Scenic USA - Utah

Chesler Park

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Chesler Park - Needles District, Utah

Photos by Rob Jones
Wilderness Vagabond - Trip Report

     Chesler Park is a relatively smooth spot amid a heavily wrinkled Utah landscape. Surrounded by the rugged Needles to the east and Chesler Canyon to the west, this recovering grassland looks out of place in the arid environment of Canyonlands National Park. The Needles District is well know for it 60 miles of challenging trails, referred to as a hiker's paradise. The red and white layered Cedar Mesa Sandstone pinnacles present a one-of-a-kind backdrop, also proving a formidable obstacle. One route into Chesler Park is by way of a narrow passageway through the Needles, called the Joint Trail. Starting off at the Joint Trail - Needles District, Blanding, Utah Elephant Hill Trailhead, the Joint Trail and the Chesler Park Loop trails turn into an 11 mile roundtrip.
     These needle-like rock formations are sometimes described as a sandstone forest. But in this desert area, scattered juniper may be the only hearty tree species found. The grasses, shrubs and wildflowers rely on late fall and winter precipitation. Once an open range, the fragile desert plants are slow to recover. National Park Service biologists monitor plants in 27 vegetation transects in Canyonlands. These areas are located throughout, providing data since the mid 1980s.
     The National Park Service allows camping in three places along the eastern edge of Chesler Park. One of the last truly dark sky campgrounds, the Chesler meadow offers some of darkest skies remaining in the lower 48 states. Areas without light pollution have become increasingly rare outside the national parks.

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