Canyonlands – More Needles District

Chesler Park Hike
Saturday, May 11
We were both feeling up to the days hike to Chesler Park today. It is not a really difficult 6 mile hike, but it will be much warmer today and that takes a toll. Being Saturday, we got out early to make the 8 mile drive into the park and the trailhead at Elephant Hill. More surprises on the way when I saw new parking areas added near the endpoint, nearly doubling the amount. They couldn’t possibly fill all these new spots could they?No matter. We parked right at the start point of the trail – along with quite a few others already there. The first part of the trail is much improved since our last visit, but still rises sharply up and over a rocky cliff. On top the trail levels for awhile and runs through nice vegetated areas with plenty of wildflowers. Several canyons needed to be traversed to get to Chesler, and that means lots of up and down through each one. Each of the canyons is quite deep and has a different character so keeping interested was not a problem. Coming up out of the final canyon, the trail works it way up to the first set of needles – the tall formations for which the area is named. As we walked higher, views opened up all around. From here it was up and over a pass in the formation into Chesler Park. We’d been pretty leisurely on the trail so far and found it was already mid-day, so we found a nice sunny spot in the pass for lunch before moving on a little further.  We only walked another mile or so down into the area. Mary’s legs weren’t feelings so great at this point, so we decided to turn around instead of doing the usual loop we like. It was nice to get this far. Seeing the green meadows with orange spires and knobs rising all around, the mesas behind and mountains beyond will stay with me. The afternoon had gotten pretty warm, maybe high 70’s. It felt downright hot walking over the wide portions of sandstone trail. Sort of like baking in a stone oven. We finished our hike despite our aches and pains, but were pretty happy to have our coffee at the ready for the brief drive back to camp.

Slickrock Trail
Sunday, May 12

After our tiring hike yesterday, we spent most of the day in camp, taking it easy. It was hot again today, but we did want to get into the park later in the afternoon for a shorter walk at least. We had a ver early dinner and set out to to the Slickrock Trail – a 3 mile easy rated loop over mostly white sandstone that features great views, potholes and interesting textures.Waiting for us atop the signboard at the trailhead was this raven. When we didn’t come across with any treats, he made sure we knew he was waiting for something by hopping up to the rearview mirror while I put on my hiking boots. He got nothing. I had hoped it would be cooler by 5:30 when we set out, but with almost zero breeze and the sandstone radiating heat, it was not. The trail is in many ways very similar to the Pothole trail but is spread out more and has several different areas to explore. After about 3/4 mile, the trail begins the loop that will first take us through rolling sandstone shelves, then out to nice views of Junction Butte and Island in the Sky. The La Sal Mountains can be seen all along the second half of the loop as the trail turns back. We finished the hike about 7:30, but were pretty hot and tired by the end. The low light was not enough to keep us interested in photographing, so we headed back to camp for the night. The weather predictions for the next few days say hot and hotter. Not liking the thought of hiking in that, we changed plans and decided to leave Needles and head 60 miles south to Monticello. We’ll camp at the foot of the Abajo Mountains where it will be significantly cooler. We plan to do the short hike to House on Fire – a set of ancient grain caches. It has a very interesting roof.

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