After spending a good portion of the day driving up and over the forested Elk Ridge teasing views of the distant rock in The Needles District Canyonlands National Park beckoned for a quick visit.
By the time we got there (2pm) of course no campsites were available in the 26 site, first come first serve, Squaw Flat Campground. Yet Bill knew of BLM land outside the park where we could camp so we burned the last daylight driving about 7 miles to the end of the road then back.
Made up of four distinct districts—the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers—Canyonlands is huge at 527 sq mi. According to the park’s information the farthest district to the north, Island in the Sky, is the “most accessible offering expansive views from many overlooks along the paved scenic drive, several hikes of varying length and a moderate four-wheel-drive route called the White Rim Road.”
“The Maze is a remote district requiring considerably more time and self-reliance to visit. Northwest of The Maze, Horseshoe Canyon is a day-use area with stunning Native American rock art panels.” And I’d gladly visit either/both the Colorado and Green rivers floating along beneath the towering walls for a whole different perspective than hiking or driving.
A gravel side road took us to Elephant Hill trailhead, a “hairy” 4×4 route Bill has driven in the past. It is rated as the toughest 4-wheel drive in the state of Utah. Bill says it takes you into beautiful landscapes but the drive is a “mofo”. There are also several enticing trails to destinations like “Druid Arch” in Elephant Canyon.
Big Spring Canyon Overlook at the end of the road offered panoramic views of banded sandstone, spires and toadstools. Plus a trail goes to an overlook of the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. However, we had no time for that and the trails are not dog friendly.
We made a stop at the Visitor Center on the way in to pick up a Junior Ranger book. Unfortunately it closed at 4pm so didn’t get my badge or a chance to walk around the displays. An excuse to return along with many others. So we headed out of the official park into a gorgeous valley to find a campsite.
Only three miles from the park a sign and side road directed us to Hamburger Rock campground BLM, level with a fire ring, and probably toilets if we’d driven in a little farther where we could see a couple RVs. Guess we stopped a little short and had the landscape to ourselves.
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