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Cave Spring – A Fun, Short Trail in Canyonlands

cave spring trail cowboy camp Canyonlands needles

Cave Spring is a short hiking trail in the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park. Though short, it packs a punch, offering quite a bit of variety in one trail.

Hiking Basics

  • Length: 0.6-mile loop trail
  • Elevation gain: 67 ft (20 m)
  • Difficulty: Easy, but must navigate ladders
  • Accessibility: Trail might be accessible to the Cowboy Camp

Getting there

Cave Spring trail is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands. The Needles District is located about 1.5 hours south of Moab, Utah, and about 2 hours south of the more popular Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands.

Getting there from the visitor center requires driving a short distance on a dirt road. This road is graded for cars, but roads like this can be rough after winter or bad weather.

Trailhead

Cave Spring Trailhead sign Canyonlands Needles

The parking lot is plenty large, especially considering the Needles district receives few visitors.

Cave Spring Trail map Canyonlands Needles District

Canyonlands has nice trailhead markers with hiking maps. Note that this hike is a loop, so the path instructs you to do the loop clockwise.

Cowboy Camp

cave spring trail cowboy camp Canyonlands needles

Quickly you’ll run into this historic cowboy camp underneath the rock overhang, with a fence and barbed wire hanging off it.

This was once an actual cowboy camp. Believe it or not, this desolate country was an open cattle range. Cowboys set up their camp here because it provided shelter and it had a nearby spring, after which this trail is named.

When Canyonlands became a national park in the 1970s, they kicked out the cows and cowboys but preserved the camp they left behind as historical.

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cave spring trail cowboy camp storage containers Canyonlands needles

There is a storage compartment around the corner.

cave spring trail cave overhang Canyonlands needles district

It was fun walking under the overhang!

Cave Spring

cave spring trail spring Canyonlands needles

Continuing around the wall, you’ll find the spring. It’s not much of a spring, but in this extremely desolate area, it’s practically a gushing well.

cave spring trail water seeping out of spring Canyonlands needles

Rainwater seeps through the sandstone above and exits out in this little alcove.

Rock Art

After the spring you’ll find rock art from prehistoric times. It’s pretty cool thinking about how this remote spot was home to American Indians thousands of years ago as well as cowboys over a hundred years ago.

Strangely, I forgot to take a picture of the rock art, but the nice thing is I’m not ruining the surprise for you!

Ladders

cave spring trail ladder Canyonlands needles

After the rock art, you’ll need to scale two ladders. These aren’t very tall, and they are easy and fun.

Vistas

cave spring trail view of needles in Canyonlands needles district

Scaling the ladders will put you up on top of the cave, where you’ll be walking on slick rock the rest of the way.

From here you’ll have panoramic vistas in all directions. To the west, you’ll see the Needles formations in the distance.

The loop trail wraps around on a gradual descent back to the trailhead.

Is Cave Spring Trail worth it?

Yes! Though the trail is short, it provides history, rock art, scrambling, and beautiful scenery. It was a delightful surprise on my visit to the Needles.

Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Canyonlands and Moab? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!

Resources

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