Friday, November 9, 2007

Chesler Park Trail

The Chesler Park Trail goes into the heart of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah and if you are only going to hike one long trail in this area, this is one of the best to do.

I started at the Elephant Hill trailhead and hiked 3.2 miles to the north edge of Chesler Park, then continued on for one more mile through the Chesler area to the junction with the Joint Trail.

You can also start at the Squaw Flat campground trail head but the way will be longer by 2.0 miles each way. There is an extensive network of trails in this central part of the Needles District.
The main scenic attraction is the formations called the Needles, multi colored red and white sandstone, fractured by freeze and thaw, that stand like clusters of statues. The route to Chesler Park doesn't have has much scrambling over rocks as some of the other nearby trails.

Chesler Park is a large 960 acre meadow area, fairly lush with grass and sagebrush that is surrounded by the Needles. The hike up there passes through a Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper desert area that was very colorful with wildflowers following a fairly wet winter.

The trail descends into and crosses Elephant Canyon. At the bottom of Elephant Canyon there is a trail junction leading to Druid Arch. This is a good hike also but you would have to have a lot of endurance to go to Druid Arch and Chesler Park on the same day hike.

There were about 20 others hiking the trail on the spring day that I hiked, more in the afternoon than in the morning. It took me about four hours to cover the 8.4 miles that I hiked. It wasn't very hot, about 75 F. degrees (May), but it was sunny and I drank all of the two liters of water I carried, finishing the last gulp 15 minutes before the finish line.

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