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UT- Elephant Hill


NAXJA Member #135
Albuquerque, NM
The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is a place where the sky seems to be held up by the many columns of Cedar Mesa Sandstone. The topography consists of vertical cliffs broken into spires and the sandy, narrow valleys between them. A jeep road negotiates steep ledges, narrow slots and some of the tightest switchbacks ever carved into a crag to access to this dreamland.

There is much to see beyond where your vehicle is allowed. Chesler Park is a grassy meadow surrounded by a sandstone parapet that you can access through fissures in the rock via the Joint Trail. A high overlook allows you to peer down at the deeply entrenched confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. Sixty more miles of hiking trails in the area can keep you busy for several days, better reserve one of the backcountry campsites to extend your sojourn.

Canyonlands NP has a really nice map on their website which I could not improve upon. The .gpx file has tracks for the Elephant Hill/Confluence loop and a separate side trip to Chesler Park. Waypoints correspond to Charles Wells' Guide to Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, Second Edition and are labeled as follows:
  • 53## - Elephant Hill
  • 54## - Lavender Canyon
  • 55## - Beef Basin
I have also included waypoints for Bobby’s Hole (has been stabilized by the BLM and is passable to any 4x4) and nearby Impossible Hill, which is a steep, bouldery dead end. Bobby's Hole is uphill when traveling from north to south.

Coming into the Needles from Beef Basin

SOB Hill

Coming in from Elephant Hill

The Devil's Pocket

The Silver Stairs

An xjblue photo of a trailer negotiating the switchbacks

Switchback on the other side is even tighter

The Joint Trail


Chesler Park



  • Elephant Hill.gpx
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Yeah..>E Hill is very scenic and easy enough for a stocker. Just watch out for those tight turns!
Definitely a unique place. Probably been 10 years since we were there, but I remember being at the top of the switchbacks and hearing some horrible banging, grinding, and scraping noises. We waited for a few minutes and a woman and two kids came walking up, then a few minutes later comes dad, in the stock fullsize suburban, with the aluminum running boards in an inverted "U" shape. He claimed he must have made a wrong turn... :laugh2:
Being we are getting to town before most of the group. ( Friday early afternoon) I think we will run this one Saturday if anyone else is in town early and wants to hit it.....