Don’t worry about the scary name; this challenging but gratifying 9.8-mile loop was once a confusing route that misled frustrated hikers with old, unclear signage; it’s since been improved. Do bring plenty of water on this daylong excursion, however, as the canyons are often hot and dry.
Start on the Chesler Park Trail, then head south past backcountry campground EC1 up Elephant Canyon toward Druid Arch. At campground EC2, turn southeast and climb two ladders over a slickrock pass into upper Squaw Canyon. Prepare to be stunned by this scenic stretch; you’ll skirt huge sandstone towers within sight of the often-snowcapped La Sal mountains. Spend time to explore this sculpted landscape, then follow small rock cairns over another, lower pass into Big Spring Canyon, which will lead you north back to the trailhead.
Info: Needles and Island in the Sky; nps.gov/cany
-Hike provided by Julian Smith (juliansmith.com), author of Moon Handbooks Four Corners (Avalon Travel Publishing)