This great Canyonlands loop hike offers big adventure in a relatively short distance. Highlights include an old cowboy camp caves ladders and signs of ancient inhabitants. At just 0.6 mile round trip this hike is suitable for most children and adults; however two places that require the usage of ladders may be unsuitable for some. Hiking the loop in a clockwise direction allows hikers to see most of the highlights of the trail while offering the option to turn back at the ladders.

The Trailhead

The trailhead for Cave Spring is located in The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. To reach the Cave Spring trailhead from Moab, Utah:

  1. Drive south on US-191 for approximately 40 miles to the signed junction for Canyonlands National Park.
  2. Turn right onto UT-211 and continue for 34 miles before arriving at the entrance to Canyonlands.
  3. Drive 1.0 mile past the entrance station and turn left, following signs for Cave Spring.
  4. Drive 0.7 miles and turn left onto Cave Spring Road (gravel).
  5. Drive 1.0 mile to the Cave Spring Trailhead at the end of the road (38.157235,-109.751559).

Note: There is a $25 per vehicle fee to enter Canyonlands National Park. Trail guide brochures with additional information are available at the trailhead for a $.50 cent fee.

The Hike

From the parking area, begin hiking on the well-marked trail. A junction is quickly encountered. Turn left here to hike the loop in a clockwise direction. Doing so offers hikers the opportunity to see most of the highlights of the trail while still having the option to turn back at the ladders if they are unable or would prefer not to climb them.

Soon after the junction, the trail arrives at an old cowboy camp (38.156916,-109.752282). The camp is fenced off and full of old rusty relics from the past. Do not enter the camp or touch or disturb artifacts. This camp was used by cattle ranchers from the late 1800’s until 1975 when cattle ranching was discontinued in Canyonlands National Park.

Continue hiking down the trail as it winds through tall stands of sagebrush and past small caves and overhangs. After a short distance, the trail arrives at it’s namesake: Cave Spring (38.156733,-109.753417). An interpretive sign and a small pool of water mark the spot. This water was crucial to the cowboys and prehistoric people who lived and worked in this area.

The trail continues beyond Cave Spring and past several more caves. If you look closely, you can see signs of Ancestral Puebloan people who lived here up to 1,000 years ago. Do not touch or disturb artifacts or rock art that you may find along the way.

Continue hiking until reaching the first of two wooden ladders that provide access to the top of the sandstone dome ahead (38.156284,-109.754150). If you are unable to or are uncomfortable with climbing the ladders, this is an excellent turnaround point; otherwise, climb the two ladders to the top of the sandstone butte. Once on top, follow the cairns (small stacks of rocks) that mark the route as it heads north. Take in the panoramic view before following the cairns back down along the slickrock and back to the trailhead.

Rules and Regulations

  • Pack out all trash.
  • Stay on designated trail.
  • Do not draw or carve on rocks.
  • Do not touch or disturb artifacts or rock art.

Special Considerations

  • This area can be extremely hot during spring, summer and fall. Carry plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing.


This trail guide is provided by Backcountry Post.