Visiting The Needles in Canyonlands National Park

The large expanse of Canyonlands National Park covers three unique districts. The southernmost district is The Needles District. This weird and wacky landscape encompasses some of the largest gardens of hoodoos (rock pinnacles) in the world. Pictures really don’t do The Needles justice, but trust me, a visit to The Needles in Canyonlands should be on your bucket list.

Where is The Needles in Canyonlands?

Unlike the Island in the Sky district, The Needles district of Canyonlands National Park is located an hour and a half south of Moab. Take US-191 south until you reach the junction with SR-211.

This road winds its way through the famous Indian Creek area (known for world-class rock climbing). Make a quick pit stop at the famous Newspaper Rock to see a variety of petroglyphs carved by the original Native American inhabitants of this land.

Eventually, SR-211 terminates at The Needles District. Here you’ll find a mystical sea of towering rock pinnacles. This seemingly endless labyrinth of rock is home to some of the best hikes near Moab, camping, backpacking, off-roading and more.

Pro Tip: Due to the extreme landscape, you can’t drive from one district to another in Canyonlands. You’ll have to exit the park and drive around to reach The Needles.

Things to Do in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

Each district in Canyonlands National Park has its own flavor of activities and The Needles is known for its incredible hiking and backpacking trails. You’ll find longer, tougher trails than in the Island in the Sky district.

Plan to spend at least one to two days (more if you really love hiking, climbing, or backpacking) in The Needles district and surrounding areas. Here’s a look at what to do in The Needles district of Canyonlands National Park:

  • Backpack or hike to Chesler Park
  • Backpack in Big Spring Canyon
  • Day hike the Elephant Hill Trail
  • Take the 4WD Elephant Hill Trail and camp at Devil’s Kitchen
  • Backpack to Druid Arch
  • Camp at the Needles Campground
  • Hike the Joint Trail

The Best Hikes in The Needles

The Needles in Canyonlands is most known for its array of unique hiking trails. Most of these hikes can be done in a day, with the option to spend the night at several backcountry camp spots (permit required).

Hiking in The Needles district is over well-marked trails with sandy or slick rock bottoms. A few of the trails are quite strenuous, especially in Elephant Canyon. Ladders and scrambling may be required, so do your homework before heading out.

A few awesome trails include:

  • Chesler Park Loop
  • Big Springs Canyon
  • Angel Arch
  • Elephant Hill Trail
  • Elephant Canyon
  • Joint Trail
  • Druid Arch

Backcountry Camping and Permit Information for Visiting The Needles

Day use of The Needles in Canyonlands National Park only requires you to pay a park fee ($30 per entrance). However, if you want to spend the night in the backcountry or you wish to drive any of the 4WD trails, you’ll need an advanced permit.

Permits are available up to 4 months in advance and can be reserved online. Be sure to plan accordingly, especially if you’re traveling during the spring and fall months, as permits regularly fill up the moment they are available (12 am four months prior).

Overall, The Needles in Canyonlands National Park is a must-see attraction for anyone who loves to hike. Check out the ocean of rock the next time you visit Moab.