Chesler Park Viewpoint

Round Trip Distance: 6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5141 - 5645 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Elephant Hill
Fee: $30/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic geology

Chesler Park is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park about 70 miles south of Moab, Utah. The Needles District has several trails that are located close to the parks main road but to really get a feel for the area and see some of its many hidden treasures you need to hike one of its many backcountry trails. The trail to Chesler Park is one of the best places to get into the heart of the park.

The hike begins at the Elephant Hill trailhead which is at the end of a gravel road 3 miles west of the Squaw Flats campground. The Chesler Park, Druid Arch, Joint, and Devil's Pocket trails can all be accessed from this trailhead.

While there aren't any mountains to climb in the Needles District the trails are far from flat. The Park Service has done a wonderful job adding improvements to the trails where needed while still keeping the overall experience that of a true desert wilderness. Most of the improvements are just enough to control erosion or make a difficult section of trail a little safer or more manageable.

One mile from the trailhead the route crosses Elephant Hill where the first closeup views of the needles can be enjoyed. For visitors to the park that are crunched for time the short hike to this point will leave them with a more satisfying appreciation of the Needles District. It will also probably leave them with the nagging desire to return for more.

At the 1.5 mile point of the hike the trail to the Squaw Flats campground joins in. That trail is an adventure of its own and takes quite a bit of time and energy to hike. For anyone staying at the campground that is planning to hike the trails in this area they would do better to drive to the Elephant Hill trailhead and begin from there. The longest one-day hike that we have done in the Needles District was 17 miles but we aren't exactly the average hikers. For backpackers this is a good trail for long multi-day trips that loop through the different sections of the Needles District.

Hikers get a small taste of hiking through a joint on the way to Chesler Park. The vanishing point of this picture makes the joint look much more narrow than it is. People with large backpacks pass through here all the time.

The trail crosses the normally dry streambed in Elephant Canyon just over the 2 mile point of the hike. The route to Druid Arch breaks off on the left at this spot. From here the Chesler Park trail is going to climb up a side canyon and then level off once it reaches the next bench.

As the trail approaches the next junction the small pass that separates this area from Chesler Park comes into view.

That junction comes up at about the 2.7 mile point of the hike. Here the trail to the Devil's Kitchen campground and the Devil's Pocket breaks off on the right. Chesler Park is a short 2 tenths of a mile away to the left over the small pass that we pointed out.

From the top of the little pass everything that lays before you for about the next mile or two is Chesler Park.

The Chesler Park trail ends at a junction 2.9 miles from the trailhead. The trail to the left leads to the Joint and the trail to the right also leads to the Joint or to Devil's Pocket. Hikers with enough time to spare normally begin a loop at this point that takes them through the Joint and back to this spot. The small hill in this picture is blocking the view of the area. To really appreciate your surroundings you really need to venture a little further and 'take a walk in the park'.

This is another picture of Chesler Park that is along the trail to the Joint.

Hikers going to the Joint trail are going to travel right through Chesler Park. The extra distance to the Joint might be more than some people can manage but if at all possible the extra effort is well worth it. Once you make it from the Elephant Hill trailhead to Chesler Park the trail levels off considerably and is much easier to hike. The difficulty increases considerably if you opt to hike the loop route around Chesler Park but the Joint can also be hiked as an out and back. We have seen families with young children make it to Chesler Park so if you are raising a pack of hikers you might carefully consider this trail. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.