Day hike or backpacking trip through a playland of rocks, to what is arguably the most scenic spot in all of the Needles District.


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A broad clearing surrounded by legions of rock towers, with a fortress-like formation at the center––it evokes a storybook setting of stone giants, goblins, and dragons besieging a castle.

This is Chesler Park, and it’s widely considered the most attractive place in the Needles’ backcountry.

It also has some of the best backcountry campsites, tucked into quiet alcoves among the fantastical scene. Mapped here is a lollipop loop starting from Elephant Hill trailhead, which is the most direct way to Chesler Park, and very doable as a day hike.

The path weaves through shady canyons and crosses sunny meadows, climbs to views on slickrock ridges, and dives into slots between boulders.

It may not feel like an efficient route, but there are no easy passages through this convoluted landscape, and much of the joy is in the journey. It’s not the only way to reach Chesler Park, though, and you may prefer a longer hike, especially if camping in Chesler as part of a backpacking trip.

You could, for example, start at Squaw Flat Trailhead and go up [Big Spring Canyon]( instead.

Chesler Park also makes the perfect base camp for other day hikes in the area, such as [Druid Arch]( or Joint Trail, so you may want to spend more than one night there. Camping is allowed only in designated sites, and only with a permit.

Permits may be available upon arrival at the visitor center, but [advance reservation]( is recommended because sites are in high demand, especially during spring and fall.

There is no water in Chesler Park, except after recent rain or snow, so you’ll have to pack in all your own or supply from nearby canyons with springs, like Elephant Canyon or Big Spring Canyon.

Even these sources are not always reliable, however, so you should inquire at the visitor center before beginning your trek. Sources: