Monday, January 20, 2014

Canyonlands Needles District: Cave Spring Trail

One of the first things we did on our September 25th visit to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Utah was to take a short hike on the Cave Spring Trail.

Doug and I both enjoy stories of the Old West, and we have read almost every book written by Louis L'Amour. We knew we had to take this hike when we saw that there was, not only a spring, but an old cowboy camp on this trail.

Canyonlands was extremely remote when livestock were first brought into the area around 1890. Just to get to the pastures often required a ride of two or three days, and cowboys frequently had to stay in the backcountry with the herd for months at a time. To make life a little more pleasant for the cowboys a series of camps were established throughout the area; and, in the Needles District, the Cave Spring Camp was one of the most important. The camp is still largely intact and  offers a fascinating insight into what a cowboy’s life was like in the early 1900s. 

The trail took us around a large rock formation that was narrower at the bottom than at the top, resulting in a large overhang, with alcoves underneath that created cave-like spaces. It was sort of like walking under a large mushroom.
Cave Spring Trail

Outside of the Cowboy Camp

Part of the inside of the camp

This picture shows the large overhang sheltering the camp.

This grain bin was situated near the cowboy camp; and there was actually grain in it.
I half expected a rat to scurry out of it when we lifted the lid. Thankfully, that didn't happen!

Looking back toward another small cave.

Cave Spring is one of the area's few year-round water sources.

When we were there, it looked more like a seep than a spring.
Ferns grew on the rock wall above the spring.

This picture again shows part of that large rock overhang.
(It made for pleasant walking as it provided shade from the hot sun.)

Past Cave Spring, two ladders ascend to the slickrock above, providing panoramic views of canyon scenery. Doug climbed the first ladder, just to look around; but we decided to return to our car by the way we had come.

Doug at the top of the first ladder.


  1. Beautiful photos of a Cowboy Camp, Linda!

  2. I love these cave photos, and I can just imagine some of Louis L'Amour's characters taking shelter under the that huge rock formation. I read several of LL's books years ago. That was back when Goodman read one nearly every evening after work. They're really a great source of history for those who didn't get it any other way. The Sackett series is my favorite. ;)
    When you're in our area next, you should go to the Lost Sea in Sweetwater (if you haven't been there.) It's an interesting cave tour, and you get a short boat ride, too.

  3. neat cave camp! i like that they keep it set up like cowboys are just away for the day. :)

  4. Thank you for taking us along with you on this interesting hike. The cowboy camp looks fascinating.

  5. now that is a tall ladder. see another spot we missed. thanks for sharing ... i am amazing by the beauty that these folks got to enjoy daily. i wonder how harsh it was for them. did they find other places to stay when it was winter? ( :

  6. How neat to see the dishes and cookware they used. Were those replicas or the real deal? That overhang does look like it sheltered them from not only the rain, but the heat. Love those ferns, too. What a cool place!

  7. What a unique find. There is a similar cave near me I enjoy visiting.

  8. Looks like a very fun hike!

  9. These are some absolutely amazing pictures!! I would love to hike there.

  10. I've always been fascinated with caves. Great pics.

  11. Fascinating. The ladder would have been the turn around point for me,that's for sure.

  12. Wonderful and fascinating, Linda! Love your photos!

  13. Hello Linda,
    I am slowly but surely making my way around to catching up on blog reading! It is good to see your smiling face!

    Your photos are absolutely wonderful from your trip to Canyonlands! We have some caves here in WV and in the surrounding states of PA and MD, but none that compare with what you've shown here.

    Thank you so much for sharing!


  14. i find the cowboy camp very interesting...did you ever see a snake out there?

    1. Hi, Dee. I don’t recall seeing any snakes out there, but there may have been some around. It’s very desert-like, so it seems a prime place for the desert rattler.

  15. An interesting post with some nice pictures. Glad you enjoyed your hike; I like rambling!

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  16. Hi Linda! It's great to be here again! I took a pretty long blog break, but I'm back in the saddle again.
    I loved the photos of the cowboy camp. I think I probably glorify the whole cowboy experience, I'm sure it was rough, dirty and cold. But it's such an interesting part of the history of the US.
    That water source did seem more like a trickle, didn't it?
    I have a new blog home. I'm now at
    It was a big move, but I hope to come to love it!

  17. For a couple of L'Amour fans (I read a few of his Sacketts series, years ago), it would be a natural for you to imagine what life was like back in that time. What a great opportunity to do so. What a setting. And your photos are just wonderful.


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