The Needles – Enjoying it local

For Joan and I, the heart and soul of the area is, to us, The Needles District of Canyonland.

Arches and nearby Island in the Sky (Canyonlands) get the people and the press. And The Maze will always have the larger-than-life mythology as a special place on The Colorado Plateau.

But The Needles? It’s a place special to us. Only about a two-hour drive, if not less, there’s always more to see and do in this part of the park. It has no Instagram famous places overall, and it’s just far enough from Moab that for many people, it’s not worth the trip to a location not near the hotels and restaurants.

More importantly, it’s beautiful. It’s a place for hiking, seeing the sunset, and enjoying the solitude of the winter.

And after two weeks away we wanted to see “our” park.

Before the trip, we checked out one of our (very local) volunteer sites, where we also hike locally.

Every time I come to this place, I can’t help but think how long it’s existed here. And how the nearby area will change so much in the years ahead.

Joan and I at our site. PCO Joan.

And how the network of old jeep roads, single track, and similarly makes for a delightful hike in its own right.

But time to head to Canyonlands and enjoy the quiet solitude of winter.

We found a favorite place to set up camp and then hike in an obscure canyon.

The wash seemed almost trail-like with easy scrambles to interesting viewpoints.

We enjoy winter outside in Utah. Though cold, the lack of substantial snow makes for an easier time—no need for additional gear and techniques such as ski tours or even snow-based car camping.

After a relaxing night, we headed out for another day of hiking. The sun broke through the overcast sky and gave us plenty of sunshine.

Joan did most of the planning for today. And the “guidebook?” A 1980s archeological report combined with some map reading for some likely places to check out. We found many lithics, a few chert piles, and other signs from generations ago.

Our hike ambled in and out of the wash and among the rock. And if we did not quite find some of the obscure archeological sites, we enjoyed our time in this special place.

The sunset view from our camp also added some enjoyment to our day.

After making our way back home, we stopped at a well-known arch that’s long been a landmark for travelers out here. Though on BLM land, state land abuts the arch itself. And the state land will soon develop into a “glamping resort.” This quiet area used as a travel path by ancestral people and traders along the Spanish Trail, and climbers today, will soon have wealthy people enjoying the arch almost as their private playground, if unofficially.

We could see the bulldozers and survey stakes. And I am sure by late spring, the area will look quite different, never mind by the expected completion date. Much like other state lands in Moab itself with a similar time frame.

For now, we just enjoyed the last weeks of the arch as a quiet place on a winter day.

Our desert home will have many changes in the years ahead.

But there’s the Needles. And there’s a reason we always return.

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2 years ago

I always look forward to Monday’s and reading about your trips in the southwest
thank you

Michael Vincent
Michael Vincent
2 years ago

Did you have to haul water for the weekend? It looked from your pics like there might have been some water available in Needles.

Ellie Thomas
2 years ago

I love the Canyonlands. I did some hiking there after my CT hike in 2019. It really is beautiful. Sad to hear about future development.

2 years ago

George Washington Hayduke?

2 years ago

Paul – thanks for sharing another gorgeous hike. Those views from your campsite are stunning. Also, thank you for volunteering your time to maintain your local trails. You and Joan have big hearts.