Elephant Hill (not available as a comp trail)
Ordinarily, the National Park Service likes to keep its trails readily available to the public and not cluttered with large groups. Once again we plan to use this trail under controlled conditions on weekdays. The trail enters the beautiful small canyons, called "grabens," in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and is renowned for its challenge to stock vehicles. Because of the most recent permit restrictions the trail is limited in size. The popularity of this trip, combined with the most recent restrictions, has led the Club to offer the trip more times during the week but with an overall group size of ten. The leader of each trip will pick among the options available. The variables that affect each leader's choice are: group travel rate, group size, Safari activities in Moab that participants desire to attend, weather, road conditions, etc. All choices will include the famous Elephant Hill. From there one choice will be to walk the Joint Trail, a fascinating narrow and deep crack in a rock layer. The other option will be to walk to an overlook of the deeply entrenched confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. A fast traveling group that has no evening plans in Moab could possibly do both. Participants have to trust our leaders to make the right choice for their group. Approximate mileages 178 total, 22 off highway.
The restrictions we put on the sign-ups for this trail are really worth noting, so you avoid throwing away your registration money. First – your vehicle must be capable of sustaining a 55 mph speed on the highway since the trip involves about 75 miles of highway driving each way. Second, your vehicle needs to carry enough fuel for 180 miles of travel because fuel may or may not be available at the Needles Outpost. Third, the park service will require the normal entrance fee be paid and that all NPS rules be followed by participants (visit NPS.gov to determine the current fee). Rules say pets are not allowed on the 4x4 trails, even in vehicles, and the park service inspects for street legality of vehicles and will refuse to allow those blatantly non-Utah legal to enter the park. Our leaders cannot help you if the NPS refuses you entrance, they have to abide by the rules and take the legal group in and LEAVE YOU BEHIND! Fourth, our final restriction is no long wheel bases (over 116 inches).
The tall cliffs lining the rivers are similar to those seen near Moab. Most of the surface rock formations, however, are of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone, which produces the spectacular colors of the canyons, spires, and balanced rocks that give the Needles District its name.
The ridge crossings are mainly rock ledges while the roads in the bottom of the "grabens" are mostly fine powder laced with a few rocks.
Elephant Hill itself has difficult climbs in both directions - even after cement was added to some ledges to obviate the need for chinking them with loose rocks. There are other ledges between "grabens", and a little slickrock at the Silver Stairs.