The Needles of Canyonlands - Oct. 15-18 2009

The Needles of Canyonlands - Oct. 15-18 2009

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 38.14968°N / 109.86877°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Oct 16, 2009
Seasons Season: Fall

Getting There

For our fall break back in October 2009, we decided to go to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The drive there was nothing short of interesting though as we left around 6pm on a Friday. Got into Utah and was amazed at the amount of stars we could see. Wouldn't you know we blow a tire in the middle of nowhere on I-70 in Utah at roughly midnight.
Just to add insult the jack we had decided to fail which meant we couldn't replace the tire with the spare. It took 15 minutes for some nice family from Texas to stop and lend us a jack and after a half hour of labor we were on our way again. This was good time spent looking at the stars as well so it wasn't all bad. This was to be my friends first trip to the deserts of Utah and my third.

We made our way down to Moab and on the highway leading into the Needles District. We wanted a nice place to wake up to so we took the Beef Basin Road all the way to Cathedral Butte and set up a bivy for what remained of the night. The next morning we awoke to an awesome landscape of red rock and flat topped mountains. Cathedral Butte lay right behind us. We tried to hike out to Cathedral Point, the highest point in Canyonlands NP, but ran out of time. Have to get back there sometime.

We drove back to the paved highway where we entered the National Park and parked at the Elephant Hill trailhead.
Cathedral ButteCathedral Butte from Beef Basin Road

Mountain Biking

For the first part of the trip through the Needles we brought the mountain bikes and we went up and over Elephant Hill and made our way to the Confluence Overlook. This was much harder than I anticipated as the sand was deep and the temperature was pretty warm. We didn't bring enough water for this however we saw some nice views. When we got to the confluence overlook the view was spectacular. This is probably one of the most spectacular confluences in the country. The bike back was even harder since it was slightly uphill but we eventually made it back to the car where we packed up the backpacks for a one night trip that took us south through the heart of the Needles.

Elephant HillView from Elephant Hill
Elephant HillView from Elephant Hill

Elephant HillView from Elephant Hill
The ConfluenceThe confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers

The Backpack

We mainly just wandered around on some of the designated routes through Big Squaw Canyon and Lost Canyon. The ladders we climbed up and down were quite entertaining. The views never seemed to end!

The infamous needles Cryptobiotic Soil
Rock LayeringPerfect rock layering

Cryptobiotic SoilThe infamous Needles the district is known for
NeedlesMore Needles

The NeedlesThe perfect landscape

This one (just above) is my favorite one I got from the trip.

By the time we got through Big Squaw Canyon on our way to Lost Canyon the sun was setting. The sunset that evening was stunning!

Big Squaw CanyonBig Squaw Canyon at sunset
Big Squaw CanyonBig Squaw Canyon at sunset

We camped that night in one of the designated Lost Canyon sites.
We faced the problem of no more water. We didn't see any on the way in and we only had about a liter left. For whatever reason I thought there would be flowing water in Lost Canyon in October. Pretty dumb of me but we managed fine. The next morning we retraced our steps and passed by a small pothole with water we used to fill all our bottles. We dropped the packs at the trail junction for Druid Arch. This arch is fantastic and appears to defy gravity. I really liked the huge bowl surrounding the arch as well. Pretty good echoes here.
Druid ArchDruid Arch

After a little exploring through some of the famous joints that criss cross the Needles we started heading back.
JointsLarge joints

Once we made it back to the car we went to Monticello where we ate at the Lamplight Family Restaurant where I blew some insane amount of money. That food was amazing!

The last day of our break was spent in the La Sals. A storm came though that day and we climbed Mt. Tuk... in a blizzard. Didn't get many photos from that was it was an interesting day. The cool thing about that day was it was the very first snow on the La Sals that year and as it soon cleared up later that day when we went back to Moab, we saw Mt. Tuk... and the route we took from Moab all covered in a few inches of snow. We eventually replaced the spare tire we had with a new tire in Grand Junction on the way back to Denver. Good thing the spare didn't blow or we'd have been screwed!


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