Canyonlands National Park is known for its stunning natural beauty, unique landscapes, and endless opportunities for adventure. One of the best ways to experience the park is by hiking the Slickrock Trail in the Needles District. Here is a guide to help you plan your adventure on this iconic trail.
The Slickrock Foot Trail is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, which is about 75 miles southeast of Moab, Utah. The trail is approximately a 2.4-mile loop, and it takes about 2-3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and level of experience.
The hike has an elevation gain of approximately 400 feet. The trail starts at an elevation of around 5,500 feet and climbs to about 5,900 feet. The trail has some steep sections, but it is well-maintained and accessible for most hikers.
The trail is well-marked, and you can expect to encounter steep inclines, sharp drops, and narrow ledges along the way. It is a moderate-to-challenging trail, so it is essential to come prepared with good shoes (I just wore my tennis shoes), water (bring a lot!), and salty snacks.
- Learn all you need to know before visiting Canyonlands National Park.
- Discover if the Needles District in Canyonlands is worth visiting.
The trailhead is located at the end of the main road in the Needles District, and there is a small pull-out parking lot at the trailhead. There is only enough space for about 10 cars, but because the Needles is not crowded, it’s highly unlikely the parking lot will be full.
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- Visit Newspaper Rock: Amazing Rock Art Panel in Utah nearby The Needles.
The Trail Experience
Most of the trails in the Needles District are located in the southern portion of the District, with views of the Needles formations in the distance.
The Slickrock Trail, however, looks north, to the Island in the Sky District. Basically, you’re at the bottom of the canyons looking at the cliff walls. I quite enjoyed the views of this hike! I think it’s one of the underrated things about the Needles District in general.
The trail takes you mostly over slickrock domes, with peaks into multiple side canyons along the way.
- Discover Mesa Arch: the most famous feature in Canyonlands.
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The highlights of the trail are the 4 viewpoints that are marked along the way. I mean, what hike can you think of that leads to viewpoints into 4 different canyons?!
Each of these requires a little spur trail to reach, but they are worth it.
Some of them require a little scrambling to get out to the edges of the viewpoints, where you’ll find sheer drops. This was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the trail.
- Don’t miss the best viewpoints in Canyonlands!
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One Thing I Didn’t Like
Although I liked the different canyons and seeing the Island in the Sky in the distance, one drawback to the hike was that the scenery started to look the same after a while. It was a lot of white and red rocks that looked similar, interspersed occasionally by desert-loving junipers.
Tips for Hiking the Slickrock Trail
If you plan on hiking the Slickrock Trail, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Walk the spur trails to each viewpoint, and don’t assume you can’t go any further!
- Don’t fall off any ledges, please.
- Consider your footwear. I like lightweight tennis shoes, but you might like boots better.
- Carry plenty of water: The trail is exposed to the sun, and there is no water source along the way, so be sure to carry enough water for the entire hike.
- Be prepared for the weather: The weather in Canyonlands National Park can be unpredictable, so be sure to check the forecast before you go and come prepared with appropriate clothing and gear. See our recommended travel/hiking gear page for more information.
- Know how to follow the rock cairns. See our tips for hiking in the desert for more information.
Is Hiking the Slickrock Trail Worth it?
The Slickrock Trail is definitely worth it. It’s probably the best hike for average hikers in the Needles District (by average, I mean under 6 miles, which leaves out the famous Chesler Park loop).
I probably like the shorter and more varied Cave Spring Trail better, but at 0.6 miles, one can hardly call that a hike.
- Another great hike in The Needles is Pothole Point: An Easy Trail in Canyonlands.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
Yes! Canyonlands is pretty close to Arches National Park and Moab. There are so many things you can see and do in the area that it can be difficult to know what to choose.
Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary for Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times.
- Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands Itinerary
- Our Canyonlands Trip Planner Page
- Our Moab Trip Planner Page
- Our Arches Trip Planner Page
- An Easy Guide to Visiting Canyonlands National Park
- The Best Viewpoints In Canyonlands National Park
- Newspaper Rock: Amazing Rock Art Panel in Utah
- Pothole Point: An Easy Trail in Canyonlands
- Can’t Get a Reservation for Arches? Here are 9 Things to do Nearby
- Mesa Arch: The Most Famous Feature in Canyonlands
- Cave Spring Trail – a fun, short trail in Canyonlands
- Hiking in the Desert: 11 things to know before you go
- Canyonlands National Park Website