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Thread: Beef Basin and the Needles District of Canyonlands

  1. #1

    Beef Basin and the Needles District of Canyonlands

    Our Jeep Cherokee KL Conquered Canyonlands

    Deep within the "Needles District" of Canyonlands National Park are several 4x4 trails. The Elephant Hill trail is considered by many to be fairly challenging, particularly to stock 4x4's. Many off-road trail guides written about the area rate this particular trail as one of the most difficult in the area.

    We entered Canyonlands National Park from the south. We passed through Beef Basin and Ruin Park. The areas are rich with ancient Ancestral Puebloan artifacts and ruins. A neighbor of ours who is original from the area claims that Beef Basin holds on the most heavy numbered concentrations of ruins in anywhere in the USA. We visited several sites I had never seen before, after getting tips and leads from the guy. We visited ruins in Beef Basin Wash, Ruin Canyon, Ruin Park, and elsewhere.

    Just before crossing the southern boundary of Canyonlands NP, the route takes you through some particularly challenging 4x4 roads, including a descent at Bobby's Hole and a climb up SOB Hill. This hill was very eroded. traction was difficult climbing up the angles ascent. We saw why it was so named. There is a sharp 90 degree turn while climbing up at about a 45 degree slope with not much room to negotiate. I made several attempts at the turn, but could not get enough traction. I eventually had to pull forward and back up the last part.

    While camped at the backcountry campground called Devil's Kitchen, which is only accessible via foot, mtn bike or 4x4. As we pulled into the campground, several other campers all came out to the road to greet us. All other campers had driven Wranglers in. We came in a Jeep Cherokee KL. If ever there was a picture perfect example of the description, "jaws dropped" it would have been the case. One comment we heard was "someone brought a 'station wagon' over Elephant Hill!!"

    While camped at Devil's kitchen, my wife and I hiked around to several beautiful places while were in the area. Some of them were Chesler Park, the Pinnacles, the Joint Trail, and into Elephant Canyon. We did not make it to Druid Arch.

    On our day of departure from the area, we passed by a few more obstacles on the trail. They were all fairly amazing. The most challenging spot of all was an unnamed feature located between an obstacle called "The Silver Stairs" and "Elephant Hill" itself. It is located about a 1000 yards from Elephant Hill on the exit climb up and over to get to the parking lot. This particular obstacle, not named, has about a 4 foot high angled ledge that if you were to drop off of it......well, they'd be a problem. The ledge angled in such a way as to make the road narrower and narrower until in connected to a high sandstone wall on the right shoulder of the road. Fortunately the KL was itself narrow enough to squeeze against that right wall and dropped down the ledge at a place where it was only about 24 inches high. My wife got a picture of the spot after I came off of the ledge and just down a corner... I did not want to go back up and try it again for a better picture Oh well. It's unnamed, but I have a few things I could call it...

    Here are some pics
    Attached Images Attached Images                                  
    Only Dead Fish Go With The Flow

  2. Likes oldno7, Sandstone Addiction liked this post
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  4. #2
    Nice. In my opinion, that big loop is the best 4x4 trip in Utah.

    Bobbys Hill looks like it has been somewhat graded recently (or maybe the photo is deceiving)? I remember it being much worse. How did Bobbys Hill compare to Elephant Hill?
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

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  6. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott P View Post
    Nice. In my opinion, that big loop is the best 4x4 trip in Utah.

    Bobbys Hill looks like it has been somewhat graded recently (or maybe the photo is deceiving)? I remember it being much worse. How did Bobbys Hill compare to Elephant Hill?
    Agreed. The loop is great. We only went in the down direction, but Bobby's Hole did not seem too bad. The section referred to as SOB Hill was worse. It had lot of erosion and did not appear to have much signs of maintenance. Elephant Hill was not too bad either. The Park Service has applied that concrete mixture to reduce erosion. The back side going up, the way we did it, is a much more steep climb than going up the parking lot my opinion.
    Only Dead Fish Go With The Flow

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  8. #4
    Bogley BigShot oldno7's Avatar
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    We're all here, because we ain't all there.
    Great TR.
    Would love to do that trip.
    I'm not Spartacus

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  9. #5

    GoPro Video of the Needles District Canyonlands

    For those interested, I made a very amatureish video of two main challenges on the loop route in Canyonlands National Park between Beef Basin and Elephant Hill. The video is mainly of our descent of the trail down into Bobby's Hole and of our ascent up Elephant Hill in exiting the trail.

    It was my first attempt at using the GoPro and the resulting video shows it.

    Anyway, I share it just to give anyone interested some idea of what the current state of the trail descending Bobby's Hole looks like in May 2015, and what the trail ascending up Elephant Hill looks like as well.

    Here is the link:
    Only Dead Fish Go With The Flow

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  11. #6
    When people out there bash the Cherokee (especially the newly designed one), they need to re-evaluate their stance on this very capable vehicle. Even as a stock Wrangler owner, I was tentative about attempting this trail. Kudos to you and great TR!
    Mountain guy trapped in the wetlands of Florida.

  12. #7
    The new Cherokee doesn't deserve the Jeep name, it's a Chrysler.

  13. #8
    we took our bone stock 2008 Jeep Liberty with pure city tires up a challenging Jeep trail in the Calif Sierras (Mt Raymond overlooking Star Lakes) - it was fantastic. The traction control rocks.

  14. #9
    Nice Spring Trip Report, West Jordan Traveler.

    I was with a group in Devils Kitchen Camp area, first part of October, for 3 nites. We had two camp sites, 4 vehicles (3, 2-Dr Rubicons and 1, 4-Dr. Rubicon) Camped next to us was a "lifted" Jeep Grand Cherokee. Before our trip - we had planned to enter via Beef Basin and Bobby's Hole - we were told by the Monticello BLM Office and the Nat Park Office though that that sections in Bobby's Hole area were "ravined" and impassible because of recent heavy rains. When we got to the Needles Park Office, (before entering via Elephant Hill) we spoke with a backcountry ranger who told us that "another ranger" days before, entering from the Devil's Kitchen side, had become "stuck" in the Bobby's Hole area and had to get "winched out" & rescued - the ranger had a radio. Would be nice to get a "current report" on the route condition. That is a stunning loop in my opinion.

    SOB Hill is a short right angle turn with large rocks in place. Going down, is one thing, coming back up, with "longer vehicles", is a challenge; much easier with a 2-DR Jeep & lockers. It's a very tight turning radius.

    Coming back out Elephant Hill. We saw an FJ Cruiser that had to get winched up and out the last steep gravel, rock spot. On the Rubicons, the rear lockers made a difference. The gearing on the JGC 4L must have been more than adequate to crawl "up" the last EH challenge.

    I've driven Jeep Grand Cherokees in the Maze, Arches and elsewhere. They are very capable vehicles. Unless they have lift on them though, I've become partial (in the Maze and Needles) to Rubicon's that have clearance, lockers (a potential lift) and Hill Descent Control. Was also in the Maze (Rims and down in) in both the spring and fall, that is great country too.

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  16. #10
    Good trip report!

    Bobbys Hole was in good conditions as the pictures show. We have seen it in such conditions years ago and in much worse conditions too. We traveled from Beef Basin into the Hole by a Grand Cherokee and a Wrangler Unlimited Sahara and the other way round with an old Ford Explorer. The last one was quite a bit tricky.

    SOB is tight but one can do it with some back and forth, no need for lockers anyway. Elephant Hill? We did it in an 1990 Blazer, in a Ford Explorer from the first serie, Grand Cherokees and Wranglers. None of them had any difficulties and no one lockers.

    My wife did the whole loop in the Grand Cherokee - pictures and a report in German.

    A longer report from a roundtrip in an 4dr Wrangler is also available.

    Good conditions at the descend into Bobbys Hole

    My wife at the SOB corner

    Starting at the Silver Stairs

    Going down into Elephant Canyon

    Elephant Hill

    Bobbys Hole 4 years ago

    Coming down

    Within one of the Grabens

    The stairs with a Wrangler. (Seems to us they started to pave the whole thing?)

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  18. #11
    Nice report sir. Lockers or no lockers. V-6, V-8, tire sizes - diameter, width - engine sizes, vehicle sizes, length, width. road/route conditions, access to vehicles, clearance. Once upon a time, a dirt bike over Elephant Hill, and then a Bronco and years later an Explorer/Jeep GCK. That was my experience. And then most recently went in with a 2 DR V-6 Rubicon & MT tires. If one gets in and out of that country safely, and the vehicle is in one piece, what does it matter? My last three trips to Glen Cyn area/Maze though (with the Rubicon); much different driving experience (and diminished concern for the underbody and tires) than I had experienced ever before. The diversity of people, places and vehicles I suppose; views abound. Regardless, outstanding country, scenery and splendor in Utah Canyon Country.

    A few years back, after the Jeep Grand Cherokee V-8 came into the shop (for big repairs after a Glen Canyon/Maze trip), the owner told me, "With your travels, you should get a Rubicon." Turns out he has two; one re-done for Moab 4W terrain and the other a mountain "hunting vehicle". And so the Rubicon path began; an "expedition vehicle" to get into & outa places, to hike and explore; and be able to pack extra gas and water. The shop owner has also made suggestions re additions/changes to the vehicle; Last trip met a fellow driving a 2DR Rubicon; he had a new electric 50 qt. cooler, connected to the "right back" "plug" in his rig. Interesting. If vehicles are the route in, containers for gas, 4 Gal Rotopax,;2 Gal Rotopax water; and/or 10L (2.64 gal) Specter water containers sure help out; for multi day and longer mileage trips.

  19. #12
    My 2008 jeep cherokee sport was once of the best vehicles I ever owned. I loved how narrow it was and was constantly amazed at where it would go completely stock like it was. Now I have a 4runner and love it even more. It's got 198,000 miles on it and never needs anything. Just this past weekend I was thankful for that locking differential out in the desert quail hunting.
    beefcake. BEEFCAKE!

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