Confluence Overlook Trail, Needles District: Confluence Overlook Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Confluence Overlook Trail - 11.0 miles
Needles District: Confluence Overlook Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||11.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||4,940' - 4,920'|
|Elevation Change:||-20' net elevation loss|
Confluence Overlook Trail - 11.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Confluence Overlook Trail crosses Big Spring Canyon and miles of open desert to spectacular views of the Colorado River - Green River confluence. The two rivers define Canyonlands National Park's three districts, and each are visible from the overlook.
The Confluence Overlook Trail is relatively flat, but runs through long stretches of hot, open desert. Carry ample water and sun protection on this fully exposed trail:
The trail drops about 120' into Big Spring Canyon, then climbs immediately out on the far side. Locate cairns that lead straight up the canyon wall, and avoid social routes that meander about the canyon floor.
A small ladder leads up to the canyon rim and a small keyhole in the rocks (1.2 miles). Once through the keyhole, travel levels on a high plateau for nearly a mile. This enjoyable stretch offers rangy views across vast desert grasslands and grabens. Grabens are long depressions (or down-thrown land blocks) between geologic faults.
The trail drops gradually into lower Elephant Canyon and passes through a colorful dry wash for about mile.
It rises out of Elephant Canyon and drops down into Twin Valleys, a grassy expanse highlighted by spring wildflowers. Desert grasslands form in areas where wind-blown sediments settle in layers several feet thick, frequently in grabens bound by tall rock walls.
Look for Indian ricegrass and needle-and-thread grass, whose protein-rich seeds were an important food source for Native Americans.
The trail continues west over a N-S Jeep road (4.2 miles) and scales an outcrop leading into Cyclone Canyon. It crosses another N-S jeep road while in Cyclone Canyon (4.7 miles) with access to the Cyclone Canyon Trail.
A sign marks this intersection, however it may cause confusion. Simply cross the jeep road and continue west. This segment actually runs along a jeep spur road as well; be sure you're heading west on the correct road.
The trail remains in open desert for another .6 miles before dead-ending at a small out house and parking area. A sign directs you west for the last .5 miles to Confluence Overlook (5.5 miles : 4,920').
The Maze and Island in the Sky districts are easily identifiable, as are the distinct Green and Colorado rivers nearly 1,000' below. Look for Ekker Butte on the northwest horizon.
- N38 10.683 W109 48.998 — 0.0 Miles: Confluence Overlook Trailhead
- Carry a detailed map. There are several jeep road intersections on this trail, and a good map will eliminate confusion.
- This trail is particularly hot and exposed. Carry ample water and full sun protection into the backcountry.
- Follow cairns closely, and always note the last cairn you saw was. If it's been a while in between trail markings, stop hiking, gather your bearings, and retrace yourself back to the last known trail marking.
- There are some minor distance discrepancies among map sources and even trail signs. While this should make little difference, it is worth taking note of and planning for the full 11 miles outlined here.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips in Canyonlands National Park. Permits can be acquired at Visitor Centers the day of or day before your trip. Advance reservations can be made up to 4 months out and are recommended during peak season.
Call the Backcountry Reservation Office for more information: 435.259.4351
- There's a $30 fee per party to backcountry camp in Canyonlands National Park.
- Hikers must camp in designated sites where explicitly stated. You may otherwise choose your own campsite in designated at-large zones.
- At-large sites must be at least 1 mile away from any road and 300' from any archeological site, historical site or water source.
- Mountain Bikers and 4WDs must stay on established roads and camp in designated sites at all times.
- Fires are not permitted at backcountry campsites or within the backcountry in Canyonlands National Park.
- Desert water sources are scarce and fragile. Do not bathe or wash dishes in creeks or pools.
Squaw Flat Campground is an ideal base camp for day hikes to popular destinations like Chesler Park, Druid Arch and the Joint Trail. There are 26 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bathrooms, fire grates, picnic tables, tent pads and water are available year-round. Fee is $15 per night. Squaw Flat typically fills every day from late March through June and again from early September to mid-October.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $25 fee per vehicle to enter Canyonlands National Park (defined as private passenger cars with 15 people or less). Passes are good for 7 consecutive days.
- $15 per motorcycle.
- $10 per person (walk or bike).
- Dogs are not permitted on trails in Canyonlands National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
The Confluence Overlook Trail begin at the Big Spring Canyon Trailhead in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
The trailhead is located at the end of the Scenic Drive roadway. From the Visitor's Center in the Needles District, simply turn left out of the Visitor's Center and drive about 100 yards to a stop sign. Turn right and continue on this road for 4-5 miles until it dead ends into the Big Spring Canyon Trailhead. Park in the designated area and the trail leaves from the south side of the trailhead.
Canyonlands National Park
2282 SW Resource Blvd
Moab, UT 84532