Monday, October 26, 2015

A Phantasmagorical Adventure, Chesler Park Loop

Other worldly, fantastical, mesmerizing...all of these words and more are apt in describing the landscape full of crazy shapes, bulbous mounds and colorful spires that make up the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

We first learned of the Chesler Park Loop from our hiking buddies John and Pam who hiked it this past spring and it immediately went on my "must hike" list. More recently several other blogger buddies have hiked it on a very warm day so our goal was to hit it under ideal conditions. By extending our stay in Moab by a few days we got through the heat and then the rain and ended up with a perfect day for our hike.

Chesler Park Loop is an 11 mile romp through all manner of fantastic rock formations interspersed with short strolls through grasslands with views around every corner to make you swoon! This was one of those days when the grins were nonstop as we scrambled over and through all sorts of fun obstacles and were wowed with amazing near and far views!

View overlooking the trailhead at 9am on a Saturday.
By the time we finished hiking about 3pm the extensive parking area was full,
despite the long drive out to the Needles District.

There are lots of spaceship shaped rocks!

The trail winds through big patches of rocks then opens into large grasslands many times throughout the lollipop loop for a nice mix of scrambling and views.

There's lots of slots!

There's lots of stairs!

There's lots of slickrock scrambling!

Though it was 45 degrees when we started we warmed up fast with all the scrambling!

The La Sal mountains, with a new layer of snow, are in the distance.

We've come to Chesler Park, a grassy expanse surrounded by sandstone formations that we will be walking through soon.
Here we go right to travel the loop counterclockwise;
this way we do a more strenuous portion of the loop early in the hike.

Potholes in the slickrock are still full from the rain two days before.

Here's a closer look at the center of the above photo.
A 4x4 road that we will walk on for about half a mile passes through this fantastic valley.

More rock scrambling!

Some of the needles of Needles District.

Do I spy an eagle?

Looks like the eagle has landed!

One of the neatest things about this trail is a section named "The Joint".

There's a wonderful overlook of the Needles right after you leave The Joint.

The final stretch through Chesler Park is easy on the legs and a feast for the eyes!

This view has it all!

One of the things we appreciated about this hike is that even though it was long at 11 miles, the variety of ups and downs throughout the trail left us feeling more invigorated than worn out by the time we were done. And, the incredible variety of scenery cannot be beat!

Next time we are in the area we will look more closely at dry camping options closer to Canyonlands. The drive in from Monticello (where we stayed) was quite long and precluded us from wanting to go back another day to experience more of this gorgeous National Park.

On the drive back to Monticello we noticed lots of cars parked along the highway on this beautiful Saturday. At first we thought people were hiking the offshoot canyons looking for ancient ruins and rock turns out this is a popular place for rock climbing!

Many people were climbing these sheer walls!
They first had to hike up the loose base layer with all their gear...

...then scale the desert varnished walls!
There were at least 100 people attempting this along a couple of miles of highway! 

One more thing...the day before we hiked Chesler Park we checked out the Shay Canyon petroglyphs. There are a number of easily accessible panels just off the highway on the way to Canyonlands.

One small portion of the Shay Canyon petroglyphs.

If you love hiking in unique landscapes, put the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park on your list!


  1. Your photos of this hike give it a wow factor of an 11. Beautiful....I can't wait till we can get to places like this and not be the middle of summer. We keep saying soon as I know it will be. Happy and safe travels, Rick and Jenn

  2. Fantastic! Wish I could have done that one. Love seeing the climbers.

  3. Your word is perfect as we have long ago run out of adjectives for what we see everyday! Love the stair and slot pics of each of you - so much fun. That blue energy beam in the joint is amazing as well - it looks like it would "hum".

  4. Sheesh I miss the desert! What a great hike!

  5. OMG, this sounds like the perfect hike in my book! Hills, views, rock scrambling, ah!!! Definitely going to see about stopping by again (missed this hike years ago somehow) on the way to CO! Glad I didn't miss this post! the joint, how cool! Thanks, for the info on this hike!

  6. Off the chart beautiful! Love the slots and crazy shaped rock formations. I could feel your excitement as I read and looked at all the pictures!

  7. Wow - this is awesome! I need to hike this next time we're in Utah. We were relatively close by - my hubby and I spent Thursday in Bryce Canyon.

  8. Canyonlands is such a gorgeous place and until relatively recently it seems to me was not over run with National Park lovers. I was really surprised to hear you say the parking lot there in the Needles was full by the time you came back. Wow! Really beautiful pictures. Love the La Sals with snow and the pot holes with water. What a terrific hike. Such beautiful colors of the needles and your great pictures of the Joint. Those end of the trail pictures really are a feast for the eyes. What a great day you had! We too had only one day there due to our mad dash. Sure hope we can go back and stay in the park. There are two campgrounds as well as BLM land outside the park that are all dry camping. Lots of folks seem to stay at Dead Horse although that's pretty popular and I take it requires reservations.

  9. What a perfect day for: hiking, scenery, weather, photography, and sharing it with the one you love!

  10. Oh my goodness! You bet this will be on our list, Lisa. Your pictures are so grabbing me that I wanted to turn around and be there.
    What an amazing place and what a hike you did. We will follow you, like we always do :)

  11. Definitely one of our all-time favorite hikes, and at the top of our "must do again" list! Your photos are terrific. We stayed in the campground in the park and loved it. But the competition for sites is fierce! I agree with Sherry, Canyonlands seems to have been "discovered" in only the past few years.

  12. So glad to see you enjoyed this hike as much as we did! It was actually better the second time because we knew where we were going and could really take in the scenery even more. I was telling John that we could have traded out several of the photos. We have the same exact photos with us in the shots in a couple cases!! I guess great minds think alike:) You are right about the variety being one of the best parts. It was always changing. And all the different stairs were a favorite of mine, too:)

    The drive is the pits! That keeps us from going back a second day, as well. Once each visit to the area is all we care to drive, which is too bad because it is an awesome park!

    Thanks for taking us both back! I grinned all the way through the post:)

    1. When I was looking at your post again in order to link it here I too noticed many of the same photos especially of the various obstacles...cracked me up!

  13. Wasn't that a fabulous hike? Glad you had a little cooler weather than we did, but it wasn't really that bad. We loved the variety, especially the Joint and all the rock scrambling. A fun way to spend the day!

  14. I wish we had that cooler weather when we did it :((
    Box Canyon Mark