Ribbon Arch

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 4969 - 5134 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hrs. 30 mins.
Trailhead: Windows Section
Fee: $10 individual - $25/vehicle
Attractions: Backcountry arch




Ribbon Arch is located in the backcountry of Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. There is no established trail leading to the arch which makes hiking to it only suitable to experienced backcountry hikers with advanced route finding skills. Enroute to Ribbon Arch hikers are also treated to some nice views of Christmas Tree Arch as well as another less impressive arch that might be unnamed at present.


The hike begins in the Windows Section by following the Primitive Trail.


Leave the Primitive trail as it climbs up to the saddle by going to the left before crossing to the area behind North Window Arch.


From here the idea is to follow a route that remains on the slickrock along the base of the cliff to get to the gap between the cliffs off in the distance. To accomplish this correctly you should make it to the gap without ever having left a track in the dirt.


Getting through the gap between the cliffs requires scrambling up and over some rocky shelves and around some boulders.


Once in the canyon on the other side of the gap stepping in dirt is less of an issue. The route that you will want to follow will take you down into the wash. It is preferable to follow existing tracks where at all possible to keep from creating a multitude of trails and of course to avoid walking on any cryptobiotic soil.


After passing through the gap there are some nice views of the picturesque Christmas Tree Arch.


Ribbon Arch is located in the next canyon over to the north. On the hike there while taking the photos for this post we traveled around the base of the slickrock until we could see the arch and then walked up a wash to get a better view of it. On the hike back we discovered an easier route that was several layers of slickrock higher.


As you hike around the point of the cliff toward the next canyon over it is best to stay well out at the mouth of the canyon until you can clearly see the arch high above the back of the canyon. As a reference the Cove of Caves is on the other side of the ridge from Ribbon Arch.


Once the arch is in clear view then you can hike up one of the washes or trails left by previous visitors to get a closer look at it. You will find that if you hike too far that the arch will disappear behind the rim of the canyon. From down here Ribbon Arch looks pretty fragile so who knows how much longer it will be around.


The other small arch that we mentioned is in the same canyon as Christmas Tree Arch. Depending upon how the cliff continues to erode it might become quite a bit larger one of these days.


The parking areas in the Windows Section of Arches National Park tend to stay full. People are coming and going every few minutes so the options are to either get there early, circle around until a spot becomes available or go somewhere else in the park and come back later. Most visitors to Arches won't be going to Ribbon Arch and since it doesn't show up on the maps that the Park Service hand out they won't even know that it is there. For the experienced backcountry hikers that are looking for a short excursion to see a couple of scenic arches then Ribbon Arch and Christmas Tree Arch are worth checking out. If you would like to see them for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.