Sunday, January 4, 2015

Trail Report: Hiking to Druid Arch from Chesler Park

Druid arch in needles district
Spectacular Druid Arch in Needles, Canyonlands
This is the trail report of my hike from Chesler Park to Druid arch deep in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  I slept at Chesler Park Campground number 4 and enjoy the beautiful sunrise in the park.  I then began hiking toward Druid arch.  The trail is well marked the entire way.

This trail goes directly east from Chesler Park through a crack in the surrounding sandstone towers.  On the other side of this passage is Elephant Canyon.  When I first saw Elephant Canyon, I was very high above the canyon floor.  It is not direct or intuitive to reach the canyon floor.  Nevertheless, that is where you must go in order to continue hiking.

Following the cairns, I traveled north over sandstone boulders for about 15 minutes before the trail dropped into another fissure in the rocks.  Following this down, the trail gradually works its way down a moderate cliff.  The hiking is not difficult nor technical.  I made it down to the canyon floor without trouble.

Take a good look at this location where the trail meets up with the Elephant Canyon Trail.  You will need to remember this location in order to return to Chesler Park.  This particular intersection is not well marked and would be easy to miss on your return trip.

Hiking up Elephant Canyon, the main trail follows the stream bed.  There are a few tributaries that come from the left and right which could be a detour but you cannot go very far before realizing that it's not the main trail.  I had no trouble following the footsteps in the main path.  Elephant Canyon itself is spectacular with its beauty.

Although it is 3 miles to Druid arch, it feels like 5 on the way there.  It took about 2 hours of slow steady hiking.  Once the arch comes into view, you still have quite a bit of hiking to do.  The arch high above the streambed.  This requires hiking up a lot of loose rock and climbing a fixed metal ladder.  Once you reach this higher shelf, you'll have a wonderful view.

My photograph of Druid Arch above is taken in midmorning from the northeast side.  I took this photograph with a 17 mm tilt shift lens and stitched 3 photos together.  The arch itself is very spectacular but I found photographs of it without a foreground subject less appealing.  This landscape photograph is my favorite one from that day.

Hiking back is much easier than going there.  It seemed more the like 3 miles that are advertised as the distance.  Perhaps seeing the wonderful arch made the hiking a little bit easier.

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