The Canyon Rims Recreation Area covers well over 100,000 acres of high mesa wilderness in the Moab region of Utah. This recreation area is situated on a plateau that overlooks the east end of Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River Basin. This high mesa landscape is composed grassy meadows and odd looking wind carved sandstone outcrops, which looks quite surreal. The mesa top cliffs definitely are the star of the show in Canyon Rims, because the unobstructed views of Canyonlands stretch all the way out to the horizon.
One of the best viewing areas at Canyon Rims can be found by following Needles Overlook Road to the end of the line, where the Needles Overlook awaits. Needles Overlook Road is the only paved road in this recreation area, so any kind of vehicle can do the trip. This scenic overlook offers a bird’s eye view of the Canyonlands Needles District from high on top of a cliff, which is quite thrilling to experience!
The Needles Overlook has facilities and there is an ample size parking area. Some of the foot trails are paved, while the dirt trails are smooth and well maintained. There are several individual viewpoint overlooks to be found here and they do have guard rails as a safety measure. One viewing area is covered with a canopy, which is nice for a hot sunny day. There is also a second scenic view area called Six Shooter Overlook that features the distant Six Shooter rock formations that are located in the neighboring Indian Creek Recreation Area and Bears Ears National Monument. The Six Shooter Overlook is adjacent to the Needles Overlook and the pathway is also easy to find.
The views from the towering cliffs do extend very far into the horizon, so it is best to pack binoculars or a telephoto lens for the trip. Canyonlands National Park covers a vast territory and the Needles District is just one of four big sections in this park. The Needles District offers many unique geological features to see and the the namesake comes from the rows of needle shaped rock spires that are located next to the confluence of the Green River and Colorado River. The Canyonlands Needles are quite a long distance away from the scenic overlook in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area, but they can still be seen with the naked eye.
Some days are better than others at scenic overlooks, so opting for a clear sunny day is best for a Needles Overlook visit. I toured this area during the rampant Colorado wildfire season of 2019, so plenty of smoky haze had settled in the Canyonlands basin. Even so, the distant views of mesa top silhouettes in the haze were mesmerizing to see. The views may have only stretched out for a few miles on that smoky day, but this still left plenty of the majestic Canyonlands landscape to see.
Parts of the Colorado River can also bee seen from the high vantage point at Needles Overlook and the patches of blue water in this harsh red rock setting are interesting to see. The Needles Overlook stands so high on the cliff, that Jeeps driving the dirt trails on the canyon floor way down below actually do look smaller than ants. The Needles Overlook is truly a place where eagle eye views can be found and this is what makes the trip worthwhile!
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