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Druid Arch Trail in Canyonlands National Park: The Most Underrated Hike in Moab

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If you’re looking for a hike in Moab that’s packed with adventure, the Druid Arch Trail should be at the top of your list, offering a 150-foot tall sandstone arch, slot canyons, colorful rock formations, and fun elements, like scrambling and climbing ladders. That being said, there’s a few unusual things about this hike that you should know before you hit the trail—so here’s everything you need to know about the Druid Arch Trail, Canyonlands National Park’s best hike. 

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Druid Arch, surrounded by red sandstone cliffs, in Canyonlands National Park in Moab Utah
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Table of contents

About the Druid Arch Trail

Length

10.8 miles

Elevation gain

1,446 feet

Difficulty

Moderate

View of Elephant Hill from the Druid Arch viewpoint along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

Dog friendly?

No, you’ll unfortunately need to leave the pups at home for this one. 

Pass or permit? 

Canyonlands charges $30 per private vehicle to enter the park for one week. Alternatively, you can pick up a sweet America the Beautiful pass, which costs just $80 and gets you into all of the U.S. National Parks and over 2,000 federally managed sites for free for an entire year!

Trail map

Woman looking down a canyon along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah
Pssst... there are some really cool add-ons to this hike around the Chesler Park area of the park, which we cover in the What to expect along the Druid Arch Trail section below!

How to Get to the Druid Arch Trail

The Druid Arch Trail is located in Canyonlands National Park, in Moab, Utah. 

If you’re familiar with Canyonlands, you may know that it’s divided into three areas—the Island in the Sky district, which contains most of the park’s popular attractions, like the Mesa Arch and the Green River Overlook; the slightly more under-the-radar Needles district; and the extremely remote Maze district. 

Green River Overlook in Island of the Sky district in Canyonland National Park in Moab, Utah

The Druid Arch Trail is located in the Needles district, which is located kind of surprisingly far away from the Island in the Sky part of the park, Arches National Park, and downtown Moab. While you can theoretically hike this trail from a couple of different spots, most hikers, including us, use the Elephant Hill trailhead, which is about two and a half hours southwest of the city. 

Most of the drive here is along well paved highways, but the last 11 or so miles are along the gravel Elephant Hill Road, with a bit of potholes and washboarding. We visited in April and the road was in pretty decent condition (i.e., definitely passable with any kind of passenger vehicle). 

Canyons along Elephant Hill Road in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

However, I’d recommend checking the Road Conditions on the Canyonlands’ official site before heading out. The unpaved roads in the park can get muddy (to the point of cars getting stuck) during and after rain or snow and given the remoteness, this DEFINITELY isn’t a place that you want to get stuck! 

It’s also worth noting that vehicles over 21 feet long are prohibited from driving on the road, due to its tight curves. As noted above, there’s a couple of other places that you can start the trail, if you have an oversized vehicle, like at the Squaw Flat Campground, but these will typically add a LOT of mileage on to your hike! 

Woman walking along the Druid Arch Trail with sandstone formations in the background in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

The Elephant Hill trailhead is fairly small, holding about 30 cars. We visited on a Wednesday morning and, given how out of the way it is AND the fact that it was a weekday, the lot would be mostly empty—definitely not so! It was totally filled up by 9 AM, so I’d highly recommend getting here on the early side, especially if you’re visiting on a weekend. Plus, you’ll have the benefit of hitting the trail before the hottest part of the day.

There are two vault toilets here, but no water source, so be sure to bring plenty of drinking water with you to the trailhead! We always keep a six gallon container of water in our car which is especially wise when driving through remote desert regions. 

What to expect along the Druid Arch Trail

The Elephant Hill section of the Druid Arch Trail

From the trailhead, the path immediately begins climbing, with a few series of stone steps, before it levels out quite a bit. 

Woman walking between two rock walls along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park

As you continue along, the path oscillates between sandy washes and sandstone, with beautiful views of the colorful spires and red cliffs off in the distance. To be honest, the trail along the Elephant Hill section of the trail is SUPER hard to follow—the trail is demarcated with cairns (small rock piles), which are REALLY widely spaced out and hard to miss. I’d definitely recommend downloading an offline map on AllTrails+ ahead of time, so that you can follow along with GPS and not get lost along the trail.

About 1.3 miles in, you’ll run into the first junction on your left, which winds about 3.5 miles to the Squaw Flat Trailhead. You’ll continue straight, though, eventually passing through a fun, narrow canyon, formed between two cliffsides, before reaching Elephant Canyon 1.5 miles in.

The Elephant Canyon section of the Druid Arch Trail

The majority of the rest of the hike is along a sandy wash between the walls of Elephant Canyon. While you’d think walking for several miles down a canyon may be boring, it’s definitely not—there’s vibrantly colored rock spires and dramatic formations at seemingly every turn, with the canyon walls getting higher and more dramatic the deeper into the canyon you go.

Woman standing on top of a rock with a sandstone formation in the background along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

About 3.1 miles in, the trail will branch off to the right, which is the pathway you’d take to add on Chesler Park. If you opt to add this portion of the trail on (which I’d strongly recommend), I’d suggest hitting this on your way back to the trailhead, so I’ll describe this section further below.

This part of the trail is pretty flat and easy, with just a few sections requiring some minor scrambling to get up on to rocky ledges along the trail. Just remember to keep an eye out for those cairns (or on your AllTrails map!) that will help lead the way!

Man looking at rock formations along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

Climb to Druid Arch

The last quarter mile or so to the arch itself is definitely the most adventurous along the trail.

After about 4.5 miles, you’ll climb through a series of rocky passageways and eventually need to climb onto a rocky ledge, using a metal ladder and railing. 

Woman climbing up a slickrock slope along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

Shortly thereafter, you’ll reach the most challenging part of the trail—the final scramble up to Druid Arch (which you annoyingly can’t see until you make that final climb up!). Here, you’ll need to climb along a rocky boulder slope, climbing over 200 feet in just 0.1 miles up to the base of the arch. Definitely expect to be crawling on your hands and knees for this one!

Druid Arch

After climbing up the boulder field, you’ll round a corner and finally get your first glimpse of the Druid Arch. This is one of the tallest arches in all of Moab at 150 feet tall and, with its two openings and angular formation, seriously looks straight out of Stonehenge!

Couple sitting on a rock and looking at the Druid Arch along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

As far as I can tell, there was really no defined trail or viewpoint by the arch. Instead, you’re free to scramble along the large sloping hill that faces the arch, made of slickrock and scree, to get different perspectives of the arch. 

If you’re an avid photographer, your best time to get to the arch is in the morning, when it’s illuminated by the sun. We got there midday and there was unfortunately some weird shadows on it. Yet another reason to get to the trailhead early!

Sandstone needle formations along the Druid Arch Trail in Canyonlands National Park in the Needles district of Moab, Utah

While the Druid Arch is super cool, the views down Elephant Canyon are arguably even better, with swirling sandstone formations, colorful rock spires, and dramatic cliff sides as far as the eye can see.

Return to trailhead 

If you only have the time or energy to hit the Druid Arch, you’ll simply follow your steps back to the trailhead. 

Otherwise, if you’re up for a bit more of an adventure, I’d strongly recommend adding on Chesler Park or the Chesler Park loop

Woman climbing up a sandstone formations along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

Chesler Park Add-on

If you decide to hike to Chesler Park, you’ll retrace your steps 1.8 miles back along Elephant Canyon until you reach a fork on the left hand side. The fork here is super easy to miss, so keep a close eye out for the sign pointing to Chesler Park (and, again, use the AllTrails app!). 

The trail steeply climbs along a narrow ledge on the canyon wall, requiring some scrambling and careful skirting along sketchy ridges. While I thought this hike was pretty fun, there’s definitely a few sections that made me a bit nervous, so this might not be the best choice for kids or those who are afraid of heights. On the bright side, though, you’ll pass a few caves carved into the trailhead and have absolutely terrific views of the needles on your right hand side. 

Couple looking at the sandstone needles along the Chesler Park trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

At 7.4 miles into the trail, you’ll have the option to either:

  • Turn right and go the shorter route through Chesler Park. This adds about two miles total to the Druid Arch trail, cutting through a large grassy meadow that’s surrounded by a maze of colorful spires. You’ll walk by and eventually through a series of these needles before steeply climbing down switchbacks and rejoining the trail below. 
  • Continue straight for the longer Chesler Park loop route, where you’ll make a big loop using the Joint, Devil’s Lane Road, and Chesler Park Loop trails. This adds at least five extra miles (some hikers from AllTrails say it’s actually closer to ten!), which takes you on a much wider loop through the Chesler Park area, allowing you to not only see more spires, but also other unique features, like a cave or a viewpoint over the surrounding needles. Like the shorter route, you’ll eventually reach an area that overlooks Elephant Hill and follow switchbacks back down to the Druid Arch Trail.  
Woman looking off at sandstone needles along the Chesler Park Trail in the Needles District in Canyolands National Park in Moab, Utah

Both of these trails will give you pretty similar views of the needles and the surrounding landscape. Accordingly, given that Chesler Park only adds two miles total to the Druid Arch Trail (as opposed to 5+ miles for the Chesler Park loop trail), I’d personally recommend that option as a better bang-for-your-buck (which is the route we picked!).

I do think the longer Chesler Park loop would be a fun option if you can snag a permit to one of the backcountry campsites along the trail, so you can break up the hike a bit between a couple of days. 

You can pick up a permit here—just be sure to book a site way ahead of time. I tried to book a backcountry site about a month before our trip and found out that the permits along were completely sold out from March through May!  

Man hiking with sandstone rock formations in the background along the Chelser Park Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah
Pssst… new to backpacking? Check out our backpacking gear list for beginners so you can stock up on everything you need! Also, check out our hiking safety tips you need to know before hitting the trail.

When to visit the Druid Arch Trail

Like most of the hikes in Moab, the best time to hike the Druid Arch Trail is in the springtime, from April and May, or in the fall, in September and October, when you have a good chance of getting clear skies and moderate temperatures, with lows in the low 60s and highs in the low 80s. We did this hike in early May and had absolutely perfect weather! 

Two couples smiling in front of sandstone needles along the Chesler Park Trail in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

Summer in Moab can be brutally hot, with temperatures occasionally exceeding triple digits. Hiking in these kinds of temperatures—without reliable water sources along the trail—can be extremely dangerous, so be sure to look at the forecast before hitting the trail. Additionally, July through early September is monsoon season, which can cause heavy rain and dangerous flash flooding in canyons. 

Winter is usually quite chilly, with highs in the 30s and the lows regularly dipping well below freezing. Canyonlands can be one of the best places to visit in Utah in winter, given the limited crowds—in fact, you’re likely to get the trail mostly to yourself at this time of year! That being said, I’d suggest bringing microspikes to help provide extra traction along any icy parts of the trail (true to its name, certain areas of the slickrock are slippery even while dry!). 

Canyons covered in snow in Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

Tips for the Druid Arch Trail

Download the trail on AllTrails ahead of time

I can’t stress this enough! The trail is poorly marked in some areas, with extremely sporadic cairns and confusing boot trails seemingly leading in every direction. We had the offline map and used it SO many times along the trail when we got turned around. 

Man standing in front of sandstone needles along the Chesler Park Trail the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

You do need AllTrails+, a premium membership of AllTrails, to download offline maps, but luckily, we got the hookup for our readers, with 30% off your annual subscription. All you need to do is use this link

I’d also recommend bringing a satellite communicator with you, given the trail’s remoteness, how easy it is to get turned around on it, and the lack of water sources. Definitely not a place you want to get lost!

Bring more water than you think you need

There aren’t any reliable water sources at the trailhead or along the trail. The NPS recommends bringing along a gallon of water per person per day you’ll be on the trail (and even more if you’re heading out on a super hot day!). 

Woman looking up at a canyon wall along the Druid Arch Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah

My husband, Justin, and I each have one of these massive Nalgene bottles and then often pack along a few smaller water bottles to refill our bottles as needed for longer hikes. 

Camp close to the trailhead

The Elephant Hill trailhead is kind of in the middle of nowhere and it’s sort of quite a trek from Moab. Accordingly, if you’re in our RV life fam or don’t mind car camping, consider staying in a camping area by the Needles district the night before your hike, so you don’t have to start your day with a two and a half hour drive to the trailhead. 

Couple sitting on top of an RV with a sandstone formation in the background in Monument Valley

The National Park offers the Needles Campground, for $20 a night, or there’s some epic dispersed camping options nearby on Bureau of Land Management land, like Lockhart Road Dispersed Camping


Hopefully, you have a bit of a better idea of what to expect when hiking along the Druid Arch Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Do you have any questions about this trail? Let us know in the comments below!

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