Needles District, Canyonlands National Park
Off Roading, Needles, Camping, Pictographs
10 Mile Loop with lots of side options
3-4 Hours for just driving but I recommend staying at least one night
$25 Park Entrance $30 Permit if staying overnight
There is no water once you leave the Visitor Center so you must bring plenty of your own
There is no shade until the campground
Very rough and technical 4x4 road
At Visitor Center, and Devils Kitchen
Needles District Visitor Center
Pack in all your own
You will need to be self sufficient since this is a very remote area and towing fees would be very expensive. You will need a 4x4 vehicle with low range. Bring all tools sufficient to fix auto issues. Full socket set, Tire kit, Full size spare, Air pump, Saw or Grinder for exhaust cutting, High Lift Jack, and Extra fuel, Extra lubricants, Spare parts. Most of this road can be done by a high clearance vehicle in 2 wheel drive but there are a few areas where 4x4 is a necessity. This is especially true when there has been recent rain as there was when I visited.
Trail Head:38.14178N, 109.82752W
Devils Kitchen:38.13729N, 109.86154W
Elephant Hill is one of the best places anyone can visit. The Devil’s Kitchen is my all time favorite place to camp and the adventure getting there is all icing on the cake. With that being said this is not a place to take lightly. It is very remote meaning if something goes wrong help could be a long wait and very expensive. I have listed some supplies you will need above but make sure to make your own list and remember that you can’t over prepare. This road requires a four wheel drive vehicle with low range. I did it in a completely stock half ton truck. This was about the limit of what would make it. The stock clearance issues mean that I scraped plenty of times. It would also not be a good place to visit alone. A spotter is VERY useful in lots of spots. If you use a spotter and take your time this area is beautiful and a lot of fun. This spot along with the Maze District, and White Rim Road are 3 of a handful of spots that I would rate a 10/10 on the enjoyment scale. This area is just spectacular.
To visit Elephant Hill you must have a day use permit. If you are spending 1 or more nights then you must reserve your camp spots and get a permit. There are several campsites but if the Devils Kitchen has open spots make sure you take them. They are all great and especially great for families. As a young kid I loved getting up and climbing the rocks and exploring the slot canyons and still to this day I like it just as much. Under no circumstance are ATV’s allowed in this area. Motorbikes must be street legal and of course you must stay on the road. The drive to Needles from Moab is very nice. A lot of it looks similar to parts of Zion National Park.
One spot you must stop at is newspaper rock. This is the biggest set of petroglyphs I have ever seen and there are some awesome ones all made by several different groups of Native Americans.
The cool thing with petroglyphs is they are open to each persons interpretation. Me and my wife both looked at things differently. Here were some of my favorites and what I thought they could be. The first was an Elk.
A Bull attacking a platypus
Once you arrive at the Needles Visitor Center you have to visit the Back Country Office. They will give you a parking pass and give you safety information. We left our meeting with my wife being scared to death. Just remember it is their job to scare you. The road is not nearly as bad as they make it sound. They literally stopped just short of saying it was a guaranteed death. There is a nice picnic area at the beginning of Elephant Hill. The hill immediately climbs from the picnic area. After about 150 yards there is a spot to turn around if people get nervous. Here is the picnic spot looking down from the turn around.
The road has lots of steps and steep inclines including sharp turns. There is one area where the turns are so sharp that most vehicles have to back down a portion of it. Elephant hill itself is only about a mile but will take you quite a while to drive. Here are some pics. You may have to really concentrate to even see the road. The video will do the road a little more justice to help prepare you for what you will encounter.
After Elephant hill the steep inclines end and you will enter some small meadows. There are still some pretty good obstacles though. The area here is one way only so its pretty impossible to get lost. This area is very scenic.
Just before reaching Devils Kitchen you will pass through a VERY narrow corridor. Many people have scratched their cars and ripped off mirrors. A spotter is once again very helpful.
This obstacle marks the end of the one way area. After the tight section you will pop out right at the 4 Devils Kitchen camp sites. They are nestled into these large rocks.
As I already mentioned these are my all time favorite area to camp. All 4 are good but #2 and #4 are my favorites. We stayed this time in #2 which has its own slot canyon and small cave for the family to play around in.
The best part is that in the morning you get to wake up to this beautiful views of the Needles the district is named for. I took this photo from my tent. There is also a great loop hike starting at the campground that takes you to Chesler Park.
From Devil’s Kitchen the road encounters a few more obstacles but are very manageable. There are several side roads here you can visit. One takes you to a hiking trail head for Chesler Park, Druid Arch, and The Joint Trail. All of these are excellent options and some of the best hiking anywhere. To get to the trail head you have to navigate SOB Hill. Im sure you can figure it out why its called that. It is another one where you must back down a portion. It was too muddy the day I went so I did not attempt to make it. Just before reaching SOB Hill there is a large meadow and on the walls along the road there are several pictographs. These are very vandalized so please be respectful so we can all enjoy them for many years.
Back on the main loop there is another side option that takes you to an overlook for the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. We also could not visit this because the road was very washed out during our trip. I probably could have made it but the risk was just not worth it. I have done the trail before though, and it is well worth the time. After the turn to the confluence you will enter another one way section that will take you back to Elephant Hill. This area has one fairly technical spot called the Silver Stairs. It is quite a bit easier than Elephant Hill though.
Once back at Elephant Hill be sure to take your time, be safe, and have fun on your way back out.
This area is a world class adventure for a lot of reasons. The permit system keeps it from being crowded and it has some of the most unique and beautiful scenery on earth. I would go in Spring or Fall when the heat is less of an issue but no matter when you visit this should be on every adventurers list.
For more off road adventure check out these other Canyonlands Districts: