Devil's Pocket

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 10.5 (11.2) miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5141 - 5653 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 5 hrs.
Trailhead: Elephant Hill
Fee: $25/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic geology




The Devil's Pocket is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park south of Moab, Utah. This hike follows the trail to Chesler Park, beginning at the Elephant Hill trailhead, and begins a loop that leads to the Devils Kitchen campground, through the Devils Pocket, around to Chesler Park, and back to the trailhead. The portion of the trail that passes through the secluded area of the Devil's Pocket is seldom traveled yet it is one of the prettiest places in the Needles District. Besides the campground at Devil's Kitchen there is also a primitive backcountry campsite for anyone that would like to break the hike up into a multi day adventure.



The Elephant Hill campground is at the end of a gravel road about 3 miles west of the Squaw Flat campground. The road can be easily traveled by passenger cars but may be closed for brief periods during heavy thunderstorms to allow the water to subside in one of the washes that it crosses. This is a long hike so be sure you are well prepared for it before leaving the trailhead by carrying plenty of water.


After departing from the trailhead the first junction comes up at about 1.5 miles after crossing Elephant Hill.


The next junction is almost a half mile later after crossing the normally dry creek bed in Elephant Canyon. This is the spot where the trail to Druid Arch breaks off on the left. For a more complete description of the hike up to this point refer to the post for the Chesler Park trail.


The loop begins at about the 2.7 mile point of the hike. From here the route breaks off from the Chesler Park trail and heads to the right toward the Devil's Kitchen campground.


The next section of the trail is pretty easy to hike with little elevation change.


Heading in a more northerly direction the trail skirts around a parade of cedar mesa sandstone needles.


Around the 4.4 mile point of the hike the trail turns westerly and passes through the cliff to a new area that has a good growth of sagebrush, juniper and mormon tea.


From here there are some awesome views of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. Aptly named it really does look like an island in the sky. The canyons of the Colorado River, between Moab and Lake Powell, separate the two districts.


Devil's Kitchen campground is reached at about the 5.4 mile point of the hike. There are restrooms scattered among the campsites. This area can also be reached from several directions by 4-wheel drive vehicles.


Look to the left for the trail sign to continue hiking around the loop. The distance on the sign for the Joint trail isn't the shortest route. To see what we mean take a look at the park's map. You can get a copy of it at the Visitor Center or better yet print it out and bring it with you. That map shows the overall distance for this hike to be 10.5 miles while our own GPS readings have it at 11.2 miles. We are confident, for various reasons, that our measurements are more accurate.


The Devil's Pocket is one of those places that once you get there you are glad you came. The towering needles stand like sentinels of gods overlooking their domain. Some of these spires are among the tallest in the park. The trail here has a sandy bottom and due to the lack of hikers it is somewhat overgrown by the desert flora. We are guessing that the area received its fiendish name due to its dry nature from the lack of any water in the area.


Once through the Devil's Pocket the trail climbs a small, but steep, pass over S.O.B. Hill that leads into yet another area of the district. The steeper parts of the pass are made easier by several switchbacks. The climb is short and the view makes it all worthwhile.


The next trail junction is just under the 7 mile point of the hike. The route to the left leads up to Chesler Park. The trail to the right will get you over to the bottom of the Joint Trail.


From here the trail requires a little slickrock scrambling in several places. It gets flatter and easier to hike the closer you get to Chesler Park.


More spectacular scenery awaits as the trail flanks the northern edge of Chesler Park.


At about the 8.2 mile point of the hike the trail reaches the Chesler Park junction. From here it is a short 2 tenths of a mile over another short pass to where the loop began. From there it is simply retracing the route back to the trailhead.


The elevation change on this hike is much more than the 500 feet of difference between the highest and lowest points suggests. According to the GPS software it is more like 2900 feet of elevation gain. With it all spread out over the course of 11 miles it doesn't seem like that much.


The Needles District, with all of its interconnecting trails, presents hikers and backpackers with numerous opportunities to explore its various canyons, parks, and rock formations. We have never found an area of the Needles District that we didn't like so it is hard to put the trails in any specific order. Druid Arch and the Joint Trail have their own special allure that attracts many hikers. Devil's Pocket probably won't disappoint anyone either. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.