off road driving
This landscape was eroded into canyons, buttes, and mesas by the Colorado River, Green River, and their tributaries. The park is divided into four districts by the rivers. There are rock pinnacles and other naturally sculpted rock, as well as artifacts from Ancient Pueblo Peoples.
Indian Creek Scenic Byway is a LONG road; we almost hit a huge snake, also saw a coyote, but that's about it enroute. Drive to the Needles district on US Hwy 191, 40 miles south of Moab, and take Utah Highway 211, 35 miles west. Highway 211 ends in the Needles, and is the only paved road leading in and out of the district. Once you get to the Needles entrance it is about a 10-mile drive (30 mins). Trails here are pretty easy, but slickrock can live up to its name, and there is little shade in this area.
- One easy hike and the best place to start on the left just past VC is the Roadside Ruin Trail, a 0.3 mile, self-guided nature walk that takes about a half hour round-trip and leads to a prehistoric granary, probably used by the Ancestral Puebloans some 700 to 1,000 years ago to store corn, nuts, and other foods.
- From Roadside Ruin drive .6 miles and take first rd on the left, then left again on next dirt Rd and follow it for 1.1 miles to parking area and TH for the self-guided Cave Spring Trail (easy .6 mile loop RT takes 45 mins). It's fun - it descends 2 ladders and passes sandy areas, slickrock, and thick vegetation in "wet" areas. The cave near the TH is an ancient cowboy camp, used as recently as 1975. Just past the camp look for a groundwater spring at base of canyon wall flanked with pictographs. 2 wooden ladders give an easy route up and over the rock to a slickrock plateau. Then a set of cairns lead back to the TH.
- Another trail, Pothole Point, is an easy .6-mile loop - starts from park rd. 5.8 miles from the VC. This will take 45 mins and has no shade. Good views of Needles and 6 shooter Peak.
- For a bit more of a challenge, try the Slickrock Foot Trail, a 2.4-mile loop that leads to 4 viewpoints and takes a good 2 hours. Viewpoints show off stair-step topography, from colorful canyons and cliffs to flat mesas and striped needles. The trail is 1 mile north of Pothole Point Tr. on the main rd. The 4 v/points are Sixshooter Peaks, La Sal and Abajo Mtns. and the Needles o/look. Look for a mini-arch (10 inches high) just over the right edge of the trail shortly after viewpoint #1. At v/points 3 and 4 please don't lose sight of the cairns, or you may end up lost for 127 hours at least.
- For still another option, drive 1 mile past Slickrock Trail to the end of the park rd at Big Spring Canyon O/look (don’t have to hike it, just look). Canyons are everywhere here. This trail is 5.5 miles one-way and ends at Confluence O/look, which is 500 ft. above the junction of the 2 rivers.
- At the Squaw Flat C/ground 4 miles from VC, you can take the 3-mile Elephant Hill access Rd to see Elephant Hill.
While it is a LONG drive, if you have time, it's a good way to explore the Needles District in Canyonlands.