Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
4,000.00 ft (1,219.20 m)
Trail type
20.00 mi (32.19 km)
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If you hear someone speak about Canyonlands National Park, odds are they are talking about the district known as Island in the Sky. Canyonlands is split up into three districts, with Island in the Sky being the closest to a town (Moab), and sporting incredibly expansive views. Don’t be fooled, though; the Needles District of Canyonlands is a hidden gem, featuring an extensive hiking network, amazing geology, and relatively few people. The hiking network in the Needles features criss-crossing trails that take you to each corner of the park. This hike, which is designed for the adventurous or all day hikers, features a link up of almost every trail in the park, for a total of roughly 20 miles. While this hike can be done in multiple directions, the obvious trailhead is Squaw Flat Campground, which is the only developed campground in the district.

First, head toward Lost Canyon, which is a 2.6-mile hike on the perimeter of the park. While the scenery in this section is not the best, the lack of crowds makes up for that. Continue up Lost Canyon, eventually linking up with the Squaw Canyon Trail. Follow Squaw about 3 miles until you reach the beautiful Chesler Park. This will most likely be the highlight of the hike. Chesler Park is a large, grassy meadow surrounded by towering "needle" rock structures. Oh, and you get a perfect view of the remote Maze District in the distance. From this point, you have the option to hike north toward Elephant Hill and start looping back to Squaw Flat. If you still have something in your legs, continue on to the Joint Trail and slowly loop your way back. Don’t worry, the trails are cairned and signed.

Recommended Gear

Before you head out on your next adventure, make sure you have the right gear! 

Here's a list of our go-to hiking essentials to get you started:

Backpack: Osprey AG Pack

Hip Belt, Adjustable Torso, Compression Straps, Raincover + Hydraulics LT 2.5L Water Reservoir Included

Men's Manta 28L • $98.93-107.25 • Osprey | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's Mira 26L • $98.93-107.25 • Osprey | Amazon | Backcountry | REI


Hiking Shoes: Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Shoe 

Cushioned, GORE-TEX, High Traction Contagrip, 15.8 oz

Men's • $123.71-165.00 • Salomon | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's • $124.93-165.00 • Salomon | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Shirt: Mountain Hardwear Canyon Pro Long Sleeve Shirt 

Sun Protective, Moisture Wicking, Quick Drying, Roll-up Sleeves

Men's • $71.25-75.00 • Mountain Hardware | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $44.98-47.47 • Mountain Hardware | Amazon | Backcountry

GPS Watch: Garmin Forerunner 35 GPS Watch

Waterproof, Calorie Burn Tracker, GPS, Sleep Tracker, Shock Resistant, Speed Tracker, Lap Timer

$128.03-170.00 • Garmin | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Trekking Poles: MSR DynaLock Explore Poles 

Aluminum, Adjustable with DynaLock Levers, Four-season Functionality, 20 oz.

$99.95 • Amazon | REI

Socks: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Sock 

Made in USA, Anti-bacterial, Merino Wool, Breathable, Fast-drying

Men's • $17-22 • Darn Tough | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's • $12.19-22.00 • Darn Tough | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Headlamp: Black Diamond Storm Headlamp 

LED, Waterproof, Maximum Beam Distance: 80 m, Takes AAA Batteries

$49.85-49.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | REI

First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight and Watertight .5 Kit

Ultralight, Watertight, Group Size: 1 person, Trip Duration: 1-2 days

$16.95-19.47 • Adventure Medical Kits | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass


Expansive views. Interesting geology. Variable lengths.


No water. Backpacking availability can be limited.

Trailhead Elevation

5,200.00 ft (1,584.96 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Geologically significant

Typically multi-day


Suitable for



Nearby Adventures


During Winter and Spring you can find, but should not count on, water in the shallow potholes. Bring a baggie to scoop it out or a filter pump. Hiking in this area is not for those with fears of heights. The trails are often across off camber slick rock. Additionally, there are steep hands and feet scrambles and ladders to get your attention. A light pack load is a must. After rains erase the trail, directions can be difficult to follow as cairns are often farther apart than line of sight. Having said all that, it is a fascinating landscape with very few people to disturb the views.
In same area - from the Elephant Hill trail head (3 mi. good dirt road from campground, good parking, toilets) the 11.2 mi. Chesler Park Loop trail is one of the best day hikes we've ever done. Scenery and variety almost sensory overload. Best option is to follow trail/signs to Jeep Road, then south for .5 mi., then E for .5 on another jeep road to Joint Trail, heading east to complete the loop. If you are looking for a night out (carry all water there isn't any) the backcountry sites of CP 2 through 5 are incredible. Most of the other sites sit in washes or canyons, these have huge views of Chesler Park and (way) beyond.
Loved hiking Chesler Park Loop and camping here.
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