Elephant Hill

Monticello, Utah (SanJuan County)

Last Updated: 04/20/2019
5 / 5 ( 3 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Length: 14.52 miles
Highest Elevation: 5308 feet
Duration: About 5 hours
Shape of Trail: Other Shapes
Best Direction to Travel: West
Nearest Town: Monticello
Nearest Town w/ Services: Monticello
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: Canyonlands National Park
District: Needles District
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Highlight: Elephant Hill
The Elephant Hill off-road trail takes you deep into the interior of the otherworldly scenery that lays within the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park. Some call it one of the most technical routes in all of Utah, which may or may not be true depending on your driving skills. Without question, though, is that this trail has some of the most amazing scenery and solitude in the area accessible by four-wheel drive. Along the route, you are immersed in the thousands of the colorful sandstone spires that come up from the desert floor, washes, cliff edges, and narrow slot canyons. The road over Elephant Hill was originally built in the early 1940s by a man named Puge Stocks, to improve the cattle grazing activity in the area. Several small airstrips were also built in the area after the road was finished, so light airplanes could service the ranching operations. Although it is not visible today, one of the runways was near the road on the top of Elephant Hill! Only twenty-four day-use permits are allowed per day for this trail, so be sure to plan appropriately. This is also a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail.



7 day forecast for Elephant Hill

Route Information

Technical Rating:

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1. Trailhead (0 mi)
Drive through the gate uphill. Even though uphill has the right-of-way, be sure to check for other vehicles coming down.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 38.141680, -109.827611

Starting Point: Moab, Utah

Drive south 40 miles on 191 and turn right/west onto 211. Follow 211 west for roughly 34 miles to the Guard Station at Canyonlands National Park. Continue another 3 miles past the visitor center and turn left at the sign for Elephant Hill. Follow a dirt road another 2.7 miles to the parking lot for Chesler Park hiking trailhead. You will see a gate with a steep road winding up the cliffside as your starting point.



Trail Reviews (5)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Very happy to have finally made it to Elephant Hill. Was very doable in my '18 stock Rubicon JLU. There were only a couple of spots that pushed its limits just a bit, but in the end were no problem when scouted. The entire area offers spectacular, other-worldly scenery. We camped a couple of nights in Devil's Kitchen, which offers access to some excellent hiking. Trail was in good condition overall (also went down to Horsehoof campsite and up to the confluence trailhead).

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
My new favorite trail in Moab/Canyonlands! It's a nice medium trail, fun and not boring for a highly capable vehicle, challenging but not dangerous for aggressive stock SUV's (Wrangler, Land Rover), a lot of fun obstacles and sandy roads without a lot of jarring or bumpy driving. The views on the confluence are amazing. There are great campsites. Wonderful rock formations. We ran this today in an XJ with a 4" lift and 31's, and a more aggressive Wrangler. Both drivers had fun, and no recovery or assistance was needed. The Narrows is doable by normal vehicles but *not* wide vehicles like a Hummer or Raptor, it will not fit. Many who use this trail will ask TrailsOffroad, "will my stock SUV make it?"... the answer is, "yes, a stock SUV with 4WD will make it, if you're an experienced driver AND you're willing to take some underbody and body damage"- in my opinion. A Wrangler in experienced hands will probably have no trouble and take no damage. We saw a group with a stock XTerra and XJ on top of the Elephant Hill, so it is do-able if you know what you're doing. Remember that this trail requires a special day use permit from the NPS and that they only sell 24 per day, so make your reservations more than 2 days in advance if you plan to come. April and October are your best seasons because summer is HOT in Canyonlands. Watch out for hikers, there is a lot of foot traffic here.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I took the opportunity during the 2017 Easter Jeep Safari to tackle the famous Elephant Hill, one of the few trails in the Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT. Taking the trip with others participating in the EJS gave me the opportunity to see how other drivers with varying skill levels handle the moderate trail. The EJS rates the trail a 4, while Trailsoffroad rates the trail slightly more difficult. The sky was sunny, the temperature was in the mid 70's, the trail was dry, and the scenery was spectacular. The trail leader, who has run this trail dozens of times, was very helpful with identifying landmarks and citing history of the area. Although they were pointed out to me, I did not see elephants in the rock shapes at the top of Elephant Hill. The trail leader spoke about how much the trail has changed in the past season. He felt that the trail has become a bit more difficult over the past year with rock obstacles becoming more exposed and difficult to maneuver. He was of the opinion that the trail conditions easily justified an EJS rating of 5. This is not an easy trail. Our group consisted of ten vehicles, 9 Jeep Wranglers and one Toyota Land Cruiser. All of the stock vehicles had difficulty on the trail conquering the rocky terrain. Three of the trail's obstacles required the ability to back the vehicle to get set up for an upcoming tight switchback. It is clear that many drivers have difficulty with the skill of backing. The Land Cruiser required assistance from others to finish the trail. This trail is a real challenge for an inexperienced driver or a stock vehicle. It was beneficial to watch drivers of different skills and vehicles of different capabilities tackle this trail. It helps to verify the trail's rating. For me, this is a trail to come back to during my next Moab visit.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I have to admit, I really did not know what to expect when I did Elephant Hill. I had heard how steep and treacherous it was, and that if I do not like steep trails, stay away from this one. The day before doing the trail, I walked up the road a little to scope it out and see what I was getting myself into. I walked up along side a fairly stock Jeep JK, and figured ok, it can't be that bad. I hung out and took in the views as I waited for more vehicles going up or down. The next vehicle I saw was a beautiful condition 80 series Land Cruiser towing a trailer. A trailer! I thought to myself how is this possible with what I had heard about this trail. So I introduced myself to the gentleman driving and found out that he had to Hi-Lift his trailer in order to pivot it to make it the switchbacks. I can say though after seeing an 80 series come down towing a trailer, I figured I wouldn't sweat the trail anymore. The next day we did the trail and I was just amazed at its sure beauty. I do not know of too many trails that takes you into the heart of such terrain and scenery. I would do this trail over and over because I am sure it is one of those trails that one time is just not enough to soak it all in.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
The Joint Trail is an amazing hike that is difficult to get to- either you can drive the difficult Elephant Hill 4x4 road or hike the 11+ mile loop from the same trailhead as the 4x4 road. Either way it is worth the trip, the Joint Trail is a unique experience. The cracks are narrow and tall, but it is not a claustrophobic experience. It is also a nice break from the heat of the day, inside the Joints the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding desert. I hope you enjoy the video, it is the entire trail.

Questions & Answers (2)

Q: We have a 2 door 2020 JL Rubicon that is bone stock driveline wise (no lift, stock 33" BFG KO2's and factory skids). We are experienced 4 wheelers and have done difficult trails in the past (Rubicon, Dusy Ershim, etc.), but those were in more capable vehicles (35's and 3.5" lift, skids, etc.). How do you think the 2 door JL Rubicon in stock form would do on this trail. I guess my biggest concern is clearance.
–Gordon (12/26/2019)
–Todd (12/27/2019)
Q: Doable in a stock '15 Cherokee Trailhawk?
–Justin Wild (02/01/2018)
–Ben Ruddell (10/06/2019)
–Justin Wild (02/05/2018)
–Todd (02/04/2018)

Writer Information



Todd is an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever he can. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that holds true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American West to explore were his reasons behind starting Trailsoffroad.com. On any given weekend you can find Todd on some obscure 4x4 trail or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.
For individual use only, not to be shared.