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)|
Lost Canyon - Elephant Canyon Lollipop Loop - 13.8 Miles Round-Trip
Lost Canyon can be joined with Elephant Canyon to form a 13.8 mile lollipop loop through heart of 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 track 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, leafy 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 walls and a tall cottonwood-willow canopy offer a good deal of shade.
Cairns may be obscured by dense growth - remain vigilant. Anticipate cairns (5.4 miles) that turn sharply up the west canyon wall (right) just past backcountry site LC3 (5.2 miles) and a stream crossing through head-high vegetation.
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 split 6.8 miles). Turn left towards Elephant Canyon and Druid Arch.
This begins another stretch (nearly 2.1 miles) over slickrock benches with great 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 with a large pack.
Once through cairns lead to a short ladder that places you on a high ridge. Steps away another ladder drops back down. From here the trail begins a winding descent into Elephant Canyon. Turn right (north) down the wash at the Druid Arch Trail - Elephant Canyon split (8.9 miles).
The trail stays in or near the wash to the Chesler Park Trail split (9.7 miles). Turn right again and pass through a narrow slot that spills into a flat, scenic area. In .6 miles you'll come to another junction with access to Elephant Hill Trailhead; Turn right for 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.
- 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
Permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips in Canyonlands National Park. Permits can be acquired at Visitor Centers the day of or day before your trip. Advance reservations can be made up to 4 months out and are recommended during peak season.
Call the Backcountry Reservation Office for more information: 435.259.4351
- There's a $30 fee per party to backcountry camp in Canyonlands National Park.
- Hikers must camp in designated sites where explicitly stated. You may otherwise choose your own campsite in designated at-large zones.
- At-large sites must be at least 1 mile away from any road and 300' from any archeological site, historical site or water source.
- Mountain Bikers and 4WDs must stay on established roads and camp in designated sites at all times.
- Fires are not permitted at backcountry campsites or within the backcountry in Canyonlands National Park.
- Desert water sources are scarce and fragile. Do not bathe or wash dishes in creeks or pools.
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. Squaw Flat typically fills every day from late March through June and again from early September to mid-October.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $25 fee per vehicle to enter Canyonlands National Park (defined as private passenger cars with 15 people or less). Passes are good for 7 consecutive days.
- $15 per motorcycle.
- $10 per person (walk or bike).
- Dogs are not permitted on trails in Canyonlands National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
The Lost Canyon - Elephant Canyon Loop is accessible from Squaw Flat Campground A in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
Drive 2.7 miles past 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