Some would call this hike the best in Utah while others would continue to refer to it as one of the hardest hikes in all of Moab. Regardless of its reviews by previous hikers, there's one thing that can't be denied: it offers the best views of the incredibly scenic Elephant Canyon.

It's a long route that brings with it plenty of technical challenges, not limited to ladder-climbing, rock scrambles, and a generous incline. For hikers who are ready to tackle all of that, it's arguably one of the most scenic hikes in the state - and it can be done in one day for those who are truly determined.


This Moab hike is definitely tough enough to test a hiker's mettle, but it's one that's worthy of the challenge for its scenic payoff.

What To Know About The Moab Canyonlands

The Canyonlands is a scenic destination, to begin with. This landscape attracts hikers from all over Utah and the surrounding states to explore its vast desert-like terrain, hiking through deep gorges and finding overlooks at the top of ridges. With views that span for miles, it's no wonder that this has become an iconic part of Utah's hiking legacy - and the number of trails one can follow to explore it is often overwhelming.

With that being said, the Canyonlands can be broken down into four main sections: Island in the Sky, the Maze, the Rivers, and, finally, the Needles. As one may have guessed, each name does correspond directly with the type of terrain one can expect to see there. Island in the Sky is the most visited of the four, with incredible views that most hikers find easier to reach. The Maze is reserved mostly for those taking a four-wheeling trip or biking through the Canyonlands, as the terrain there is tough to navigate and winds around a more remote park area. The Rivers are - as is easily guessed - the part of the park where the Colorado River and the Green River can be found. Finally, the Needles - a lesser-visited, but no less beautiful part of the Canyonlands where one can find the Druid Arch.

The reason that the Needles is not as well-traveled as the Island in the Sky or the Rivers is that it does take a bit more determination to reach. For those who don't mind testing their mettle on a tough hike, however, it offers the perfect chance to see the Canyonlands from a different perspective.

Related: Denver To Moab: See It All Via Train On The Rocky Mountaineer

What To Know About The Toughest Hike In The Moab Canyonlands At The Needles

It's important to note that while the hike to Druid Arch is a day trip, it's a strenuous one that should be started early on in the day. The best times of the year to hike this trail are:

  • Spring: Between April and May
  • Fall: Between September and October

As with any desert, summer temperatures can hover well above 100 degrees which not only means unpleasant hiking but often dehydration and heat exhaustion. During the spring and fall, temperatures are more moderate and hover between 60 and 80 degrees, making the hike far more bearable.

When it comes to what to wear on this hike, breathable clothing (shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, etc.) is appropriate. Hikers will want to take a backpack with them on this long day hike, as well as adequate amounts of water and some re-fueling snacks. The terrain is mostly rock which means that footwear with good traction, but that's also breathable, is a great option. Hiking boots are an absolute necessity, lest a hiker wants to risk tripping or sliding when rock scrambling.

Druid Arch Hike: The Details

  • Total Length: 10.5 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: Moderate - Hard
  • Time To Complete: From 5 - 7 hours
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet

Druid Arch Hike: The Route

The trailhead for the Druid Arch is pretty easy to find since hikers can park in the lot for the Elephant Hill Trailhead. Those who are interested in learning more about the area should take the time to stop at the Needles Visitor Center, which has a wealth of information and is located about two miles before the trailhead parking lot.

  • Note: The road to reach the Needles includes blind turns and narrow lanes, so be sure to pay attention while driving and allow plenty of space for passing cars.

The best way to follow the Elephant Hill Trail is to pick up a trail map from the Visitor Center or download a copy onto one's phone. Hiking apps such as AllTrails will also help in this instance; although the trail is pretty straightforward and rarely features any twists, turns, or forks.

The trail starts out fairly moderate as it's a steady incline for more than a mile. However, the trail start is easy to follow and hikers can continue on the same blazes (tip: look for cairns, as well) until reaching the first junction after about a mile and a half. This right will continue to take hikers straight to Druid Arch. After just over half a mile, there will be another option for a junction that will take hikers past another scenic side route, before joining back up with the trail to Druid Arch. Those who opt to add this to their trip can follow the blazes for Chesler Park.

Continuing on, hikers will find the pass for Elephant Canyon. This narrow stretch of canyonland marks the start of terrain that's considered moderate to difficult, as it includes rock scrambles and some tricky footwork in order to make it to Druid Arch. The final ascent of the trail includes the toughest scrambles, which is where hikers will want to pay especially close attention to their footing as they work their way up the final scramble. At the top, incredible views of Druid Arch are humbling, and it will have been well worth the effort!

From this point, hikers can simply follow the out-and-back trail to the beginning of the trailhead. Be sure to take in the views from the top, though - they're the best in the Canyonlands.

Next: Day Trip Through Dead Horse Point, Moab's Most Scenic Drive