Smooth rock amongst the Needles
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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