Druid Arch requires a strenuous hike of 11 plus miles. This bucket list hike leads to one of the largest Arches in the US. The arch is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the most scenic location in the Moab area, IMO.
What is the best hike in Canyonlands National Park? To date Druid Arch is the best hike I have done. Druid Arch has been a bucket list hike for me for a long time. However, the hike is so long that I had to wait until the ideal time to attempt this hike. At 11.5 miles round trip, this hike took my two person group all day to complete. We had perfect temperatures, I don't know if this hike is doable in the summer and there may not be enough daylight to complete it in the winter.
To do this hike, you will need to start early. We left Moab in the dark and arrived at the Elephant Hill Parking area just as the sun was coming up. Luckily we got park in the closest parking lot to the start of the Elephant Hill / Chestler Park trail. Every step you can save after 11 miles is worth it.
If you get an early enough start, you will have the trail all to yourself on the way out. It is also important to note the parking area is small. If you arrive late, you could be extending your hike well past the parking area, maybe by a mile or more on busy spring or fall weekends.
The farther into the trail you go the more pronounced the "Needles" become. If you are like me and like to explore, it is easy to get sidetracked by all of the cool rocks to climb on. But at 11.5 miles it is best to stay focused on the task at hand, getting to Druid Arch. We did take one major detour into a cave, I mean what type of explorer would you be if you passed up exploring a cave. It was so cool, the cave looked like nothing from the trail but was huge when we got into it.
You must hike up and over several ridges of needles on the Chestler Park Trail before reaching the spur Druid Arch Trail. Though there is a clear hiking trail along the edge of the wash, we found it more interesting to walk in the wash itself. The Elephant Canyon wash had all kinds of neat little rock formations to hike in and around. Best of all there were very few obstacles in our way so the hike wasn't really any more difficult than hiking on the main trail.
Elephant Canyon continually gets deeper and deeper as you near Druid Arch. The longer the hike went the more I was awestruck by the Cedar Mesa sandstone that dominates the area. I just love the banded colors of the rock as they alternate between red and white.
This is the scene just as you approach the arch. Most hikers will not see this view. We misread a hiking description that said a small scramble was required to reach the arch. This was an extreme scramble to get to this area. It boarded on rock climbing but the picture speaks for itself. I think this is my most favorite photo from the Moab area, I just wish we would have had a blue sky during our visit. This was also our lunch spot for the trip.
To get an idea of the size of this massive arch, first look at the size of the bushes near the 6 foot tall man in the center of this picture. Now look at the same size bushes near the base of arch. Even though Arches National Park is named for it's arches, the arches in Canyonlands are my favorite.
My next bucket list hike? Angle Arch!
If you are considering a Moab adventure we would recommend checking out the town homes at Moab Adventure Condo. We stayed with them and it was so nice to have room to relax and not be stuck in a cramped hotel room. Since the cost of the rental was split between two families it actually ended up being cheaper than a hotel room and much nicer. Not to mention the pool and hot tub were just sets from our condo.