lost Canyon

Miles: 9.6 miles
Elevation: 1,414 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

This trail takes you up to a saddle, which requires scrambling, where you’ll have incredible views, before dropping into a canyon, via a ladder, before ending at Peekaboo camp, where there is a petroglyph panel. This is a popular overnight backpacking spot, but can be done as a day hike as well!

Slickrock Foot Trail

Miles: 2.4 miles
Elevation: 137 feet
Trail Map & Current Conditions

For a much shorter option,hike the Slickrock Foot Trail! This hike gives you amazing views of the Needles District, without as much effort! You’ll hike on slickrock to different overlooks and despite being pretty flat, there are a few scramble areas to be aware of before attempting this hike.

Go Backpacking!

One thing we SO wish we did in the Needles District was go backpacking! We saw a few folks doing this and were envious that they got to call this beautiful area their home for the night. 

There are a bunch of different backpacking campsites (you can see them all here), which are close to some of the best sights in this area of the park, giving you the chance to split up these longer hikes over two days, or more.

To backpack, you must get a permit, which can be harder to get during spring break, so plan ahead! A couple other things to know about backpacking is that most sites will be in designated locations, which means you can’t just camp wherever. And you also must carry human waste out in human waste disposal bags (wag bags). 

Whenever we return to the Needles District, this will be at the top of our list of things to do!

Visit the cowboy camp at Cave Spring

Cave Springs Trail Canyonlands National Park

Besides hiking the Druid Arch and Chesler Park Loop, Cave Springs was one of our favorite spots in the Needles District. This is a super short and easy loop hike to see an old cowboy camp, as well as petroglyphs and markings left behind by Native Americans. 

In the late 1800s, cowboys set up cattle operations in this area and the cowboys would camp in small caves like the ones you see along the Cave Spring trail until 1975, when cattle ranching ended in the park. Cowboys used this area because there is a reliable spring nearby and this camp still has original items displayed, including pots, pans, and furniture. Note: You are not able to get right up to these items, but can view them from behind a fence.

However, before the cowboys were here, Native Americans used this site as well. You can still see soot blackened ceilings, hand prints, and painted figures on the walls left by the Native Americans. It was wild to see! 

As for the trail, it is only 0.6 miles and mostly flat, besides the two wooden ladders (SO fun!) that take you up and down the slickrock above you. This trail was so unique and unlike any trail we have experienced, with artifacts, history, and fun features, like the ladders…it’s a must do, especially if you’re short on time!

Roadside Ruin

If you want a quick roadside stop, Roadside Ruin is a great choice! This ruin is one of the best preserved ancestral granaries left by the Puebloan Peoples and there is a 0.3 mile hiking trail that’ll take you close to the ruin.

Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook

The Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook is aptly named because it absolutely looks like a wooden shoe on a pedestal! There is an overlook parking area you can pull off to see this arch, but you can’t miss it from your car as you drive into the park.

brewbooks from near Seattle, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Big Spring Canyon Overlook

Located at the end of the Needles District, the Big Spring Canyon Overlook gives you views of some pretty amazing sandstone spires!

Needles Overlook

Despite the name, the Needles Overlook is actually not in Canyonlands National Park, but it is on the way to the Needles District and gives you views of the Needles District from 1,600 ft above the needles! There are also some other overlooks along this road to check out.

Cacophony, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument is another stop that isn’t in Canyonlands National Park, but is on the way to the Needles District. This 200 square foot rock wall features hundreds of petroglyphs dating back 2,000 years from the Fremont, Ute, and Anasazi Native American tribes.

This incredible piece of history is located just off the road, so no hiking is required!

Drive the 4×4 roads

Similar to Island in the Sky, the Needles District is also home to some 4×4 roads to explore, which require permits for all day use and overnight trips (there are backcountry vehicle campsites you can stay at). The NPS says you are required to have a high clearance, 4×4 vehicle to drive these and warns that towing costs are around $1,500 if you get stuck.

The two roads we’d suggest looking into are:

Elephant Hill Road

The most popular of the 4×4 roads is Elephant Hill Road, which is known as one of the most technical 4×4 roads in all of Utah! This road has tight turns, stair-step drops, and loose terrain. Vehicles over 21 ft are not allowed on this road, which is why our van was unable to go to the proper trailhead for Druid Arch (you do not need a 4×4 to get to the trailhead).

Colorado River Overlook (This road does not require any permits.)

No permit required
This 7 mile (each way) road is less intense than Elephant Hill and offers amazing views of the Colorado River Canyon.

You can learn more about the park’s other 4×4 roads, like Salt Creek/Horse Canyon and Lavender Canyon, as well as the rules here!

Needles District Itinerary Options

Unsure how to organize your time in the Needles District? We’re here to help! Below are some itinerary options for one or two days in the Needles.

You can also watch our experience here

One Day Itinerary- Option 1 (Easy)

This option features overlooks and easy, short trails, which will help you experience the park, without hiking for many miles. If you only want to do short trails and overlooks, one day is enough in the Needles District.

  1. Head to the Needles District and along the way, stop at Newspaper Rock to see the petroglyphs!
     
  2. After entering the park, visit the Roadside Ruins.
     
  3. Hike the short, unique, and history filled Cave Springs Trail.
     
  4. Swing by the Wooden Shoe Overlook.
     
  5. Hike the Slickrock Foot Trail.
     
  6. Visit the Big Spring Canyon Overlook.
     
  7. End the day by making a detour at the Needles Overlook on your way back to Moab (you could always do this on the way if easier!).

One Day Itinerary- Option 2 (Hard)

If you want to get the full Needles District experience, spend your one day in the park hiking one of the longer trails. We’d highly suggest the Druid Arch to Chesler Park Loop, or doing either Druid Arch or Chesler Park.

With these hikes, most of your day will be spent hiking, but if you have time, make sure to stop by Cave Springs! It’s short, sweet, and very unique!

Two Day Itinerary- Option 1

For a mix of easy and hard activities, we suggest combining the two different one day itineraries above to have a good mix of hard hikes and relaxation. We would suggest doing the easier day first, as the harder day will knock your socks off and you’ll want to save the best for last!

Two Day Itinerary- Option 2

For this option, be prepared to hike a lot! This two day itinerary has you hiking one longer trail per day, giving you the chance to see a wide variety of the park.

Day 1

Hike the Druid Arch to Chesler Park Loop Trail.

Day 2

Hike the Confluence Overlook Trail. This will give you a different perspective from Day 1, with views of the rivers!

Two Day Itinerary- Option 3

For this final option, spend one day hiking and one day going on a 4×4 trail (if you have the right vehicle)!

Day 1

Hike the Druid Arch to Chesler Park Loop Trail OR one of the other trails we listed above. But if we haven’t said it enough yet, this loop is WORTH it!

Day 2

Drive one of the 4×4 trails. While we have not personally driven these, we hear the Colorado River Overlook (7 miles each way) is a good option for beginners and doesn’t require a permit, if you don’t feel up to Elephant Hill or are unable to get a permit.

After driving the 4×4 roads, you could also spend this day visiting some of the viewpoints that are included in the easier day one itinerary!

Other things to do near the Needles District

Looking for more things to do near the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park? Read our Moab guide, which highlights the best things to do in the Moab area outside of the national parks, as well as our Canyonlands Island in the Sky guide and Arches National Park guide!

We also hear that the Bear Ears National Monument is an amazing place to explore!

Ready to explore the Needles at Canyonlands National Park?

Pin this guide to the Needles District to help plan your trip!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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