Cave Spring TrailNeedles District, Canyonlands National Park, Ut
Kid Friendly, Educational, and Big Views from the Top
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: 0.1 – 0.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 7 – 60 ft
Approximate Hiking Time: 20-60 min
Features: Cowboy Camp, Petroglyphs
Nearest Town: Monticello, Ut
Hike Cave Spring Trail to visit a historic cowboy camp, pictographs, and the Cave Spring on this short hike. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge climb the ladders to the top of the mesa for big views of the surrounding area.
- Trail Condition 80% 80%
- Usage 95% 95%
- Trail Head Easy to Find 100% 100%
- Kid Friendly 70% 70%
Hike Tips & Tricks
1. When To Go
Year Round, although April – May and September – October are cooler. In the winter snow and ice can make the trail slippery.
2. What To Wear
A hat in the summer will help to keep the sun off your face. Ice cleats are a must in the winter as the slickrock can be very slippery.
3. What To Bring
Water to make sure you’re hydrated, especially in the summer heat.
Take the main park road from the Visitor Center for 0.7 miles and turn left toward the residences. Follow the road for another 0.7 miles and turn left onto Cave Spring Road. Continue down Cave Spring Road for about 1 mile to the trailhead, note that this part of the road is a well-maintained 2WD gravel road.
Cowboys tended their cattle herds in the Needles District of Canyonlands from the late 1800s all the way into the 1970s when cattle grazing stopped. They would live in cowboy camps spread throughout the cattle grazing areas.
Today a short 0.1 mi walk from the parking area takes you to an example of one of these cowboy camps. At the camp you can still see items that the cowboys left behind.
Continue a bit further down the trail from the cowboy camp and you’ll find pictographs and the trail’s namesake – Cave Spring. At this point you can complete the Cave Spring loop for a moderate hike or return to the trailhead.
A short distance from the cowboy camp you’ll reach the first of 2 ladders that take you to the top of the mesa. While the ladders aren’t hard to climb per se you will need to use the rock wall for balance at the top. Our kids loved this section of the trail, but younger children will need help at the top of the ladders.
Once you’re at the top of the ladder section simply follow the cairns on the slick rock around the loop.
The views at the top offer spectacular panoramas of the Needles District. At the end of the slickrock, the trail leads down a steeper section before dropping into a wash that returns to the parking area and trailhead.
Why is this hike easy/moderate?
The walk from the trailhead to the cowboy camp and petroglyphs is well maintained, flat, and easy to walk. If you complete the loop the hike is rated moderate as it requires climbing 2 ladders and following cairns on the slickrock for navigation.
More to Choose From: Hike-Utah!
Check out this and more hikes in Canyonlands National Park.
Big Spring Squaw Canyon trail takes you across the open canyon bottom and over a steep slick rock pass as you climb in and out of the canyons.
Length: 0.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 7 ft
Roadside Ruin is an introductory trail to the Needles area of Canyonlands. See a granary and learn about the different plant life.
Length: 0.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 36 ft
Pothole Point trail heads to a series of potholes which are an abundant source of life in the desert.