Morning Glory Arch

Round Trip Distance: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 3918 - 4307 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 4 hrs.
Trailhead: Grandstaff
Fee: none
Attractions: Natural bridge

The Morning Glory Arch, which is actually a natural bridge, is located off of Highway 128 east of Moab, Utah. The trail was formerly known as Negro Bill Canyon but has since been renamed. Whether the Wilderness Study area has also been renamed from the Negro Bill Wilderness Study Area is uncertain. The original Negro Bill name was meant to honor one of the areas first non-Native American settlers who first arrived in Moab in 1877. The canyon boasts a wild riparian environment along a perennial stream and Morning Glory Arch, which at 243 feet in length and is the sixth longest natural bridge in the United States.

The trailhead has also been renamed to Grandstaff which was Bill's surname. It can be found along the Colorado River on US Highway 128 near mile marker 3.

Before you set out on the trail, if your aren't already very familiar with Poison Ivy, review the information at the trailhead kiosk. Poison Ivy is in great abundance along the stream in places and also in the area beneath the arch. I only noticed once or twice where it actually encroached upon the trail but if you need to leave the trail for a bio-break you will want to avoid coming in contact with it. The oil on Poison Ivy spreads on contact and then continues to spread to your car seats and everything else. The oil can be very difficult to completely wash out of your clothes making it possible be recontaminated once you wear those clothes again. Your dog can also contaminate you after running through the bushes and then brushing up against you. It is easy enough to avoid once you are aware of its presence.

The trail begins along a slick rock shelf of sandstone which eventually descends to the area along the stream. The trail is only open to hikers but dogs are allowed and must be kept on a leash at all times.

A great deal of the trail is shaded by all the various trees and bushes. Depending on the time of day large sections of the trail may be in the shade of the high canyon walls. The temperature at the trailhead was 96F when we began but the cooling effect of the stream and the thick vegetation in places cooled it off a good 10-15 degrees.

This steam is as rare as fine gold this time of year in the desert. I know of lots of places where there are seeps and stagnant pools but not any streams that are running this much water. We saw groups of hikers that preferred walking in the stream in places rather than following the trail. There were good places to soak your feet and relax in the shade and let the kids play in the water. If you don't like getting your feet wet the crux of the hike might be that you have to cross the stream quite a few times. I was able to muster enough coordination to keep my feet dry but some people may want to wear their old shoes.

The trail is pretty easy to follow but there are a couple of places that could have used an additional cairn or trail marker. Just under 1.5 miles a canyon appears on the left. The trail crosses the stream and starts out traveling up the right side of the canyon. From hear to Morning Glory Arch is where the trail gains most of its elevation.

The trail heads up this canyon for a little over a half mile when another canyon appears on the right. Follow the trail into the canyon on the right and it is only about another half mile to the arch. The trail gains about 150 feet, or about half its elevation, between here and the arch. There are plenty of places to pull up and rest if you are a little out of shape or just not in a hurry.

This natural bridge is pretty impressive. No matter where I stood beneath it I couldn't get a picture of the complete arch. The arch is close enough to the canyon wall that it is harder to distinguish from the side.

It felt 20 degrees cooler beneath the arch. It was like being inside a cave. The arch is at the head of the canyon but there was still a nice breeze passing through. You can follow the stream for this branch of the canyon all the way up to a crack in the canyon wall were the water comes running out.

There were about a dozen people of all ages cooling off in the water. The must have been here before because they came prepared with swimsuits and flip-flops. (and blankets and picnic ...)

With easy access and a trail that parallels a stream that is only moderately difficult Morning Glory Arch is one of the most popular hikes in the Moab area. It is interesting to note that the NAACP apparently never had any objections to the trails former name and was even disappointed that it was changed as this news story explains. There is a tribute to Bill Grandstaff at the trailhead so whatever the name of the trail his legacy perhaps can live on. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.