Lost Canyon - Elephant Canyon Lollipop Loop, Needles District: Squaw Flat Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Lost Canyon - Elephant Canyon Lollipop Loop - 13.8 Miles
Needles District: Squaw Flat Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||13.8 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||5,120' - 5,550' (approximate high point)|
|Elevation Change:||430' net elevation gain (with significant elevation changes en route)|
The 13.8 mile Lost Canyon - Elephant Canyon Loop is one of the longer and most complete hiking routes in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
Open desert, remote canyons, riparian areas, challenging scrambles and miles of slickrock make this an ideal choice for strong day hikers or an overnight trip.
There are multiple trail junctions along the way, with potential navigational challenges through dense vegetation and open slickrock. A good map will help you stay on course and eliminate confusion at intersections.
The following description travels clockwise form Lost Canyon to Elephant Canyon:
The trail heads south from Squaw Flat Trailhead A for about 50 yards to a split - bear left for Squaw Canyon.
The trail bends southeast through flat, open desert and sparse pinyon - juniper woodlands to a split near the mouth of Squaw Canyon (1.1 miles).
Bear left again (southeast) towards Lost Canyon and Peekaboo Camp, where travel grows rugged over outcrops on the north entrance of Lost Canyon.
The trail soon takes an abrupt turn straight up a challenging slickrock wall, then down a short latter to the canyon rim. It follows the slickrock rim before dropping into a sandy wash.
Stay in the wash for several tenths of a mile to the Lost Canyon Trail (2.6 miles), which bends SW into the wide, luxuriant canyon.
You'll likely find standing pools if not a running stream deeper in Lost Canyon. This riparian area attracts a good deal of wildlife, especially birds. High, colorful walls and a tall cottonwood-willow canopy offer shade and a nice photographic contrast.
Despite mild grades, travel may be obscured or obstructed by dense overgrowth - remain vigilant.
Just past backcountry site LC3 (5.2 miles) and a stream crossing that passes through head-high vegetation, anticipate cairns (5.4 miles) that turn sharply up the canyon's west wall (on the right).
This is a tough scramble leading up to the divisive rim between Lost Canyon and Squaw Canyon. The going is steep and cairns may be tricky to see; proceed cautiously, especially with a large pack.
The climb levels off on a sprawling slickrock bench for nearly .5 miles before making a steep descent into Squaw Canyon.
The trail passes backcountry site SQ2 (5.7 miles) to the Squaw Canyon Trail junction (5.9 miles). Turn left and head up into Squaw Canyon.
The trail quickly leaves the wash and travels mostly over slickrock for the next .9 miles to the Big Spring Canyon Trail junction 6.8 miles).
Turn left towards Elephant Canyon and the Druid Arch Trail. This begins another surreal stretch (nearly 2.1 miles) over slickrock benches with remarkable views.
The cairn-marked slickrock trail leads to a narrow 10 yard notch in the rocks. This passage is dark and footing may be tricky, especially with a large pack. Once through the notch, more cairns lead to a short ladder that places you on a high ridge.
Several steps away is another ladder that drops back down. From here the trail begins a winding descent into Elephant Canyon, highlighted by more slickrock, colorful spires and rock walls along the way.
At the Druid Arch Trail - Elephant Canyon split (8.9 miles), turn right and head north in the sandy wash bottom. The trail stays in or near the wash until intersecting the Chesler Park Trail (9.7 miles). Turn right again.
The trail squeezes through a narrow slot that deposits you in a flat, scenic area. In .6 miles you'll come to another junction with access to the Elephant Hill Trailhead; Turn right towards Squaw Flat.
The final 3.5 miles alternate short scrambles with flat, well-defined segments out of Elephant Canyon. Large rock formations and panoramas across open desert highlight these final miles. Follow signs back to Squaw Flat Campground A.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N38 08.612 W109 48.213 — 0.0 Miles: Squaw Flat Trailhead A
- This route is long and exposed. Though water is usually available in Lost Canyon, it may be difficult to access, or treat due to heavy sediments. Always bring ample water and full sun protection into the backcountry.
- Anticipate a sharp right turn just past backcountry site LC3 in Lost Canyon. This turn follows a cairn-marked path up towards Squaw Canyon. It may be difficult to spot, and the scramble itself can be challenging.
- Follow cairns closely, and always note the last cairn you saw. If it's been a while in between markings, stop hiking, gather your bearings, and retrace yourself back to the last known marking. Be courteous to other hikers and rebuild knocked over cairns. Never disassemble or move trail markings.
- Carry a reliable map, and study your chosen route prior to departure. There are several trail intersections on this loop, and a good map will eliminate confusion.
- For backpackers with time, Peekaboo Spring and Druid Arch are highly recommended side trips.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Squaw Flat Campground is an ideal base camp for day hikes to popular destinations like Chesler Park, Druid Arch and the Joint Trail. There are 26 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bathrooms, fire grates, picnic tables, tent pads and water are available year-round. Fee is $15 per night. Squaw Flat typically fills every day from late March through June and again from early September to mid-October.
All overnight trips in the backcountry require a permit. In addition, permits are required for horseback riding and four-wheel-drive day use in Horse and Lavender canyons in the Needles District. If you're planning a river trip, please visit the river permits page.
How to Obtain Your Permit
Backcountry permits are issued seven days a week at district visitor centers. Permits can be reserved in advance (see below). Walk-in permits are only available the day before or the day of a trip. Permits are issued up to one hour before the close of business each day. Please review the backcountry regulations before obtaining a permit.
Reservations are recommended, but not required. Reservation Office staff are available by phone to answer questions and assist with trip planning Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Mountain Time), at (435) 259-4351. When workload permits, phones may be answered until 4:00 p.m.
Length of Stay
Permits (except day use) can be issued for up to fourteen consecutive nights. Backpackers may stay up to seven consecutive nights in any one site or zone. Visitors using the designated vehicle camps may stay a maximum of three consecutive nights at a camping area before having to relocate.
The Lost Canyon - Elephant Canyon Loop is accessible from Squaw Flat Campground A in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
Drive about 2.7 miles beyond the visitor center and turn left into the Squaw Flat Campground. The road will soon fork; bear left toward Campground A for trailhead parking and access. There is also trailhead parking and access from Campground B, but this adds additional mileage and climbing before reaching the main trailhead area at Campground A.
Canyonlands National Park
2282 SW Resource Blvd
Moab, UT 84532