Confluence Overlook Trail, Needles District: Confluence Overlook Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Confluence Overlook Trail - 11.0 miles

Needles District: Confluence Overlook Trailhead

The Green and Colorado rivers merge at the Confluence Overlook Trail terminus

The Green and Colorado rivers merge at the Confluence Overlook Trail terminus

Round-Trip Length: 11.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 4,940' - 4,920'
Elevation Change: -20' net elevation loss
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Confluence Overlook Trail - 11.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Confluence Overlook Trail crosses Big Spring Canyon and miles of open desert to spectacular views of the Colorado River - Green River confluence. The two rivers define Canyonlands National Park's three districts, and each are visible from the overlook.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The Confluence Overlook Trail is relatively flat, but runs through long stretches of hot, open desert. Carry ample water and sun protection on this fully exposed trail:

The trail drops about 120' into Big Spring Canyon, then climbs immediately out on the far side. Locate cairns that lead straight up the canyon wall, and avoid social routes that meander about the canyon floor.

A small ladder leads up to the canyon rim and a small keyhole in the rocks (1.2 miles). Once through the keyhole, travel levels on a high plateau for nearly a mile. This enjoyable stretch offers rangy views across vast desert grasslands and grabens. Grabens are long depressions (or down-thrown land blocks) between geologic faults.

The trail drops gradually into lower Elephant Canyon and passes through a colorful dry wash for about mile.

It rises out of Elephant Canyon and drops down into Twin Valleys, a grassy expanse highlighted by spring wildflowers. Desert grasslands form in areas where wind-blown sediments settle in layers several feet thick, frequently in grabens bound by tall rock walls.

Look for Indian ricegrass and needle-and-thread grass, whose protein-rich seeds were an important food source for Native Americans.

The trail continues west over a N-S Jeep road (4.2 miles) and scales an outcrop leading into Cyclone Canyon. It crosses another N-S jeep road while in Cyclone Canyon (4.7 miles) with access to the Cyclone Canyon Trail.

A sign marks this intersection, however it may cause confusion. Simply cross the jeep road and continue west. This segment actually runs along a jeep spur road as well; be sure you're heading west on the correct road.

The trail remains in open desert for another .6 miles before dead-ending at a small out house and parking area. A sign directs you west for the last .5 miles to Confluence Overlook (5.5 miles : 4,920').

The Maze and Island in the Sky districts are easily identifiable, as are the distinct Green and Colorado rivers nearly 1,000' below. Look for Ekker Butte on the northwest horizon.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 10.683 W109 48.998 — 0.0 Miles: Confluence Overlook Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Carry a detailed map. There are several jeep road intersections on this trail, and a good map will eliminate confusion.

  • This trail is particularly hot and exposed. Carry ample water and full sun protection into the backcountry.

  • Follow cairns closely, and always note the last cairn you saw was. If it's been a while in between trail markings, stop hiking, gather your bearings, and retrace yourself back to the last known trail marking.

  • There are some minor distance discrepancies among map sources and even trail signs. While this should make little difference, it is worth taking note of and planning for the full 11 miles outlined here.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips in Canyonlands National Park. Permits can be acquired at Visitor Centers the day of or day before your trip. Advance reservations can be made up to 4 months out and are recommended during peak season.

Call the Backcountry Reservation Office for more information: 435.259.4351

Click here to access the online reservation system.

  • There's a $30 fee per party to backcountry camp in Canyonlands National Park.
  • Hikers must camp in designated sites where explicitly stated. You may otherwise choose your own campsite in designated at-large zones.
  • At-large sites must be at least 1 mile away from any road and 300' from any archeological site, historical site or water source.
  • Mountain Bikers and 4WDs must stay on established roads and camp in designated sites at all times.
  • Fires are not permitted at backcountry campsites or within the backcountry in Canyonlands National Park.
  • Desert water sources are scarce and fragile. Do not bathe or wash dishes in creeks or pools. 


Squaw Flat Campground is an ideal base camp for day hikes to popular destinations like Chesler Park, Druid Arch and the Joint Trail. There are 26 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bathrooms, fire grates, picnic tables, tent pads and water are available year-round. Fee is $15 per night. Squaw Flat typically fills every day from late March through June and again from early September to mid-October.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 fee per vehicle to enter Canyonlands National Park (defined as private passenger cars with 15 people or less). Passes are good for 7 consecutive days.
  • $15 per motorcycle.
  • $10 per person (walk or bike).
  • Dogs are not permitted on trails in Canyonlands National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Confluence Overlook Trail begin at the Big Spring Canyon Trailhead in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

The trailhead is located at the end of the Scenic Drive roadway. From the Visitor's Center in the Needles District, simply turn left out of the Visitor's Center and drive about 100 yards to a stop sign. Turn right and continue on this road for 4-5 miles until it dead ends into the Big Spring Canyon Trailhead. Park in the designated area and the trail leaves from the south side of the trailhead.

Contact Information

Canyonlands National Park
2282 SW Resource Blvd
Moab, UT 84532

Backcountry Reservations

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Agree 100% with Cliff... but we did it in August!. This is probably not the best time of the year, but we were going from Spain on vacation and could't choose. It was really HOT, but we got it. 3 litres of water per person minimum, some food and that's it. We are a family of 5 (58,54,25,20,14), all in pretty good shape, and it was LONG and DEMANDING, so do not try if you are not able to walk for SEVEN hours up and down some difficult rocks. It does require some climbing with your 4 extremities, so do not try if you are not absolutely sure as some of the most difficult points are at the end of the way back, just when you are more tired. The look is unique, and we were happy to see the Green River green, and the Colorado, red-brown, with a very nice color mixing at the confluence."
Francisco Redondo  -  BArcelona  -  Date Posted: September 17, 2018
"Frank Hughes - I think I know the spot you're talking about. It is the descent from the top of Elephant Hill and basically goes down a deep crack between two rocks, and at times there is about a 2-3 feet between each "step". At this spot I just had to sit on my rear and slowly scoot down the steps. Along the way I used my legs and arms to brace myself so I wouldn't stumble and fall. I did make it, though. I'm not a rock climber so it was challenging but not an overwhelming obstacle."
Cliff Downey  -   -  Date Posted: April 27, 2018
"Guessing three and a half miles in I came to a spot that caused me to turn back. Two carins about three feet apart mark a place to climb down to the trail. I could not figure it out. One person I talked to said that she made it with some effort but she was also a rock climber. Any hints on this? I would love to try again and I have noticed that all of the descriptions of the trail mention the ladder (super easy) but do not mention this drop off."
Frank Hughes  -  Minden  -  Date Posted: April 7, 2018
"I **LOVED** this trail. It was my favorite trail during a week long trip to Canyonlands. You don't need ropes or any special gear, and if you can scramble up/down rocks, walk along rock ledges, and climb one ladder, physically you should be able to complete this hike. Having said that, this is NOT an easy hike. Most of the route is exposed, with little shade, and it is unlikely you'll see other folks. So what's so special about this trail? You'll go through some GREAT scenery and very diverse landscape, and will have an AWESOME, AWESOME view of the confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. And a great sense of accomplishment for completing the hike. Be dog-gone sure to bring water, water, water, because it is a HOT hike and you'll definitely need close to a gallon for a round trip, more in the summer."
Cliff Downey  -   -  Date Posted: February 9, 2018


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