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Mesa Arch

Few places capture the beauty and character of an entire region quite like Mesa Arch. Perched at the top of a 1,000-foot cliff with grand views of Canyonlands National Park, this short hike is sure to please.

This trail is suitable for children and adults of all skill levels but does have some mild slopes and uneven terrain that may be difficult for some. Watch children closely near Mesa Arch and the exposed cliff edge.

Trailhead

This hike begins at the Mesa Arch Parking Area (38.38921,-109.868089) in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.

  1. To reach the Island in the Sky from Moab, head north on Highway 191 to the signed junction on the left for Canyonlands National Park.
  2. Drive approximately 20 miles, following signs to the Island in the Sky entrance station.
  3. Continue approximately 7.2 miles past the entrance station to the signed Mesa Arch Parking Area on the left.

Note: There is a $10 per vehicle fee to enter Canyonlands National Park.

Vault toilet available at the trailhead.

The Hike

Aside from being relatively short with spectacular views, The Mesa Arch Trail has the added bonus of being a loop hike, so every step is something new.

From the trailhead, you may continue straight and hike the loop counter-clockwise, which seems to be the most popular, or you may take the first left and hike clockwise. Either way will get you to Mesa Arch in about the same time.

The Mesa Arch Trail is very well maintained with stone steps in many places. Rock cairns provide further guidance along the way as it crosses over a small hill dotted with Juniper and Pinyon Pine trees.

After about a quarter mile, the trail descends to the edge of the mesa before arriving at Mesa Arch (38.387998,-109.863606).

If you are in the area early in the morning, the views can be particularly rewarding. Each day the rising sun reflects off of the wall below, casting an incredible orange glow onto the underside of the arch. This spectacle has become one of the most iconic images of the Canyonlands region. During prime weather, it is not uncommon to see dozens of photographers lined up with tripods vying for a spot to capture this magical image.

The outstanding views beyond Mesa Arch take this hike from good to great. Looking through the arch you should be able to see Washer Woman Arch on a crumbling ridge of pinnacles. In the distance, nearly 1,500 feet below the arch, lies an intricate network of canyons and the famous White Rim Trail: a 100-mile 4x4 road that encircles the entire Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands. The white stone layer at the edge of the canyons below is how White Rim Trail got its name.

Continue on the loop back to the trailhead. Round trip distance for the entire loop is approximately 0.6 miles.

Rules and Regulations

  • $10 per vehicle fee required to enter Canyonlands National Park. (Annual and regional passes are available.)
  • No dogs.
  • Stay on marked trails.
  • No littering.
  • Pack out what you pack in.

Special Considerations

  • Be extra careful of the abrupt cliff edge near Mesa Arch. The arch sits precariously on the edge of sheer 1,000-foot cliff. Stay a safe distance from the edge and keep a close eye on children when visiting.
  • There are no railings or chains in place.
  • Never attempt to walk on or climb on the arch.

Credits

This trail guide provided by Backcountry Post.