Slickrock Trail

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4961 - 5040 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Usage: Hiking - No Dogs
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Facilities: none
Trailhead: Slickrock
Fee: $25/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic canyons, geology, occasional wildlife
   

View Canyonlands Slickrock Trail in a larger map

The Slickrock Trail is within the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The Needles District is well off the beaten path. To get there you either drive south from Moab, Utah for 40 miles or north of Monticello, Utah for 14 miles and turn west on Highway 211 and drive for another 35 miles. Highway 211 ends in the Needles District so there is nowhere to go from there except back the way you came. With all that said, the Needles District is well worth the effort especially if you really like desert hiking.



The Slickrock trailhead is less than a hundred yards before the end of Highway 211. There is ample parking along the road and at the end of the highway at the trailhead for Big Spring Canyon and the Confluence Overlook trail.


Trail guides are available at the trailhead that give a little information about the four viewpoints and a few other things. The trail is billed as a 2 mile loop without the extra distance of walking out to each of the viewpoints. It almost seems absurd to eliminate the viewpoints. While not as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon it still seems it would be like going to the Grand Canyon and not looking down.


The first quarter mile of the trail is pretty level as it winds around the shallow wash. It then begins climbing gradually to get on top of the slickrock. The location in this picture will cause you to stretch your legs just a bit to get up these rocks.


There is nothing too exciting about the first viewpoint but keep in mind that there are other things to look for besides pretty landscapes. There are bighorn sheep that frequent the area and usually anywhere there are bighorn there may also be mountain lions. Coyotes and raptors, like golden eagles, are also fun to spot.


A small arch near the edge of the cliff.


After leaving viewpoint #1 the trail begins the loop and follows along the rim of the canyon. The hiking is easy through here and very pleasant with constantly changing views of the canyons and distant landscapes. The Island in the Sky District dominates the northern landscape with views of the La Sal Mountains to the east and Six Shooter Peak to the southeast.


The canyon gets deeper and more impressive looking from viewpoint #2. A little scrambling is involved to get all the way down to the edge of the canyon.


Viewpoint #3 has one of the most spectacular views with the Island in the Sky jutting up above the deep canyons of the Colorado River.


Viewpoint #4 is fun to hike down to and mill around the cliff area above Big Spring Canyon.


Tantalizing views of the Needles become more apparent toward the close of the loop. They seem to beckon the hiker to come nearer and explore them. There are several more advanced trails for doing that such as Squaw Flats, Chesler Park, Druid Arch and Elephant Hill.


The Slickrock trail is one of the 4 easier trails in the Needle District along with Roadside Ruin, Cave Spring and Pothole Point. The rest of the trails require just a little more commitment and preparation although hiking any of them for only a short distance can also be enjoyable and rewarding. Just because a trail is 7-10 miles long doesn't mean you won't enjoy hiking just the first few miles of it. The Needles District is like one big beautiful desert playground when you properly prepare for it with the right clothing and supplies. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.