Chesler Park, Canyonlands National Park
There are no roads into the heart of the Needles in Canyonlands National Park, but this place can be reached by a few miles hiking, along one of several trails. The usual destination for an all or half-day hike is Chesler Park, a large circular meadow enclosed by some of the tallest rocks in the area, displaying the characteristic red and white colors of the Cedar Mesa sandstone that covers this section of the national park.
The shortest path begins at the end of a gravel road from Squaw Flat Campground, reaching an elevated viewpoint at the edge of Chesler Park in 2.6 miles. This is the destination for many visitors, but the hike can be continued along a 5.3 mile loop which crosses the east side of the meadow, runs through a deep, narrow ravine (the Joint Trail) and traverses undulating terrain around Chesler Canyon before turning back north, climbing through a narrow pass and returning to the viewpoint; the total round trip distance from the trailhead is 10.5 miles.
The hiking is mostly fairly easy, in cooler times of year, but the hike is best avoided during the heat of summer, as there is no water en route, and not much shade. Some of the southernmost parts of the route are steeper, little used and somewhat difficult to follow, but the majority is well-used, signposted at junctions, marked by piles of stones at intervals and passes over slickrock where possible to avoid disturbing the cryptobiotic crust and so to prevent soil erosion. For people on multi-day hikes, the NPS allows camping in several sites on the meadow, along the eastern edge. Some parts of the loop are a little repetitive but overall this is an excellent hike, the best parts being the Joint Trail and the inner edges of Chesler Park.
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