After arriving at Hamburger Rock Campground Saturday night, I headed to the Elephant Hill Trailhead early Sunday morning, set out to hike to Druid Arch. I had actually not received any particularly compelling reason to hike this particular route, but I enjoyed it so much that I ended up also including most of the Chesler Park and Joint Trail loop as well, making for a 15.7 mile hike! This is now easily one of my favorite hikes of all time, making me remarkably happy to complete it. Finally, I even made it back to Willow Springs Road to setup camp again before dark.
Waking up early Sunday morning, I quickly packed up and headed to the Elephant Hill Trailhead in Canyonlands. The road in includes a large area of dirt road, including some narrow, blind curves. As I came in, no one else seemed to be on the road, making easy travel for me, however. When I got to the parking at the trailhead, there was tons of parking, although I just parked in the first lot, not realizing there was plenty of parking much closer to the actual trail beginning.
I hit the trail before 8:30am, specifically headed towards Druid Arch. The immediate climb up surprised me, but it seemed immediately worth it as the views began to open up, looking across the canyons and needles all around the area. Passing through the thin canyons early on and climbing back down into Elephant Canyon, I was constantly surprised by the absolutely amazing views along the trail. Although I had not read anything particularly compelling about this hike beforehand, I quickly began to learn that it is a remarkably underrated hike.
As I hit the junction between Chesler Park and Druid Arch, I took the left, following Elephant Canyon down. Much of the following trail was through sandy, dry washes, causing a constant flow of sand into my shoes. I stopped several times to empty out all of this sand, actually enjoying the broken slickrock and other rocky features. Even the scrambling and ladder as I approached the end of the canyon proved to be more of a relief over the constant sand in my shoes.
Finally arriving at Druid Arch, itself, I was amazed. A side profile of the arch was present for a while leading up, but as an actual view of the canyon came into view, it still amazed me. I stopped here to eat lunch and enjoy the view of both the arch and all of the views down Elephant Canyon. All of it was simply amazing, with a wonderful array of colors.
Alas, it was time to head back, going back the way I came. Although I was alone up to the arch almost entirely, the way back proved to be when many others were getting on the trails as well. However, when I reached the first junction to a connecting trail headed towards The Joint, I opted to take it. Although a few people would appear for the next section, I mostly just enjoyed some wonderful solitude on the trail for a long stretch. An exposed scramble at first, it also proved to have some even more absolutely wonderful views and diversity, as cairns marked the way through the constantly changing scenes.
The trail finally led to a large area of grassland, where I approached the junction leading to The Joint. It was still quite a hike through the grassland before I arrived at the slot canyon of The Joint. I’ve always kind of enjoyed slot canyons, and the thin walls of The Joint proved to be a blast to hike through. As the slot canyon ended, I hiked out into a wider canyon, beautiful in all of its own rights.
The Joint Trail finally ended in a jeep trail, which I followed North back to a foot trail headed towards Chesler Park. Yet more views and yet more sand, I still just couldn’t stop taking pictures of the magnificent terrain.
When I did arrive at Chesler Park, it was clear that I had reached the more popular area, during a time of day that many others were out on the trails. The rest of the hike didn’t include the solitude that I had enjoyed the vast majority of the day. Nonetheless, the views remained mind-blowing as I headed back onto the familiar trail back to the trailhead.
With the hike complete, I enjoyed a beer in the parking lot before heading back to find a campsite at Willow Springs Road for the week.
Truly an awesome hike! One of the best hikes!