Lollipopping Chesler Park and The Joint Trail is one of the best runs in the Moab area. The first and last 2.9 miles to and from Chestler Park are the same trail. From an overview point, the pass through into Chestler Park (a great lunch spot) making a loop of Chesler Park and the The Joint Trail adds five miles.
There are sixty miles of interconnecting trails in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park, many loops that can be added even subtracted from this recommendation making an incredible, beautiful experience. The Chesler Park and The Joint Trail trailhead is over 80 miles from Moab, but worth the drive.
What Makes It Great
There are more options in this area than could be dreamed up. Lollipopping Chesler Park and The Joint Trail are a great option to get a sense of the area as well as experience The Joint Trail. The first 2.9 miles to Chesler Park is a bit technical, runner or hikers should be proficient with lots of creative staircases, moving over rock using the friction of their shoes and be comfortable with exposure. The trail is well marked with signs including mileage at all junctions and Cairns along the trail. This 2.9 miles weaves, winds up and down drainages, through slots and up to a viewpoint before entering Chesler Park that will make you want to never leave.
Just past the junction, there is a right hand turn, at a sign for Chesler Park. This trail passes through grassy fields before dropping into a drainage through a more technical section. Proper shoes that provide friction for descending slickrock are a must. Follow signs for The Joint Trail through several junctions through open grassy sections that feel like the end of the world and beyond. Be sure to be looking back and admire the rock structures from where the trail came from. There is a campsite near the intersection of The Joint Trail with an outhouse.
The Joint Trail is magical, the trail works its way through a narrowing canyon until you ascend a magical staircase in a narrow slot into a cave filled with cairns that the rangers periodically knock down. It is chilly and refreshing inside. The trail continues through cracks within massive boulders that will make you feel like an ant in moving through the space between handful size boulders. There are side cracks to explore. This is one of the most special experiences imaginable. Take the time to get here, it’s special. After coming out, the trail finishing the loop around Chesler Park goes left at the sign. There is a wonderful overlook of Chesler Park 500 feet above to the right. The remainder of the trail around Chesler Park epitomizes a National Park experience. It is open, grassy, level surrounded by beautiful red rock structures. Back at the Chesler Park viewpoint, follow the trail back to Elephant Hill trailhead covering the original 2.9 miles.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a long loop, 11 miles, the vertical change is about 700 feet, but there is energy expended in ascending and descending creative staircases, going up and down frictiony sandstone step ups and downs. There is no water on this trail and adventures to this area need to be strong, self-sufficient and carry enough water and food. There is no water on the trail or at the trailhead. The National Park recommends one gallon of water per day. This trail should be reconsidered in summer heat unless runner completes run before the day’s heat.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Moab, drive south 40 miles to the junction of 211. Take a right at the submarine shaped rock on your left. From here, it is 35 miles to Canyonlands National Park. Be careful of mule deer, there can be hundreds if not thousands of them over periods of miles covering the road and area around the road. Pass Newspaper Rock, an impressive panel of Petroglyphs dating back 1500 years, go through Indian Creek Recreation Area and into the Park. From the Visitors Center drive 3 miles towards the Big Spring Canyon Overlook. Take a left following a sign for Elephant Hill and a right, again following signs towards Elephant Hill. The next 2.7 miles are on a dirt road with steep drop offs and blind curves, be careful. The trailhead for the hiking trails is not the 4x4 trail at the end of the road; it is to your right within the parking area. Make sure the sign your hike starts on is the hiking trail, not the 4x4 trail. There is parking, but it can fill up. There is no fee to park.
Entrance to the park is $10 for a vehicle and is valid for 7 days, Motorcycles are $5 each and entrance is valid for 7 days. Per person with no vehicle (bicycle) or parties of one are $5 and is valid for 7 days. There is also an annual parks pass available for $25 that gives a years entrance to all National Parks. Check the Park’s website as some days of the year such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veteran’s Day are free.
Dogs are not allowed on this trail and cannot be left in the car at the trailhead.