Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks Part: 2
Backpacking the Needles in Canyonlands
I got the idea from a friend who has gone a couple times. I had never backpacked anyplace like this before and thought it would be a fun addition to our trip. A couple months in advance I booked the 2 backcountry campsites online. When we went to the ranger station, every campsite was taken for weeks. Get these in advance!
We made our way from Moab to the Needles district. It is 1.5 hours from Moab. It is in a super remote area. You first drive through Indian Creek, which is a popular climbing area. We got to the the ranger station and checked in with them. We brought one Ursak bag for our food. With 3 days worth of food, we decided we needed more space and borrowed another bag from the rangers. This was a good decision as we needed to fit all scented items in there. Rodents are a problem here. Certain parts of the park even have bears! In the desert, who knew! We also asked about current water sources (there was none) and anything else we needed to know about the trail. We reorganized our packs and drove down the dirt road to the trailhead.
We loaded up our packs with 7 liters water each. This was INSANELY heavy. We would have no water sources for 3 days though. We donned our packs and hit the trail by mid-day. We only had 3 miles to go to our campsite, but with heavy packs it was quite challenging. The trail most of the time is really not my standard of a trail at all. It large boulders and rocks and following cairns. The cairns are reliable the ranger stated though, so we followed them the entire trip. We also had a paper map and Gaia downloaded, which worked the whole time as well. There were many times we had to double check if we were on the right route as it is easy to get off route. The sparse beauty of the desert and landscape were impressive right away. It was something out of Mars. Nothing like I've seen before.
We got to our campsite and chose a spot right against a wall to block the strong wind that was predicted. Each campsite is a huge area fitting multiple tents. Went you get a campsite you get the whole area to yourself, which was really nice! It felt super private and remote. We set up camp and relaxed until dinner. We decided to do Druid Arch for sunset. It was 4 miles roundtrip from our campsite. 4 miles in the canyon is a lot harder than 4 miles on a flat, nice trail. Lots of scrambling and scaling large rocks really slows you down. It was overcast mostly, so we didn't get much of a sunset. The arch was amazing though and we didn't see one other person on our hike! The sun was setting and we still had to go 2 miles back to our campsite. We ended up hiking in the dark a little bit, but brought our headlamps. I was confident that we wouldn't get any stars with the overcast, but the skies cleared for an amazing night show. I set up the tripod and did some night shots before going to bed.
The next day we would hike 6 miles to our next campsite. This involved more scrambling, hiking through challenging slot canyons, and more beautiful vistas. I forgot to mention that they do not let you bury human waste here, but have to cary it out. We were BLESSED and found an open bathroom at a trailhead that the jeeps use half way through our hike. We did our business here and am happy to report neither of us had to cary anything out. Not a pleasant experience at all. The route we did involved hiking along a jeep rode for some time before hiking into Chesler Park.
We arrived to our campsite by lunchtime and set up camp and made lunch. We had a lot of time to relax today, listen to podcasts, enjoy the sunset and more stargazing. Again we were in a very remote campsite with no one else around.
By the end of day 3 I had about 1 liter of water left and Ryan had 1.5. We made breakfast, broke camp and then hiked the 3 miles out. We ended up bringing the right amount of water for the trip with little left over. It wasn't very hot over our hike, maybe in the 60's for the high everyday. If it was much warmer we would've had to pack a lot more water. Over those 3 days we ended up doing 18.33 miles and 2,640 feet of gain. We made our way back to Moab, got some real food and checked into out campsite for the night. This was right in town at Canyonlands RV Resort and Campground, part of the same chain as our first campsite. This one wasn't as nice as the first, but did the job. They had laundry which we took advantage of. We went into town and explored and ate Mexican food. We went to Moab brewery, which is really good. We went to bed early as we would be leaving early for Capitol Reef.
I definitely want to go back to Moab sometime. There is so much to do, you could never get bored! Other activities to do which we didn't are climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, jeeping and more. I love how active the city is and how it's a recreation town. We'll be back!