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.