The trail enters the beautiful small canyons, called “grabens,” in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and is renowned for its challenge to stock vehicles. Because of limited parking at the trailheads, the groups will be divided into two sections each having a short scenic hike. One section will walk the Joint Trail, a fascinating narrow and deep crack in a rock layer, and the other section will walk to an overlook of the confluence of the deeply entrenched Colorado and Green Rivers.
Special Considerations: The trail requires more highway driving than most day trips – about 75 miles each way. Vehicles should be capable of maintaining 55 MPH highway speed. It is best to plan for enough fuel to complete 175 miles of travel, although gasoline is available at the Needles Outpost. The Park Service will require that a normal entrance fee be paid and that all National Park regulations be followed (the trail is within the park’s “backcountry plan,” and pets are not allowed even if they are inside vehicles). The 2004 fee will be $10 per vehicle, but annual permits, Golden Eagle Passports, or Golden Age Passports may be used. The optional hikes are about one-half mile each way and require some minor rock scrambling. Long wheelbase (more than 115 inches), will have a real challenge on this trail.
Scenery: The tall cliffs lining the rivers are similar to those seen near Moab. Most of the surface rock formations, however, are of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone, which produces the spectacular colors of the canyons, spires, and balanced rocks that give the Needles area its name.Road Surface: The ridge crossings are mainly rock ledges while the roads in the bottom of the grabens are mostly fine powder laced with a few rocks.
Obstacles: Elephant Hill itself has difficult climbs in both directions – even after cement was added to some ledges to obviate the need for chinking them with loose rocks. There are other ledges between grabens, and a little slickrock at the Silver Stairs.
Trail Rating: Blue