Planning a visit to The Needles in Canyonlands National Park? You’re in luck – in this guide, we unpack all that you need to know when visiting this magnificent natural wonder.
Canyonlands is one of the most underrated places to visit in Utah, often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors. And even then, many of the park’s annual visitors often forgo visiting The Needles District because it’s in one of the more remote parts of the park.
But, trust us when we say that skipping it is a big mistake.
Marveling at this network of towering needle-like sandstone spires is one of the best things to do in Canyonlands National Park. We promise you’ll want to add this to your Utah bucket list.
Get ready to discover how this geological phenomenon came to be, the best hikes you can take, and what you should bring for an epic adventure in The Needles.
Why Visit The Needles in Canyonlands National Park?
There are several reasons why you should visit Canyonlands’ Needles District; the low crowds and jaw-dropping colorful sandstone towers are just the tip of the iceberg.
You can explore The Needles by biking, backpacking, taking long-day hikes, or overnight trips. You’ll find numerous 4×4 routes and foot trails leading you to attractions such as Tower Ruin, Elephant Hill, and Confluence Overlook — these are some of the best hikes in Moab.
But don’t take our word for it… See for yourself.
What to Know Before You Visit The Needles
What exactly are The Needles? Allow us to demystify this for y’all – The Needles are tower-like hills of Cedar Mesa sandstone cut down and carved by the Green and Colorado Rivers over 20 million years ago. Water erosion caused by the flowing streams and heavy rains slowly shaped the geological features we admire today.
To get to The Needles District, head down to the southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park. From Moab to The Needles is about 84 miles long and takes about two hours to reach.
We suggest you stop by The Needles District Visitor Center to watch a park orientation video and get a map, water, and sound advice from on-duty rangers.
The Visitor Center opens daily from early March to late November. And, coincidentally, this part of the park sees its peak season from March to October.
While The Needles region doesn’t attract as many tourists, holidays like Memorial Day, Easter weekend, and Labor Day are especially busy, so it would be helpful to arrive early to make the most out of your day (and beat the glaring midday sun).
Best Hikes in The Needles
Canyonlands is the largest of the Mighty Five, so naturally, you’d expect some of the top hiking trails in The Needles to be some of the best hikes in Utah. And you wouldn’t be wrong.
You’ll find several hikes in The Needles, ranging from easy to challenging, short to long, but in the end, they all provide stunning views of the park.
Excited? You should be – these are a few of the best hikes The Needles in Canyonlands boasts:
- Cave Springs Trail is a short 0.6-mile roundtrip hike that’s easy to complete. It provides an opportunity to learn about the region’s history and marvel at ancient artifacts and pictographs at a historic cowboy camp.
- Chesler Park Loop is great for seeing the sandstone spires in full glory as the landscape opens up, giving you panoramic scenes. You’ll need a 4×4 to get to the trailhead before pursuing this 5.4-mile moderately challenging and scenic loop.
- Elephant Hill and Druid Arch are both challenging hikes that require some climbing and scrambling. But the scenery at the end pays off. You’ll see oddly-shaped red sandstone structures capped with white rock at Elephant Hill, while Druid Arch overlooks The Needles.
- Needles Overlook is a popular observation point that starts with a scenic drive. The overlook is about 1,600 feet above The Needles, giving you 360-degree views of the towering sandstone formations.
Planning Your Visit to The Needles
The Needles Address
Canyonlands National Park
Moab, UT 84532
The Needles Opening Times
Like Canyonlands, The Needles District opens daily all year round, 24 hours a day. However, keep in mind that the Visitor Center closes for the winter season and public holidays.
Visiting The Needles Independently
When exploring Canyonlands, The Needles is one region that is ideal to discover via an off-road vehicle. If you are staying in a hotel in Moab, renting a 4×4 is the best option to explore The Needles on your own.
Expect travel times of about two hours and 10 minutes. If you’re not in a hurry, take advantage of having a rental car and stop by popular attractions like the Hell’s Revenge 4×4 Trail and Hole ‘N’ The Rock along the way.
During peak season (March to October), you can expect to pay anything between $180 (£151) to $295 (£248) per day for a Jeep Wrangler. You’ll have to pay a little more if you want an upgrade to a Rubicon or Gladiator.
Exploring The Needles On a Tour
Alternatively, if you’re visiting Canyonlands National Park for the first time, it would be better to visit The Needles accompanied by an expert guide. This way, you won’t risk the possibility of getting lost, and you’ll learn about the flora and fauna of the region, as well as its history.
From Moab, you can book a Canyonlands Needles District 4×4 tour led by a licensed and experienced guide. Guided Jeep tours are also available.
You can hire a guide for a daily fee of $300 (£252) to $725 (£610). This depends on the duration of the tour and whether you’ll be in the same car as your guide or if they’ll be in a separate leading vehicle.
Where to Stay for The Needles
The Hoodoo Moab is an excellent place to stay for high-end amenities and scenic views of the red Utah landscape. Rooms are spacious and stylish, decked out with all the home comforts you could possibly want for a pleasant stay.
Start your day with a delicious breakfast and a quick workout at the gym, while the expansive outdoor pool offers the perfect retreat after a long day of exploring.
What to Pack for The Needles
When visiting The Needles of Canyonlands, it’s important to pack accordingly. The items on your packing list depend on when you visit. While peak season sees the most tourists, the shoulder seasons, spring and fall, are the best times to visit Utah.
The daily temperatures during these seasons are pleasant, as days aren’t scorching hot, and nights aren’t freezing cold. And a bonus for visiting in the spring or fall is fewer crowds in the park, discounted tours, and accommodations.
Here’s a quick look at some essential hiking and travel items you should pack for your trip to The Needles:
- Hydration Pack – Days in Utah’s desert can get quite hot, even in winter. So bringing a water reservoir or refillable water bottle is essential for every hike.
- Sunscreen — Utah has 238 days of sunlight, so you’ll need something to protect you from the sun during hikes. SPF-infused sunscreen, a sunhat, or a cap all work wonders.
- Sturdy hiking boots — A rocky terrain dominates The Needles District, so you’ll need comfortable and durable hiking shoes to avoid blisters and sore feet.
- Printable map — Cell service in The Needles is quite limited, so we suggest you avoid entirely relying on GPS. Bring a printable map with you or buy it from the Visitor Center before exploring.