Must-Do in Canyonlands National Park: The Needles District

The Needles is an often-overlooked section of Canyonlands National Park, that boasts thrilling, unique hiking trails, low crowds, and jaw-dropping views of Canyonlands.  

The Needles is one of four districts that make up Canyonlands National Park. It forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands and was named for the colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. Hiking trails offer many opportunities for long day hikes and overnight trips. Foot trails and four-wheel-drive roads lead to such features as Tower Ruin, Confluence Overlook, Elephant Hill, the Joint Trail, and Chesler Park.  

The Needles district is 75 miles from Moab, Utah, and 55 miles from ULUM Moab. The main road that runs through the park is less than 7 miles long and it only takes 10 minutes to drive.  However, there is a whole web of dirt and gravel roads that lead from this main, paved road providing endless adventures. Some of these dirt roads are suitable for standard cars and several of them require a 4×4 and/or a permit. 

Don’t think the Needles is worth the extra time? Think again. If you like hiking, unique desert landscapes, and leaving the crowds behind, you will love the Needles. 



This is the first overlook you will arrive at as you drive through the park. Just like its name, this roadside overlook offers a great view of large sandstone arch shaped like a classic Dutch wooden shoe.  

Spring through fall, cottonwood trees and other greenery in the foreground provide stunning views making this attraction a perfect first stop in your Needles adventure. 



Distance: 0.6 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Time: 30 minutes 

The Cave Spring Trail is a short, easy hike that takes you past historical sites. You will see the remains of a cowboy camp, a year-round natural spring, and rock paintings that are hundreds of years old. 

Descendants of this indigenous population still live in the region and consider the spring a sacred place so help protect the heritage by not entering the spring. 



Distance: 0.6 miles | Difficulty: Easy | Length of Time: 30 minutes 

This loop hike is named for depressions in the rocks called potholes. Rainwater collects in these depressions, forming the perfect habitat for snails, shrimp, and other animals to hatch. 

From this trail, you will see hundreds of these depressions. Off in the distance you can spot the mesas of the Island in the Sky district and the needles in Chesler Park. 

Fun fact: The bumpy soil along the trail is alive. Biological soil crusts are living communities of cyanobacteria, mosses, algae, lichens, and fungi. Soil crust prevents erosion, stores moisture, and provides critical nutrients for plants. Protect this life by staying on the trail! 



Distance: 6 to 11 miles | Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous | Time: 3 to 7 hours 

Chesler Park is the best spot in all of The Needles District to see the sandstone spires that make this park so uniquely beautiful. Plus, there are two hiking options making it accessible to any hiking skill level. 

The shorter trail is 6 miles round-trip and moderately strenuous. Hike out to the Chesler Park Viewpoint, where you can enjoy panoramic views of The Needles district. From this viewpoint, you can see the La Sal Mountains to the north and Chesler Park to the south. 

If you continue beyond the Chesler Park Viewpoint, you enter Chesler Park. This part of the hike forms a loop, which is our favorite part of the park. Not only do you get close-up views of the Needles, but you also get to hike through a cave and a slot canyon! This hike is almost 11 miles long and it takes between 5 to 7 hours, but if you’re up for it, this is a great way to spend your time in The Needles district. 



Big Spring rests at the end of Needles Park Road and is an easy .3 mile hike out and back providing a wonderful overlook of Canyonlands without much effort. From the overlook, unique mushroom-shaped rock spires and multi-colored sandstone benches line the bend in the canyon. This is an amazing final stop on your Needles adventure. 


There's no shortage of amazing things to do and see at ULUM Moab and the surrounding areas. This will truly be the trip of a lifetime for you and your friends and family. Reservations for ULUM Moab are now open.