Druid Arch is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. This majestic arch sits in a slickrock amphitheater at the southern end of Elephant Canyon. The usual starting place for the hike to Druid Arch is Elephant Hill (Soda Spring) Trailhead. The 5.4 mile (one way) trail takes you up slickrock country and then into Elephant Canyon providing you with continuous views of needles and other interesting sandstone formations. As you keep going, the canyon becomes narrower. Half a mile before its end, the trail leaves the canyon going up the slopes of the amphitheater to a spot where Druid Arch will be in full view. You can also look back to get great views of the very tight and impressive canyon you hiked in.
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.
High Point Before Elephant Canyon:
Into Elephant Canyon:
Elevation at the end of the trail:
TH to Jct with Squaw Flat Trail, 1.5 miles
The trail immediately begins to go up a slope. In a pot, it goes up a series of man-made steps between two rocks.
You will then find yourself in a slickrock environment following cairns. La Sal Mountains will be visible to the northeast.
La Sal Mountains
North Six-shooter Peak can be seen to the east.
North Six-Shooter Peak at sunrise
A branch of Big Spring Canyon will also be visible to the east.
Branch of Big Spring Canyon
Needles will come to view.
You will then reach a signed junction. Left will go to Squaw Flat. Continue right.
Through the narrows and down into Elephant Canyon, 0.6 miles
Follow the trail up slickrock and get into these narrows:
My hiking pole, 36" long
The narrows gradually open up.
The narrows opening up
And you will go down to the bottom of Elephant Canyon.
You will then reach another signed junction where right goes to Chesler Park. Turn left.
Elephant canyon, 0.8 miles
Follow the trail near or at the bottom of Elephant Canyon.
You will reach a signed junction where left goes to Big Spring Canyon. Continue right.
More Elephant Canyon, 2.5 miles
Continue on the trail at or near the bottom of Elephant Canyon. After 0.5 miles, you will reach another signed junction where right goes to Chesler Park. Continue straight.
Roughly half a mile before the end, you will reach a place where the trail leaves the bottom of the canyon. Pay attention to the cairns to make sure you do not miss this. You will have to do some degree of hand and foot climbing to get out of the canyon up this slope:
Trail leaving the canyon up this slope
The trail then traverses the eastern wall of the canyon.
Looking down the bottom of the canyon.
You will then turn left into a slickrock side canyon. In a spot, you will have to go up a steel ladder bolted into the rock.
Slickrock side canyon
Druid Arch will appear as a needle. From this angle, its opening will not be visible.
Opening of Druid Arch not seen from this spot
You will then get out of the side canyon going up a boulder/talus covered slope to get into a slickrock amphitheater.
Looking up the boulder/scree slope
Looking down at the slickrock canyon.
From Druid Arch Viewpoint
Druid Arch will now be in full view.
Other views from the end of the trail:
One of the most impressive views is that of the canyon you climbed out of appearing as a tight groove.
Canyon seen as a tight groove