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Canyonlands – The Needles

October 27, 2011

Canyonlands – The Needles

After spending the day at Mesa Verde we decided to drive towards Moab. It was approaching sunset when we realised that we wouldn’t make it all the way to Moab so we looked for somewhere to spend the night. Our guidebook came to rescue and pointed us down a side road to a free campground at Newspaper Rock. However on arriving we found that the campsite had been shut and “No Camping” signs were posted everywhere. This wasn’t great as darkness was falling and we were in the middle of nowhere.

With darkness looming we drove a bit further down the road and then down a dirt road – after crossing a small river we eventually found a small turnout  by some stunning cliffs. There was the small matter of a “No Camping” sign – but it was late and we would get going early in the morning. We were staying.

We had realised that we were just short of one of the three areas of Canyonlands National Park so we decided to check it out.  We arrived at the visitor centre as it opened and got advice on a hike and then set out to the trailhead.

We had decided to hike to Druids Arch for which the trailhead was called Elephant Hill. However the road to that trailhead was limited to vehicles under 21 feet so we were too large. This meant that we had to leave from the Squaw hill campground which added a few miles to the distance – so in total the hike was 13.5 miles. Oh well not too much but this would be a long day.

We set out and the hike started with a climb over a ridge of rock which opened up an otherworldy vista of rock spires, cliffs and valleys.

The hike was very varied with valleys, slickrock, a narrow slot canyon, a river bed and ending with a steep gully to climb accessed by climbing a ladder. The arch at the end was enormous though and well worth the effort – although it’s supposed to look a bit like stonehenge – I’m not sure the people who named it had ever seen stonehenge though !

In just a couple of days we have moved from the snow of the mountains to the baking heat of the near desert. We learnt that In these conditions the 3.5 litres of water we were each carrying wasn’t enough and on the way back despite rationing water both of us ran out. Fortunately we weren’t too far from home.

The last couple of miles of the hike were pretty hard going as we were both pretty tired – the going had been pretty tough – and we were glad to make it back to the Beast. However overall it was a stunning hike – among the best we’ve ever done.

After making it back we drove just outside the park and found a free campsite near the BLM Hamburger rock campsite and settled in for the night and a BBQ. On the way out we also checked out the Newspaper Rock which is an area of Desert varnish that has so ancient markings on it – and some not so ancient.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Colin permalink
    October 27, 2011 11:08 pm

    Nice pics…

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