A Photographers Guide to the Needles National Park (Canyonlands)

Canyonlands is one of the more remote parks . It is divided in 3 parts: Needles, Island in the Sky und the Maze
The 3 parts are not connected within the park. We visited only Needles and Island in the sky because the Maze is difficult to reach if you donβ€˜t have a 4x4 car. Needles Offers some nice but long hiking and mountainbiking trails. Canyonlands has some magnificient Viewpoints to offer.

Park maps for Island in the Sky and Needles district retrieved from the Nationalpark Service website can be downloaded by clicking on the buttons below:



Chesler Park and Druid Arche Trail

We decided to walk one of the long trails, to see more of the Needles. So we took a trail first to Chesler Park, then to Druid Arch and back. Although it was quite strenous and we nearly ran out of water it was really nice. As you will see in the Nationalpark Hiking Map there is a big trail net through the Needles district. We followed the trail from Squaw flat campground to Chesler park. The path whole path is quite flat but there are some kilometers to walk. The first part leads you through some sandy grounds. From there you can already see the red pointy needles in the distance. Then you reach a more stony part of the trail. From here the trail becomes more interesting as you approach the heart of Needles. You walk through and along some little Canyons before you finally get the view over Cheslar park full of red Needle stone formations. That view is quite stunning.

View over Cheslar Park

View over Cheslar Park

Here we took our lunch break with the couple we met at the campground. As we were fascinated by the colores and stone formations we decided to continue our hike. Our destination was the Druid Arch at the end of Elefant Canyon.  After a nice walk through the Canyon we reached the Arch and were happy that we did the walk. The Arch is really big and looks cool in the surrounding canyon.

Druid Arch

Druid Arch

After another break in the shadow we had to walk back. On our way back we drank all our water about 3 hours before we could reach the camp. But eventually we arrived back at the campground totally done but happy.


Newspaper Rock

For those who are into cave art Needles has to offer a big rock completely covered in ancient rock carvings and painings. This site is called Newspaper Rock, it is along the road into Canyonlands Needles district and can easily be approached by car.


Island in the Sky

Shafer Canyon Overlook


Shafer Canyon Overlook is the first Viewpoint when you enter the park. From here you can see the Shafer Trail a off-road road leading down into the canyon. That's also where I took this nice picture of Mo.





Mesa Arch


Maybe the most famous sight of the Canyonlands Nationalpark is Mesa Arch. The Arch is best to be photographed by sunrise. The sunrise here is truly magical as the sun rises directly behind the Arch. When you plan to take a photo like that one I would recommend you to come to the Arch very early to get one of the good spots from where you can take the best pictures. We arrived at 4 am in total darkness and there was already one guy we met on the short trail. It can get really crowded!

Upheavel Dome

upheavel dome-11.jpg

Upheavel Dome is a crater like landscape colorized in various colors from red over yellow to grey. There is a trail that leads all around the crater but you get good views from the first and even better ones from the second overlook, too.

Green River Overview

green river overlook-10.jpg

The viewpoint is located near Willow Flat campground. From there you have nice views into the Canyon especially at sunset.

Grandviewpoint, Whiterim overlook and Buck Canyon Overlook

These three Viewpoints offer nice views over the Canyon with the Colorado river. You reach them all from the road that ends at Grand Viewpoint Overlook.


There is only one campground within the park and Willow Flat Campground has only 12 sites so you have to be lucky or early or find someone sharing his site with you if you want to pitch your tent here. We arrived at 10 in the morning in the National Park and we had no problem finding a site.


Other adventures in the US