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Slickrock Foot Trail, UT

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Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
3 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 2.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,987 feet
Elevation Gain 100 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2-3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 2.9
Interest Off Trail Hiking
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
5  2015-05-24 AZLOT69
5  2010-11-08 hippiepunkpirate
4  2010-11-08
Windows - Arches NP
Author hippiepunkpirate
author avatar Guides 25
Routes 36
Photos 2,877
Trips 657 map ( 2,276 miles )
Age 33 Male Gender
Location Peoria, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, May
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:07am - 6:16pm
0 Alternative
Smooth rock amongst the Needles
by hippiepunkpirate

The Slickrock Foot Trail is a well cairned route in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. As the name suggests, most of this hike takes place on sandstone slickrock. A NPS brochure about the trail is provided at the trailhead, and the honors system dictates that you pay 50 cents if you decide to keep it. The brochure provides a map of the trail, shows the major landmarks of the area, and gives general information on the geology.

The trail heads north from the roadside pullout into a slickrock jungle in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. The trail starts out sandy but you quickly make a small ascent into the slickrock, and then its all about following the cairns. From the brochure, you will see the trail makes a loop, with 4 designated "viewpoints" along the way. Assuming that you go in a counter-clockwise motion, the first three viewpoints overlook Little Spring Canyon, while the fourth overlooks Big Spring Canyon. Being slickrock, the area is sparsely vegetated so you really have good views for the entire hike, the "viewpoints" just let you peek into the nearby sidecanyons. Being in a broad valley, most of the landmarks look pretty far off. Landmarks in view include Island of the Sky, Junction Butte, Mollies Nipple, Six Shooter Peak, the La Sal Mountains, the Abajo Mountains and the Needles. Hidden from view, the Colorado River is only a mile or two north of the slickrock. At viewpoints 2 and 3, you can see a ripirian zone in Little Spring Canyon that indicates the location of the actual spring. Potholes are copious throughout the hike, sometimes dry and sometimes with water in them. It's a decent hike but may leave something to be desired if you don't supplement it with a hike in the actual Needles.

This hike is very exposed to the elements due to the lack of vegetation. Beware of the heat in the summer, bring lots of water.

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2010-11-10 hippiepunkpirate
  • Needles District - 1
    area related
    Needles District - 1
  • Needles District - 2
    area related
    Needles District - 2
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Review
Slickrock Foot Trail
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Arches - Canyonlands Trip November 2010
Day 3 - Windows / Needles District

Day 1 - Delicate Arch
Day 2 - Corona Arch / Island in the Sky

The final day of this long weekend trip involved an early pre-dawn start to catch sunrise. We left the motel somewhere in the vicinity of 6AM, heading north. We were contemplating catching the sunrise somewhere along the Colorado east of Moab, but at the last minute we decided to shoot back up into Arches and catch it at the Windows. I really wanted to shoot the famous shot of Turret Arch through the North Window. As we were driving up into the park, we could already see a few hints of red in the eastern sky. We knew it was the beginning of a magic morning.

We reached the Windows trail head and a nice band of pink was highlighted in the clouds over the Windows fin. I quickly set up the tripod and did an exposure of a North Window silhouette before booking it up to the North Window itself. I walked through the North Window and spotted the outcrop I needed to be on to get my shot. Upon climbing a few feet down from the window, an NPS sign on the ground said, "This is not a trail, blah blah blah." The brochure I got from the gate had a picture of the specific composition I was going for, so I ignored the sign at went on my way. To get out on the right section of outcrop, it requires a small, easy but mildly exposed move. Holding a fully extended tripod with a dSLR attached makes it more treacherous. I made the move and set up my composition at Turret Arch. By now the sky over the La Sals (partially obscured by a group of fins and spires) was turning a golden yellow. I fired off a few bracketed exposures and then sat back to enjoy the magnificent morning and wait for my light. A young European couple soon appeared in the North Window, but kindly moved when the alpenglow hit. The alpenglow was absolutely stunning, similar to what I witnessed to days before at the Delicate Arch sunset. I got my shots before the glow went away. I am so thankful for that beautiful alpenglow because once the sun crested the horizon, the clouds in the east were too dense to let it pierce through.

I got down from the outcrop and headed down a faint social trail to catch the Windows Primitive Loop downhill to the east. From the trail shot a the obligatory shot of the North and South Windows before heading up the north section of the loop. Nearing the trail head, light started to spray out of the clouds and onto the landscape to the southwest. I went back up the trail a hundred yards or so to take some more shots. I spotted my dad up on an outcrop near Turret Arch, he spotted me too and started heading down. When he got within earshot, I shouted, "I'm gonna head over to Double Arch." He gave the thumbs-up and I booked it that way.

Let me tell you, Double Arch is even better in the early morning light! I found a nice composition in the sandy wash below the trail, moments later a nice glow pierced through the clouds onto Double Arch, I fired off a few exposures then headed back toward the trailhead. It was darn close to 8AM, and with plans to stop by the Canyonlands Needles District on the way home, I was itching to get going.

We stopped at the La Sal Mountains overlook once more to get one last glimpse at Arches National Park, then made the trek back through Moab and south on US 191. I dozed for a while then woke up in time for the turnoff to the Needles. A front was moving in from the Pacific, and an overcast day at the Needles District was imminent. The drive into the Needles is long, but stunningly beautiful with massive cliffs of Wingate Sandstone underscored by a hefty slug of the Chinle Formation. Evidently the climbers appreciate the Wingate Cliffs, as this is an extensive climbing (take notes, Janelle).

At the Needles visitor center, some couple was going crazy about some red stain on the rocks along the Slickrock Foot Trail, asking the rangers what it was. The man kept saying, "The only thing I can think of is Cinnabar," and muttering about his knowledge of geology. The rangers said, "Maybe it's paint." The couple would reply, "It had to have been painted by ancient people!" We showed our parks pass and quickly got away from there.

The Slickrock Foot Trail happened to be our destination as well. We saw the rocks in question, and they definitely had paint on them, and definitely were not from the immediate vicinity. We could not figure out what the fuss was about. It was definitely overcast on the slickrock, and the wind made it cold. It's a nice enough hike, but I could not help by find it rather gloomy. Maybe it's the location too. This place is way out in the middle of an expansive valley, you feel like your in the middle of nowhere. It's too beautiful to be "God forsaken", it feels more like a forgotten sea of slickrock severely isolated from the neighboring cliffs, canyons and landmarks of slightly more astounding beauty. Maybe if the sun was shining I wouldn't have been in such a gothic mood.

Leaving Canyonlands, it was time to head back to Flagstaff. It remained overcast as well passed through the comparatively boring land surrounding Monticello, Blanding and Bluff. We got excited as we approached Comb Ridge and were able to the name flurry of contorted rock layers as we quickly drove down section. We crested the Lime Ridge Anticline and stopped to look for the small syncline separating the Lime Ridge and Raplee Anticlines, and were successful in doing so. Far off in the distance, the monoliths of Monument Valley were visible with brilliant sun rays illuminating the flats in front of them. The drive into Mexican Hat was nice as always, we admired Cedar Mesa, Mexican Hat Rock and the meanders of the San Juan River as it leaves the upwarped strata of the Honaker Trail Formation on Raplee Ridge. We looked with nostalgia at the restaurant at the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat, right on the small cliff above the San Juan River itself. We made the obligatory stop at the Redlands Overlook just northeast of Monument Valley, and a hole in the storm clouds provided a portal for the bright afternoon sun to turn Brigham's Throne and the Stagecoach into dark silhouettes under an overwhelming cloudscape.

As we neared the turnoff for Monument Valley proper, I had an suspicion that the portal the clouds to the southwest would allow for a spectacular light show on the Mittens. I forked over $10 so we could enter Monument Valley. It had been about a year and a half since my Dad and I had been to the Mittens overlook and Ansel Adams rock, and we barely recognized the scene. Well, the Mittens haven't changed, but where a dirt lot once ran up to Ansel's Rock, the tribe has now paved a parking lot! Taken aback, we quickly parked a walked the 20 yards on the pavement to the overlook. My suspicion was correct, and an amazing light show ensued over the Mittens and Merrick Butte. The wind was gusting like crazy, sand was blowing in our teeth, but we remained there awestruck by the light show unfolding over such a grand scene, snapping off picture after picture after picture. Once sure that the sun was fully eclipsed by the dark clouds in the western sky, we left satisfied. $10 for 20 minutes was never so worthwhile.

We drove through Kayenta and headed through the long valley between Black Mesa and the Organ Rock Monocline. As we approached the turnoff for the Peabody Coal Mine, the sun was piercing through the clouds once more. My dad couldn't see the road too well because of the sun so we made the quick two minute drive up to the top of Black Mesa. A tall rainbow was in view to the northeast, then it faded as the western sky filled with yellow sunbeams and a misty glow was cast over the shrubs in front of us. It was a perfect way to end a perfect Colorado Plateau adventure!

I was exhausted for the rest of the drive, and fell asleep in a wholly uncomfortable position that left a crick in my neck for a couple days after. The pain in my neck was worth it however. Of the marvelous adventures I have had this year, this may have been the best. I came home with a whole bunch of great photos, saw a ton of new and wonderful places, and just had an awesome time doing it.

Permit $$

Canyonlands National Park
Vehicles: $10 (Good for 7 days)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Monticello drive north of US 191. Turn left at highway 211, signed as the turnoff for Canyonlands National Park. Pay the fee to enter the park, and continue straight to near the end of road to a signed pulloff for the Slickrock Foot Trail.
page created by hippiepunkpirate on Nov 10 2010 1:17 pm
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