Start: Slickrock Foot Trail Parking Area
Distance: 2.4 miles; lollipop loop
Maps: USGS The Loop; Trails Illustrated Needles
Finding the trailhead: From the Needles entrance station, drive 6.4 miles and park on the right (north) side of the road at the Slickrock Foot Trail Parking Area, just before the end of the road.
Trailhead GPS: 38.177063, -109.814582
If you’re a beginner or experienced hiker with a half day to spend in the Needles District, the Slickrock Foot Trail is an excellent way to enjoy it. Many hikes in the Needles follow canyon bottoms, but this trail stays high and gives an overall perspective of the entire southeastern corner of Canyonlands National Park.
The NPS suggests this trail to inexperienced hikers so they can take a look at the entire area before deciding on their next hike. On this trail beginners also learn how to follow cairns and hike on slickrock. For the beginner who has only walked well-defined dirt trails, this hike might be a little adventuresome, but it certainly isn’t dangerous. The trail is easy to follow, with lots of cairns marking the way. Well-placed signs mark the way to four viewpoints and the point where the lollipop loop begins.
Take the hike counterclockwise as indicated by an NPS sign about a half mile up the trail where the loop section of the trail begins, which is just after the first viewpoint. At this viewpoint you get a nice panoramic view of the entire region and many of the major landmarks—Six-shooter Peak, Elaterite Butte, Cathedral Butte, the La Sal Mountains, Ekker Butte, and, of course, the Needles.
The trail stays on the ridge between Little Spring Canyon and Big Spring Canyon. At the second viewpoint you can get a good view into the upper reaches of Little Spring Canyon. After the third viewpoint the trail turns west and then south. You can take a long look at the region’s namesake, the Needles, as you walk along. At the last viewpoint you can look down into massive Big Spring Canyon. In spring you might see a stream flowing in the distance far below.
After you leave the fourth viewpoint, it’s another mile or so back to the trailhead, most of the trail following the east flank of Big Spring Canyon.