While in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, we not only enjoyed hiking but we also enjoyed 4 wheeling in both the Island of the Sky and the Needles District and especially the Elephant Hill Road. We took our own jeep and Steve drove on the off road trail of White Rim Road in Island of the Sky. The off road trail in the Needles District was beyond our 4 x 4 skill level. We went on a tour in the Needles District.
The Needles District of Canyonlands is more remote and has hiking trails and 4×4 trails. There is remote camping in designated areas that need permits.
The area we wanted to see in the Needles District requires an experienced 4×4 Driver. The Elephant Hill Road to the Joint Trail hike in Canyonlands was our destination and the road is treacherous to say the least. I did some research and found Navtec Tours out of Moab, Utah. This group is awesome and we were very happy with them. Our driver was experienced, knowledgeable and did a great job. Not only did he take us on a great 4×4 tour, but he also took us on an awesome hike. You can find out more about this Expedition by clicking on the Navtec Tours website
Shortly before you reach the Needles District of Canyonlands you will come across Newspaper Rock. It is a large rock with Native American Petroglyphs dating back to AD 1. Native Americans associated with this rock are Ancient Puebloans, Fremont, and Navajo. In addition, some of the carvings on the rock are more modern as well.
From Moab, the Needles District of Canyonlands is about an hour and a half. Take US 191 South for 40 miles and turn left on UT 211 W for 34 miles to the Visitor Center. It is a pretty drive.
Elephant Hill Road
The Elephant Hill Road is a seriously technical 4 x 4 road in the Needles District in Canyonlands. Although I’m not sure at some spots it can even be called a road. Photos just can’t capture how it felt to travel on this road. The hill involves steep grades of switch backs up the side of a canyon with step like drop-offs. Getting up the hill seems impossible.
Once over the hill, the road is still no picnic. If you love adrenaline rushes, this is your road! You must have a 4 x 4 high clearance vehicle and also an experienced driver for this trek. You also need a permit. Mountain Bikers are also allowed.
Once up Elephant Hill you will continue for about 9 miles. The road becomes one way and makes a loop. It is amazing how beautiful the scenery is. The road continues to be rugged. In addition, there are pictographs along the way! Furthermore, you will come across the Devil’s Kitchen Campsite and a couple of other remote campsites as well.
Joint Trail & Chesler Park
The end of the Jeep road is by the Joint Trailhead, which is where we hiked. We stopped here for a picnic lunch and then preceded to follow our guide on the Joint Trail and also to Chesler Park. If you want to read about the Joint Trail in Detail you can follow my last post’s link, Hike the Joint Trail to Chesler Park.
They Way Back
Since this was a loop, we had a bit different scenery on the way back. Of course we had to go back down Elephant Hill but it was all fun. Incidentally, we only saw one other off road vehicle on this venture and 3 hikers. Although it appeared the camp grounds were almost full.
We absolutely loved this tour and would recommend it very highly especially if you are an adrenaline junkie. This is a top notch company and our guide was fantastic. In addition to having fun, we felt safe and in good hands the entire time! So much fun!!! Canyonlands is a great place and Elephant Hill Road is especially something to enjoy.
We again used a Falcon Guide book for this trip. You can click this link if interested in the book, Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Park. This book was good for us as it gave information not just on hiking but on 4 wheel drive roads in the area as well. We did some 4 wheel driving on this trip so it was good information. I will write about that in next Thursday’s post!
We also found a map to be valuable on this trip, although we didn’t necessarily need it for hiking it was good to have. As usual, we like the National Geographic Maps and you can find that at the following link. Canyonlands National Parks Trails Illustrated Map. Maps are also available for each district in Canyonlands, although we found for what we were doing this map was perfect.
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Check Out My Other Posts About Utah!!
Canyonlands National Park
Hike the Joint Trail, Canyonlands, Oct 2020
Jeeping the White Rim Road, Canyolands Sept, 2020
Aztec Butte, Canyonlands, Sept 2020
Grand View Point and Grand View Hike, Sept 2020
Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Utah, Sept 2020
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef and Hickman’s Bridge Hike, Oct 2020
Bryce Canyon National Park
Hiking the Navajo and Peek-A-Boo trail in Bryce Canyon, Oct 2020
Sunrise and Sunset at Bryce Canyon, Utah, Oct 2020
Escalante National Monument
Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons Near Escalante, Oct 2020
Arches National Park
Sunset at Arches National Park, Utah, Sept 2020
20 thoughts on “Elephant Hill Road in Canyonlands”
I’ve taken a four-wheel drive whilst in the countryside of Georgia (the country, not the state). That was my first four-wheel experience, and while terrifying at first, it was also thrilling. Looks like you had quite the adventure roughing it up in the Canyonlands, and perhaps I’ll get into four-wheel drives again…once I muster up the courage to do so!
We had a great time!! I have never been to
The country of Georgia! I have been to the state though!! Take care and stay well!! Lori
Funny enough, I’ve never been to the state of Georgia! Would love to someday, though. 🙂
The road indeed seems particularly rough, beautiful adventure.
It was an adventure!!
You give me such wanderlust!!
I have wanderlust bad! Each time I write these I want to go back!!
Omg I just want to go anywhere!
I think I need to twist Hubby’s arm a bit harder as he wants to wait out the pandemic before we do any travel outside of California. However, this looks worth the trip!
What was nice is the guide wore a mask as did the other couple with us. The vehicle was open so we felt safe. Most of our hikes on the whole trip we’re very social distancing! Not many people. The only place we felt crowded was Zion Park which I will be writing about soon. We went end of Sept beginning of Oct. currently the way things are we are staying home!! Stay safe and healthy!!
Good to know! He really just likes to stick close to home 🙂 Your pictures are gorgeous I can’t wait to show him and hopefully spark an interest. Thanks again.
I hope so too!! Stay safe!! Lori
You as well and thank you. 🙂 Michelle
Spectacular scenery Lori. Great that there are 4 x 4 tour groups to see this. You would not want your average Sunday driver to even try to drive here. Love the pictographs. Looks like a great time. Thanks for sharing. Allan
Thanks! First thing Steve said when we saw the road is , “I would never even attempt to drive this”. Our driver was excellent. He knew that road like the back of his hand. He even got out of the vehicle to move rocks around and fill in spots to pass a couple areas!!! Lol. Take care!! Lori
Thanks for taking us along! One of the times a trusted guide is so important. I couldn’t imagine driving those paths. Beautiful rock sculptures!
We are usually do it our selves kind of people but know our limits!! This was definitely the place for a tour and expert! We would not have been able to experience this without the guide! Thanks for commenting!!
I’m with you… I’m not sure how that’s a road! Great photos!
Also, related to the petroglyphs… I learned recently that the “Anasazi” actually prefer to be called the Ancestral Puebloans. Apparently Anasazi was what the Navajo called them, so it’s not actually a word from their own language. Mesa Verde talks about this a lot but unfortunately I don’t think other locations have made that terminology switch yet.
I have heard that too although I had kind of forgotten it and went with the term
used there. I will have to edit that in my post! Thanks Diana!!