Friday, March 20, 2009

Elephant Hill Trail to Devils Kitchen

The Elephant Hill 4WD Trail includes a 9.3 mile loop route past Devils Kitchen in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah.
  The Trail Head at Elephant Hill is also the starting point for popular hikes to Chesler Park and Druid Arch. The 4WD trail is rough for vehicles but the walking is reasonably easy, similar to the hiking trails but wider.

There is a 1.5 mile segment before arriving at the loop portion. I followed the loop clockwise, going the same way that vehicles go. The first part of the hike climbs steeply over rock and then follows a two track sandy road.

Some of the rocky portions look like some concrete has been used to fill in the bumpiest parts. There are some small signs advising drivers where to back down sections that are too narrow for a normal turn. In the first half of the loop there is a hand print pictograph visible.

The Devil's Kitchen area is a backpacker campground centered around some rock formations that are particularly black with desert varnish, giving the appearance of having been scorched by sooty fires. There are some short trails into these formations that are shady and cool.

North and south from the Devils Kitchen is Devils Lane, a narrow grassy corridor with some of the bordering rock formations also blackened by desert varnish. The south section approaches the famous Needles formations. (There is some rock art about 1 mile down the Lane.)

One section is named the Silver Stairs, a rocky stair step descent down from the Devils Lane. This section is easy to hike over but would be bumpy for a vehicle.

The last portion of the loop had a number of small arches to spot. It took me about 4:00 hours to cover this 9.3 mile route. I carried three liters of water on a 65 F. degree day. I only saw one Jeep on the trail on a week day in mid March.

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