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  • kjrokey

Canyonlands (Minus the Crowds)

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Lock Hart Road off of SR 211

Southern Utah is one of my most favorite spots to adventure. It is beautiful year round, albeit a little warm in the summer months. While places like Arches National Park, Zion, Bryce and Caynonlands Island in the Sky district see the most traffic, there are many places off the beaten path that are amazing for camping, boondocking, backpacking, 4x4 driving and hiking. Canyonlands is broken up into different regions. This post will mostly focus on the Needles District. While Island in the Sky is known for it's drive through vistas. Needles District is much more remote. It is an hour and a half from Moab, 57 minutes from Monticello, and an hour and 18 minutes from Blanding.

The road to Needles District starts with a turn onto Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway (SR 211)

This road starts out in the high sagebrush and will take you down into Indian Creek. The drive is desolate and filled with plenty of scenic views. Prior to entering Needles District of Canyonlands National park you will come across Newspaper Rock. I suggest stopping by this State Historic Monument. It is one of the largest collection of petroglyphs in the United States.

Newspaper Rock

Needles District

Unfortunately, we were on a time crunch and were unable to secure backcountry permits to backpack into the Needles District. We did spend a few hours exploring before finding our campsite for the evening.

Needles District Canyonlands National Park

Hamburger Rock Campground Area

Campsite off of Lock Hart Road

Just before the Needles District Park entrance there is a turn off onto Lock Hart Road. This is the Hamburger Rock Campground Area. This road is on BLM land so there are ample areas to boondock. We followed the road until we found a spot to camp about 5 miles down the road. This was long before Lost Saguaro so we did tent camp. We were there over Memorial Day Weekend so it was a little crowded, but as we continued down the road it became significantly less crowded. The road was not technical and did not require 4x4.

Pictured above and below are some of the incredible views from Lock Hart Road. It really did feel like we were on another planet. I would argue that while the views are not as spectacular as Island in the Sky District, the accessibility and lack of crowds makes it a wonderful place to spend a couple of days.

We enjoyed watching the sunset and sunrise from our campsite as well as exploring around our campsite. It was quite warm during the mid day but cooled off at night. The night sky was amazing!

I would recommend avoiding this area in the height of the summer as it will be way too hot and the monsoons could potentially flood out the roads.

Needles Overlook off of BLM 133 was another place we did not make it to, but is however, close to the Needles District. It could be a nice addition to the trip due to its proximity.

A few stops in the area (ish) include Moki Dogway Highway 261, The Goosenecks and Monument Valley. We haven't been yet but hear that Muley Point is a great place in that area to camp with spectacular views.

Bears Ears National Monument is close as is route 95 which can take you to the famed Maze District of Canyonlands or Capital Reef National Park.

This area of Utah is remote and getting lost or broken down can potentially be quite dangerous. I always suggest brining lots of water and extra fuel as the gas stations are few and far between. Having some sort of GPS system aside from a phone to help navigate / breadcrumb is something we always have with us when we are adventuring far off the grid.

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