Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Druid Arch Trail in Elephant Canyon

The Druid Arch Trail is a side trail off of the hiking route from Elephant Hill to the Chesler Park area in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah.

The Elephant Hill Trail Head area accesses an extensive system of trails and 4WD routes that tour the spectacular carved geology of the central part of the park. The Druid Arch Trail branch starts 2.1 miles along the route to the fabulous Chesler Park.

At the bottom of Elephant Canyon, instead of crossing, the branch trail turns south, going up the canyon for another 3.3 miles to Druid Arch. The towering nearby Needles overhang the desert canyon. Druid Arch is in the headwaters area of Elephant Canyon. It formed from the weathering and erosion of a massive fin of Cedar Mesa sandstone.

Like most of the Canyonlands trails, the route is marked by small piles of rocks. This route follows a canyon floor all the way, while other Canyonlands trails will often cross canyons, climbing to the rims and descending down rocky water carved chutes.

On this trail the route moves to the canyon side in several places to avoid pools and other difficult spots. There is one place with an installed climbing aid, a bar to help across drop off.

The last part of the hike is a climb up through jumbled rocks to get a view of the arch. From above there is a good view of the rugged canyon bottom below. The Druid Arch isn't conveniently facing the canyon bottom for a good view below.

I suppose this arch bears a resemblance to a section of Stonehenge. It was a tough place to get to. The total distance one way was 5.4 miles for a round trip of 10.8 miles. It took me 2:50 to get there and about the same to get back. I carried 3 liters of water and that was barely enough.

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