Elephant Hill, Chesler Park, Canyonlands National Park

Most people drive to trailheads to begin a hike, but the distances here are short enough that we are enjoying being able to bike and hike in the same day. We get both funny looks and thumbs up from the petrol heads, but that’s nothing new. There are several ways to use mountain bikes to shorten hikes in Needles district of Caynonlands.

Our first was a several mile mountain bike trek on a very rough and sandy four-wheel-drive road leading to Devils Kitchen. The Elephant Hill road is supposed to be one of the most challenging four-wheel-drive roads in Utah. I can believe it. The major hills are impossible to bike up in current condition, but I surprised myself by staying upright downhill on the longest and worst section. It was exhausting hanging over the back tire to avoid a header. Claire enjoyed hearing me whoop, scream and giggle down the abyss.

At Devils Kitchen we parked our bikes and did a five mile loop hike to Chesler Park, a large meadow area surrounded by red and cream sandstone spires, The Needles. For the entirety of the five miles we were surrounded by neck straining (both vertical and horizontal) vistas of, often anthropomorphic, specters of amazement. An Imax could not do the experience justice.

We got a late start and returned to camp just at dark. The plus side of our late return was having intense evening light for our final few miles of mountain biking.

Even though we’ve hiked here several times, each trail presents new images of fantastic rock formations, intense colors and few people. Arches National Park, near Moab, seems to always be crawling with people, but few seem to want to make the 70 mile detour off the main highway to come to Needles. The people who do come here aren’t just checking off another item on their bucket list, but are here to experience fully the quiet, darkness and constantly amazing landscape.

Photos from another hike soon.

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