Hike the Neck Spring Trail

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The Neck Spring Trail offers everything you want in a desert hike: canyon views to take your breath away; springs and shade for a break from the heat, potholes to reflect the sky, and relics from cowboy camps.

With minor changes in elevation, a couple easy scrambles and the opportunity to find your route by cairns, the Neck Spring Trail is the perfect way to get acquainted with Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands National Park.

Starting at the Shafer Canyon Overlook parking lot, the Neck Spring trail crosses Grand View Point Road then leads to the top of a mesa. From there, a dirt path will lead downhill and onto the canyon floor. The trail is easy to follow as you make your way in and out of box canyons. The box canyons terminate in natural springs where you will weave your way through brush tickets, grasses and cottonwoods. Take this opportunity to enjoy the slight chill from the springs and shade from the trees while you can. You will also come across relics left by cowboys who used the springs to water cattle when the park was ranch land.

Near the halfway mark, you will be treated with a fantastic view down Taylor Canyon. The deep green of pinons and junipers contrasts with the red of the sandstone walls for a quintessential desert canyon view.

About this time you will notice a change in the trail. The path will become soft and sandy, perfect to capture tracks of passing animals. Tracks of cottontails, kangaroo rats, lizards and mule deer are very common. If you are lucky, you may see ringtail, coyote or bighorn sheep tracks.

Around mile 4 you will begin to work your way out of the canyon. The trail will change from a dirt and sandy path to sandstone. Be sure to use the cairns to find your way. You will gain elevation and may have to scramble a little bit. Once on top of the mesa, you will get the opportunity to see the ground you have covered. If it has rained recently, look for potholes that have collected rain water and keep your eyes out for more cowboy relics while you walk the mesa.

The trail will cross, and then run parallel to, the Grand View Point Road as the loop trail turns you back towards the parking lot where you started. At this point, you have the option to walk the shoulder of the road. I took the lightly used trail closer to the canyon rim to avoid the traffic noise.

Near the end of the trail you will get a look at the Shafer Trail Road as is switchbacks deep into Shafer Canyon. The Safer Trail Road leads to the White Rim Road, a 100 mile dirt track that loops around the Island in the Sky. Stop at the overlook and ponder the amazing sights you would see if you were to continue down the trail into Shafer Canyon.

Pack List

  • Water (at least a gallon)
  • Snacks or lunch
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Circular Polarizer
  • ND Filters
  • Tripod
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Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



5.8 Miles

Elev. Gain:

260 Feet



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Added by Kim Morris

A photog with a must-see list that doesn't end. A perpetual road tripper. My batteries are charged, SD cards are cleared, and I am ready for the next adventure.

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