For a real desert hiking adventure, avid hikers should put the Druid Arch hike on their list. Located in the remote part of the Needles District, this long, burly hike takes you through winding canyons and over rocky terrain to reach the impressively massive arch.
You’ll find Druid Arch at the end of a long series of trails within the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Drive to the Elephant Canyon Trailhead at the end of the main road through the Needles District.
Park here, then make your way to Druid Arch by hiking from the Elephant Hill Trail to the Chesler Park Trail. Next, take the Elephant Canyon Trail until it ends at Druid Arch. Come back the way you came for a fun-filled day of scrambling around in desert canyons.
Druid Arch is a highly physical hike. Elephant Canyon is littered with ladders and built-in steps with chains to help you navigate the steep, rocky terrain. The hike itself travels over both deep sand and slick rock, so be sure to have a little navigation know-how before you depart.
The trail is shady in the morning, but can easily be a scorcher by mid-day. Hike early to avoid the worst of the heat.
Round Trip Distance: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,373 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Estimated Time: 5 hours
Dog Friendly? No
The Druid Arch hike is relatively straight forward, with plenty of signed trail makers and cairns to guide the way. However, when you’re traveling over slick rock, there often is a trail, but more of a path of least resistance.
Elephant Canyon is a burly, physical hike that demands the use of your hands. The hike also has a few ladders and steps to help you reach the arch. But don’t let the physical nature of this hike deter you, it’s a stunning walk. Druid Arch is definitely worth the effort.
Pro Tip: This is a long way to go without water. We recommend bringing at least 3 liters on the Druid Arch hike, more if you’re doing it during the summer months.
Arguably the best way to reach Druid Arch is to backpack. There are several backcountry campsites in the Needles (reservation strongly recommended). Although you can’t spend the night at the arch, hike your backpacking gear in, set up camp, then wander out with a lighter daypack to the arch. This lets you beat the crowds (go for sunset for a real treat) and spend more time at the arch since you don’t have to hike all the way back to your car.
Overall, Druid Arch offers up some impressive sandstone geometry. This stunning and powerful rock formation is highly photogenic and the entire hike to the arch offers a real adventure.