Hiking the Confluence Overlook Trail

As one of the least-trafficked hikes in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the Confluence Overlook Trail is truly a hidden gem. A moderate (but long) trail deposits you at the stunning confluence between the Colorado and Green rivers. The contrast between the red, dry desert landscape and the lush river banks provides an idyllic scene that’s worth the effort.

Where is the Confluence Overlook Trail?

You’ll find the Confluence Overlook Trail in Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District. About an hour and a half south of Moab, this famous hiking sanctuary is known for it’s towering spires and unique, Mars-like landscape.

To reach the Confluence Overlook Trailhead head to the entrance to the Needles District. Take US-191 south out of Moab and head west on SR-211. The road curves north and heads through the stunning Indian Creek area. Don’t forget to stop at the famous Newspaper Rock petroglyph site along the way.

Eventually, the road continues to the entrance to the Needles District. You’ll need to pay the park entrance fee (or use your park’s pass) to access the park. Continue onwards until the road ends at the Big Spring Canyon Overlook. Here you’ll find the Confluence Overlook Trailhead.

Practical Trail Information

A far cry from the crowded Elephant Hill Trailhead, the quiet, yet picturesque scenery of the Confluence Overlook is well-worth the hike. Although the trail is long, the terrain is moderate, making the Confluence Overlook Trail an excellent option for a half-day outing.
Here’s a look at a few helpful trail facts to help you plan your hike:

Round Trip Distance: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,371 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 5 hours
Dogs Allowed? No

Hiking the Confluence Overlook Trail

If you’re on the hunt for a secluded, yet stunning slice of desert scenery, then work your way towards the Confluence Overlook. Unlike other trails in the Needles District, the Confluence Overlook Trail wanders over dry, open desert country.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to pack sun protection. There isn’t much shade on this hike. Traveling across open desert terrain can be rough, especially with the sun and wind. Bring along sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses and even a long-sleeve shirt that has a UPF rating. For the wind, pack a bandanna or lightweight neck gaiter in case the dust picks up.

You’ll cross several canyons and washes along the way. Here is where you’ll find most of your elevation gains (and loss). Enjoy the rolling desert landscape as you crawl your way up and over three distinct canyons.

Some of the trail is quite steep, including one section with a ladder. After you’ve come out of the second (large) canyon you’ll pass by a massive sandstone monument as you make your way through Cyclone Canyon.

After traversing through Cyclone Canyon, you’ll be deposited onto a mesa. Here you’ll find your reward. Sweeping views towards the Maze District.

Overall, the Confluence Overlook makes for a great addition to any Needles District itinerary. Add this hike to your list in order to see a different side of this fabulous desert scene.