If you are following along, my last post was about Canyonlands – Island in the Sky. The Needles was about 70 miles south of where we stayed in Moab so we went there on a different day.
Maybe it’s just because we were tired from a lot of hiking and activities in Moab, but we just were not as impressed with this section of Canyonlands. If we had it to do over, we probably would have skipped it. It was a long drive and in our opinion, not really worth it.
This park is pretty far out of the way so maybe they just don’t get a lot of visitors, but they really need more parking spaces. To access the most popular hike in the park (Chesler Park), you need to drive down a narrow dirt road for 3 miles. The big dually truck has no trouble on dirt roads, but it becomes a problem when that road is skinny & narrow and someone else is coming the other direction.
Once we finally made it to the end of the 3 mile dirt road, there was no available parking. It was a very tiny parking lot for the most popular hike in the park. So, we turned around and made our way back out the skinny 3 mile dirt road.
We made the best of it by going on some of the other hikes, but they just really didn’t measure up to all the other places we had seen in Utah. Not to mention, parking was very limited at these other hikes as well.
Anyway, now that I’ve really built this up to be a great park, I’m sure you want to see my pictures, right? 🙂
The first cool thing we saw was on the way into the park. There were several cows just lying on the side of the road.
And then we got to Newspaper Rock. This is a wall full of petroglyphs.
Those are the Needles way off in the distance. If you come to this park and are fortunate enough to find parking for the Chesler Park hike, you can hike all the way up to the Needles which would probably be a really cool hike.
We hiked on the Pothole Point trail which has beautiful views off in the distance and fun rocks to climb on. Lots of potholes in the slickrock too which I suppose is how they came up with the name for the trail.
We learned about cryptobiotic soil. The black-ish soil in the picture below is alive and made of tiny living things. There are signs in the parks to let you know to stay on the trail and not walk on this soil.
The Slickrock trail also had some beautiful views.
I really don’t mean to make it sound like this part of Canyonlands is not worth visiting. It certainly has some amazing views to see, and I’m sure if we had a chance to hike to the Needles it would have been awesome.
I also need to be fair and say that our lack of enthusiasm for this park may have a lot to do with the fact that we were all exhausted from 2 weeks of hiking in Utah. The picture below of Jesse on the way home after the Needles pretty much sums up how we all felt by that point.
I totally hear you–I can only imagine how tired you must have been after two straight weeks of hiking! But wow, that Newspaper Rock and Pothole trail look pretty amazing! Such a bummer about the parking situation at Chesler Park. I never realized how distant the Needles are if you don’t take that hike; for some reason, I assumed they’d be readily accessible by car like Island in the Sky. Beautiful photos–thanks so much for sharing!
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Heather, I just heard a report on NPR about how national parks are struggling because of too much popularity… Exactly what you experienced… There is not enough parking and the trails in the most popular parks become overcrowded etc. It is a challenge for the Park service to figure out how to balance letting everyone come with letting everyone that does come have a great experience. Not an easy task! Sounds like you guys do a good job of making the best of every situation though! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!