Ranger Kathryn's Arches

January 20, 2012

Druid Arch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Druid Arch, one of Canyonlands' largest. Its main opening measures 85' x 20'.

Something is amiss. All the leafless plants tell me it’s winter; the sunlight is pale and wan, telling me it’s winter; I’m on the calendar’s first page, which tells me it’s winter. But — hiking in shorts? 55 degrees? Maybe we’ll call this “the winter that wasn’t.”

Only one set of new prints disturbs the sandy wash; I’m almost alone on this 10.8-mile backcountry trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands NP. Just the way I like it. Heading south from the Elephant Hill trailhead, lots of coyote scat, two dark-eyed juncos, one spider, two ravens and nine mule deer complement six hours of silent refreshment. The prize: my first-ever look at a massive eroded fin of Cedar Mesa sandstone that guards the head of Elephant Canyon.

I have no words for Druid Arch; it’s a good thing a Utah author does. In her book, Desert Quartet, Terry Tempest Williams describes her initial impression of it:

Red Rock. Blue sky. This arch is structured metamorphosis. Once a finlike tower, it has been perforated by a massive cave-in, responsible now for the keyholes where wind enters and turns. What has been opened, removed, eroded away, is as compelling to me as what remains. Druid Arch — inorganic matter — rock rising from the desert floor as a creation of time, weathered, broken, and beautiful.

Having gone as far as I could up-canyon, I lounge only somewhat uncomfortably on cold rock to eat an energy bar and chug a half liter of water. Above me the towering arch is chiseled, alluring, indomitable.

Some call this formation “Utah’s Stonehenge,” but we all know which one existed first.

Which is why it is called the "Needles District." One hikes past these spires to reach Druid.


  1. A Truth – stranger by far than any fiction . . .

    Comment by leroque — January 20, 2012 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks for digging up and sharing the TTW quote. I feel like I am transcending time when I get further appreciation out of a hike that I’ve done a couple times but over a twenty+ year period!

    Comment by midsummerman — January 20, 2012 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  3. Beautiful picture of Druid Arch! I’ve only seen it from the air, I did an aerial tour of Canyonlands a few years ago when I visited Moab. The hike that I did in Needles didn’t go out as far as Druid Arch, just a loop out to Chesler Park and back. The Needles District is amazing, it’s like taking a hike on Tatooine.

    Comment by SciAwakening — March 4, 2012 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

    • Now THAT is a comment that sounds like it was dreamed up by a park interpreter. Tatooine might just be patterned after southeastern Utah. After all, this area did make Lonely Planet’s “10 most surreal landscapes” list. Thanks for the smile!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — March 4, 2012 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

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