Cave Spring Trail At Canyonlands National Park
The Cave Spring trail is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
We visited both the Needles and Island in the Sky districts of Canyonlands National Park and the Cave Spring trail was my favorite. It has it all…desert landscape, slickrock, ladders, pictographs and even a cowboy camp. I mean what’s not to love!
This 0.6 mile loop trail has hardly any elevation gain, but you do have have to climb up two small ladders to continue the hike. If ladders aren’t an issue for you this is an easy family friendly adventure. Start this hike in a clockwise direction following a single track trail through a typical desert landscape including skunkbush, rabbitbrush, four-wing saltbush and sagebrush.
Not far from the start you will discover an abandoned camp under a sandstone ledge. This area was used by cowboys from the late 1800’s through 1975. The camp was established here, because a cave spring nearby provided a reliable water source.
When you come to the spring you can see a puddle of water and moss growing on the cave walls. A closer examination of the walls reveals soot-blackened ceilings and a few pictographs. This is all evidence that prehistoric peoples once occupied this area long before the cowboys ever established a camp. There are a bunch of handprints too which as an avid horror movie fan I just found creepy.
You will continue walking below the overhanging cliffs of a low mesa until you reach the first of two wooden ladders. They may look sketchy, but have no fear they are securely attached to the rock. The trail then continues over the slickrock of the top of the mesa. Stone cairns will mark your path to keep you on track.
If views are your thing they are pretty darn incredible from this point so have your camera ready. After the slickrock you go down into a tiny ravine, travel under some alcoves, around some cool rock formations and end it all back in the desert sagebrush.
We thoroughly enjoyed this trail from start to finish and if we ever make it back to this section of the park in the future would take the time to hike it again. For a mere fifty cents you can pick up a trail guide for the hike at the trailhead that provides more history on the cowboys, spring, animals and people who inhabited this area.
This hike just encompasses so many different features and landscapes with a rich history that makes it an incredible experience. This is one hike that should absolutely make it into your itinerary for the Needles District.