Chesler Park is a grassy plain surrounded by colorful sandstone formations in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. A 5.1 mile long loop trail goes around the periphery of the plain providing the hiker with great views of the plain and the formations. Most people access the loop via a 2.9 mile trail starting at Elephant Hill Trailhead creating a 10.9 mile lollipop shaped hike. A section of the trail at the southern edge of Chesler Park goes through an area of narrows. This section is known as Joint Trail.
From The Needles entrance station drive 3 miles and turn left onto a road signed for Squaw Flat/Elephant Hill. You will then turn right and then another right onto a well graded dirt road that is usually passable for two wheel drive. Continue 3 miles on the dirt road to Elephant Hill (Soda Spring) Trailhead.
Route Description, from Elephant Hill Trailhead
Total Hiking Distance:
Elephant Hill Trailhead to Jct with Squaw Flat Trail, 1.5 miles
See Druid Arch Trail
Through the Narrows and Down into Elephant Canyon, 0.6 miles
See Druid Arch Trail
Out of Elephant Canyon, 0.6 miles
The trail climbs out Elephant Canyon and reaches a junction with Devils Kitchen Trail.
Through a pass and into Chesler Park, 0.2 miles
Right goes to Devils Kitchen, continue straight.
The trail goes up a slope to a pass between two needles.
Pass on the left
View from the slope
At the pass you can go up a short distance to reach a viewpoint.
The trail then comes down to reach the Chesler Park Loop. You can go either way and come back the other. This description turns left (straight) going on the trail on the eastern edge of Chesler Park.
East edge of Chesler Park, 1.3 miles
Chesler Park will now be in full view.
The trail takes you to a spot where Elephant Canyon can be seen.
Continuing south on Chesler Park.
You will then reach another junction with a trail that goes to Elephant Canyon.
South edge of Chesler Park/Joint Trail, 1.5 miles
Continue straight. After a while, the trail makes a U-turn heading back north, then turns west.
You will soon reach a slickrock area. This is the start of Joint Trail.
Before continuing on Joint Trail, it is worth following cairns up the slickrock one quarter of a mile to a high viewpoint.
You will then return to Joint Trail going down into an area of narrows.
My hiking pole, 36" long
In a spot you have to go down a big step. A log will help you do this.
Pay attention to the cairns. The trail makes a 90 degree turn going into a side area of narrows.
After exiting the narrows, the trail goes downhill to reach a four wheel drive road.
Hiking the 4WD Road, 0.7 miles
Hike the four wheel drive road. At a T-intersection, turn right.
West edge of Chesler Park, 0.4 miles
Pay attention to the right side of the road to see the sign where the trail leaves the road. Exit the road and hike up the trail.
You will then go up a slickrock area to a junction. Straight goes to Devils Pocket/Devils Kitchen. Turn right onto Chesler Park Trail.
North edge of Chesler Park, 1.2 miles
This trail heads east paralleling the needles on the north side of Chesler Park.
You will then reach the place where you first entered Chesler Park Loop. Turn left and return to Elephant Hill Trailhead.
Return to Elephant Hill Trailhead, 2.9 miles