Chesler Park Viewpoint | Canyonlands

Chesler Park Viewpoint is a long out-and-back trail in the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park. This trail runs nearly six miles without a clear destination, which is longer than we recommend for most families, but with our boys getting older, it was just right for us. If you are looking for a little longer, more challenging trail on your visit to Canyonlands, then Cheseler Park Viewpoint is for you.

Beautiful views over the Chesler Park area in Needles.

How to Get There

In order to hike Chesler Park Viewpoint in Canyonlands, you must drive a narrow dirt road that runs for about 3 miles. The road is usually in great shape and any vehicle can easily handle the terrain, but passing is a problem as the road is extremely narrow. For this reason, trailers and large RVs are prohibited. Even in our van, we had to back up when we came face-to-face with another vehicle.

Here is a glimpse at the road.

Take the main road from the Visitor Center and turn left at a sign that says Campground and Elephant Hill. Just past the campground, the road becomes the narrow dirt road that will take you to the Elephant Hill Trailhead where the Chesler Park Viewpoint trail begins.

Elephant Hill Trailhead

At the end of the road, there is a large parking area and restrooms, but no running water. Make sure to fill up before you arrive because during the summer, the sun will punish you in this area. You’ll need a lot of water, sunscreen, and a hat to get you through this hike.

Chesler Park Viewpoint starts out ascending very rapidly. In the first third of a mile, you climb up to the ridge, and the going isn’t easy. We were huffing and puffing and we’d barely covered any distance. But then the trail levels out and gives you a break. The Chesler Park Viewpoint trail climbs over 1000 feet along the 6 mile hike. So although it does level out, a lot of the trail is up and down.

The trail begins with a steep climb right off the bat.
There are stairs.
The beginning just keeps climbing.
Soon the trail levels out for a bit.

The scenery is amazing as you travel along, so keep you head up and watch the red pinnacles, or “needles” as you plod along. There are some wonderful obstacles including a narrow slot canyon that runs straight as an arrow for about 100 meters. The trail is easy to find if you watch for the cairns that keep you on path. In some places, there are even stone steps that help you climb up the small rises. All of the obstacles are reasonable, but if you have difficulty with climbing, slick rock, or rocky terrain, this hike isn’t for you.

The trail is heading right into the Needles.
There are beautiful views all along the way.
The trail is easy to follow and well signed.
There is a lot of simple climbing along the Chesler Park Viewpoint Trail.
This slot is the highlight before of the hike.

At 1.5 miles there is a trail junction. As with other junctions, this one is signed, letting you know you’ve come a mile and a half, as well as directing you to the right. (Always choose the right on this hike, in fact.)

Always grateful for a little shade along the trail. This spot would be so hot in summer.
We loved admiring the rock formations as we hiked.
Lots of hiking and climbing over the slick rock.

It’s 0.6 miles to the next junction, and this section of the trail has some gentle up and down, but nothing difficult. You could also turn around at any point along the trail. It’s beautiful to hike along, and though they say the trail ends at a viewpoint, that’s a bit of misnomer as described below.

Viewpoint

Another 0.6 miles brings you to the far end of a small valley surrounded by needles. This area is a great place to take some pictures. It is as if you are in the bottom of a large basin, hedged with pinnacles all around. There is also a sign that says 0.2 miles to the next, and final junction at Chesler Viewpoint. We liked the views at this part of the trail just as much as the viewpoint.

The closer you get to the Needles, the sooner the trail is over.
It was amazing to hike among the towering rock spires.
The view from this part of the trail is classic Utah.

That last fifth of a mile is another steep ascent. It takes you up to the top of a narrow saddle where you can see into the next valley. We found the next valley to be quite underwhelming, though. It is much like the first, but more open and flat. It’s probably worth the climb to see it because the saddle is less than 0.2 miles away. From there, the trail winds down to a junction for the rest of the Chesler Park Loop Trail, which is also quite popular. The Chesler Park Viewpoint in Canyonlands is that saddle, and we enjoyed the chance to look either direction into two gorgeous valleys.

The last climb starts here.
It is straight up the mountainside.
This is the Chesler Park Viewpoint looking back the way you came.
Looking the other direction you can see this arch.
The Chesler Park Loop Trail heads into this area.
We enjoyed the panorama sitting at the Chesler Park Viewpoint.

Though there are a lot of options at the Elephant Hill trailhead, and the trail is very well-signed, this was a simple out-and-back for us, so we simply turned around and headed back to the car. We pushed our family on the Chesler Park Viewpoint Trail in Canyonlands, but we were grateful for the amazing views of the Needles. For easier hikes in Canyonlands National Park, visit our Kid Hikes post.

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