Needles Overlook

If you’re in the Moab or Monticello area of southeastern Utah the Needles Overlook is a must-see.  It’s not well marked but about halfway between Moab and Monticello on route 191 there’s a turnoff to Needles Overlook. From there it’s about a 20 mile drive up a two-lane asphalt road that was slightly bumpy but otherwise in fairly good shape to the Overlook.  Most of the drive was through sage brush, Juniper trees and Pinyon pines with numerous rock formations, some more interesting than others.

About 5 miles before we reached the Overlook, we got our first glimpse of the canyons of Canyonlands.

Needles Outlook is on a promontory peninsula and is perfectly situated to give an absolutely spectacular view of both Needles and Islands in the Sky.  Looking north, we could see where we had been a couple of days ago in the Islands of the Sky.

West of us was Junction Butte.

Southwest of us was Big Spring Canyon in Needles.

And southeast of us were the canyon walls around Needles.

The primary culprit for all of this spectacular scenery is the Colorado River, which could be glimpsed in a couple of places to the north of us.

Some of the rock layers that the Colorado River has eroded away are harder than others and this has lead to the formation of rock spires or all different shapes and sizes in all parts of Canyonlands.  There were some right below the Overlook:

There were some below Junction Butte.

There were many in Big Spring Canyon.

And there were of course the Needles.

There was a fair amount of haze when we got to the overlook.  The weather news we’ve gotten from the TV stations in Salt Lake City is that this is partly due to dust from windstorms in New Mexico and Arizona, partly from forest fires around the Southwest, and partly because of high ozone readings.  There was also a large thunderstorm to our south, with occasional lightening flashes and basso rumbles of thunder.  This made it difficult to see in some directions and particularly in the distances, but even so the views were absolutely spectacular.

Every trip we’ve made to Canyonlands has been surprising, with rock formations and views that are awe-inspiring and beautiful.  Canyonlands isn’t as well known as many of the other National Monuments in Utah such as Arches, Natural Bridges, Zion and Bryce Canyon, but we’ve been to all those parks and I can’t think of any park we’ve been to that I’d like to return to time and again other than Canyonlands.

We give the Needles Overlook a B+ for handicap accessibility.  There were several paved and gravel paths to different parts of the Overlook that made it easy to get Susan’s wheelchair to.  There was a handicap accessible bathroom (vault toilet) and a ramp cut next to where we parked.

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