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Backpacking - Needles District, Canyonlands NP 4/25-27/24

Updated: May 14

Sample Itinerary:

Thursday -

Carpool - 6:30 am - 11:30 am

Elephant Hill Trailhead - 12:00 pm

Hike to Campsite - 12:30 pm

Arrive at Camp 1 (EC2/3 - favorite) - 2:30 pm

Out-and-Back Hike to Druid Arch - 4:30 pm

Dinner and Sleep - 7:30 pm

Friday -

Breakfast and Hike - 6:00 am

Arrive at Camp 2 (CP1 - favorite) - 12:00 pm

Hike Chesler Loop - 2:00 pm

Dinner - 6:00 pm

Saturday - 

Breakfast and Hike - 8:00 am

Trailhead - 11:00 am

Lunch and Home - 12:00 pm

Drive: Elephant Hill Trailhead, Canyonlands NP

Cost: $30 per vehicle Passes

$36 +$5 (each person up to 7 total) backpacking permit Permits (reserve 4 months in advance) Camping Site Map


Backpacking Needles District - 20 miles total (approximately 10 miles with full pack and 10 with day packs, or lightened pack)

Chester Loop Trail - 10.2 mile loop with Druid Arch side trip (9 miles from Elephant Hill TH to arch and to EC 1). Be aware that it will feel longer because the trail consists of scrambling up and down steep fins and slickrock. Climbing and descending ladders or assisting and spotting each other may be required. Plan for your backpack to be heavy due to bringing a minimum of 6 Liters of water per person. More water might be needed depending on temperatures. It is not expected to encounter any sources of filterable water once you leave the trailhead. We liked doing the Chester Loop Trail counter clockwise as the flat long downhill is at the beginning and then you end with the Joint and beautiful views of Chester area.  All Trails Trip Report

Bathrooms - pit toilets at trailheads

Cell Phone Service - no, In Reach Beacon had good service

Dogs - no


  • There is an old cowboy camp between CP4 and CP5.

  • Ancient ruins can be seen 0.2 miles after leaving Druid Arch trail onto Chesler Park trail to the right across the ravine under the overhang of rocks.

  • The Chesler Loop hike is best counter-clockwise. 

  • There is an outhouse on the Chesler Loop hike where the jeep road meets the joint trail.

Campsite Tips:

  • EC2 and EC3 are the best campsites in Elephant Canyon. 

  • CP1 is an amazing site, maybe the best in Chesler Park, but it is a distance from the rest of Chesler Park. Definitely the most private of the Chesler sites. 

  • CP3 and 4 are cool sites but get filled with tumble weeds in the spring. 

  • CP2 is a good site with shade but is the least private since its right off a main trail.

  • CP5 is private since its at the end of the trail, but little shade.

  • Sites open for registration the November prior.

Gear: 45+ liter backpack with waist belt, 6 L water, water filter, stove and fuel (if cooking food), spoon or fork, camping knife or multitool, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees (down preferred), synthetic T-shirt, thin long-sleeve synthetic shirt, fleece, thin puffy coat, rain jacket, shorts or thin hiking pants, thin synthetic pant for sleeping, running shoes, neoprene socks (optional), sandals with a back strap, 2 pairs of socks, 8-10 snacks, dinner, breakfast, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, first aid kit, headlamp, toiletries, WAG bag (2 gallon ziplock bags with kitty litter for pooping), Gaia map app - download area while in service

Rentals (for 2 days):

1. Tents (2 man - $13, 4 man - $22 BYU Outdoors Unlimited; 2 man - $14, 4 man - $18 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

2. Sleeping bags (0 degree - $22, 30 degree - $22 BYU Outdoors Unlimited; 0 degree - $14, 30 degree - $10 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

3. Sleeping pads (thermarest - $9 BYU Outdoors Unlimited; thermarest - $8 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

4. Backpacks (85 liter - $12 BYU Outdoors Unlimited; 65 liter - $14 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

5. Stove with fuel ($8 BYU Outdoors Unlimited; $8 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

6. Mess kit ($8 BYU Outdoors Unlimited; $10 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

7. Water Filter ($6 UVU Outdoor Adventure Center)

Waypoints (left - Double Train Tunnel; right - possible water hole)

Druid Arch

Train Tunnel

The Joint

Bathrooms (Elephant Hill Trailhead/Joint Trail Trailhead) and Map of area

Campsites (EC1/CP2)

Campsites (EC2/CP1)

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