The loop described here takes you into the lush upper parts of Big Spring Canyon where you go up a slicrock pass with commanding views and then descend into Squaw Canyon. The trail continues up another pass into Elephant Canyon and then out of the canyon onto a slickrock plateau before returning to the trailhead. Along the way, you will get views of spectacular sandstone formations and go through three areas of narrows.
From Moab Utah, take Route 191 forty miles south and then turn west (right) onto Utah Route 211. Follow this road 35 miles to reach the Needles District entrance station (make sure you do not mistakenly take the “Needles Overlook Road” off of Route 191 a few miles before Route 211). From the entrance station, follow the road 2.7 miles and turn left onto Squaw Flat Campground. At the fork, take the left branch to reach the trailhead.
Total Hiking Distance:
Trailhead to Big Spring Canyon, 1.2 miles
Almost immediately after leaving the trailhead, you will reach a split. Left goes to Lost Canyon/Peekaboo. Turn right. The trail takes you through a series of boulders creating somewhat of a “narrows”.
The trail takes you up to a place where you can see a plain below to the east. A junction will appear on the right taking you to Campsite B. Stay on the left.
You will then descend into Big Spring Canyon and reach another junction. Right will get you out of the canyon. Turn Left (you will come back via the trail on the right at the end of the day).
Big Spring Canyon
Big Spring Canyon to Jct. with Squaw Canyon, 2.6 miles
Continue on the trail up Big Spring canyon. As you keep going, colorful walls appear to the south and the area becomes lush.
A “tower” will come to view. You will eventually go to the other side of this tower.
The trail will get you out of the canyon to go up a slickrock saddle between Big Spring Canyon and Squaw Canyon.
Views from the saddle.
Big Spring Canyon from the saddle
Squaw Canyon from the saddle
Follow the cairns down the slickrock slopes. You will now be behind the “tower” that you saw earlier.
Back side of the tower
Squaw Canyon & Branch of Elephant Canyon, 2.1 miles
The trail does not go all the way down to the bottom of Squaw canyon. You will remain a little above it. At a junction, left goes downstream of Squaw Canyon. Continue right.
You will then reach a tight slot. The trail takes you right into this slot.
Trail goes through this slot
Inside the slot
Spectacular walls at the south end of Squaw Canyon.
Follow the cairns up to another slickrock saddle between Squaw Canyon and a branch of Elephant Canyon. You will have to go up a steel ladder bolted into the rock on one side and come down the other.
Views from the saddle.
Branch of Elephant Canyon from the saddle
From the saddle
Follow the trail at the bottom of the branch of Elephant Canyon.
Elephant Canyon, 0.8 miles
At the next junction you will reach Elephant Canyon. Left goes up canyon to Druid Arch. Turn right and go down canyon.
Out of Elephant Canyon, 0.6 miles
After 0.8 miles, you will reach a T. Left goes to Chesler Park. Turn right and go up the slope out of the canyon.
Out of Elephant Canyon
You will then go through an area of narrows.
Slickrock Plateau, 2.3 miles
At the junction, left goes to Elephant Hill Trailhead, continue right.
You will then reach the rim of a branch of Big Spring Canyon.
Branch of Big Spring Canyon
Follow the trail on a slickrock plateau until it descends into Big Spring Canyon where you will reach the junction you were at near the beginning of the hike.
Return to Trailhead, 1.2 miles