Canyonlands Cave Spring Hike

If you’re in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park and have an extra hour, the Cave Spring hike is a pleasant and thoughtful way to spend it. The trailhead is conveniently located, and this short hike offers lots of diversity. Interpretive signs along the trail identify many of the high desert’s most common plant species.

The small loop trail goes by ruins of historic ranching operations that were active here until 1975, when livestock grazing was abandoned in Canyonlands. Please honor the barriers put up by the NPS to preserve this part of the area’s history. Later the trail goes by Cave Spring and then passes by some rock art left by the ancestral Puebloans who inhabited the area 1,000 years ago. Please don’t touch these art treasures.

After you finish enjoying the signs of both recent and ancient history, hike around a large “Canyonlands mushroom” and climb a safety ladder to a slickrock flat. Here you get the experience of following cairns over slickrock and also get a great view of many of the area’s main features, such as the Needles, North Six-shooter Peak, and South Six-shooter Peak.

Overview: An opportunity to learn about the cultural history and desert plant life on a short hike.

Start: Cave Spring Parking Area

Distance: 0.6 mile; loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Maps: USGS The Loop; Trails Illustrated Needles

Finding the trailhead: Drive 0.9 mile west from the Needles entrance station, take a left (south) onto a paved road (sign points to Salt Creek), and go 0.5 mile before taking another left (east) onto a dirt road. The unpaved road ends in 1.2 miles at the parking area and trailhead for the Cave Spring Trail.

Trailhead GPS: 38.157258, -109.751583

Image courtesy Casey Schreiner / Modern Hiker