Mesa Arch

Round Trip Distance: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 6105 - 6185 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Mesa Arch
Fee: $30/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic views, natural arch

Mesa Arch is located in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park west of Moab, Utah. Canyonlands National Park is about 120 miles from Grand Junction, Colorado and 32 miles from Moab, Utah. Besides being an attractive arch by itself the views through Mesa Arch are nothing short of spectacular. Mesa Arch is one of the must see locations within Canyonlands National Park.

The trailhead kiosk shows a round trip distance of a half mile. The park service may have rounded that distance down to the nearest half mile increment. Unless you get the closest parking spot to the trailhead and your health is boarder line enough that you are worried about the distance you may want to count on a distance of 3/4 of a mile or more. I only mention that because of the close proximity of Mesa Arch to the paved road it seems to get a lot more visitors than some of the other sites. Some of the visitors that I encountered were struggling a bit to complete the hike.

The loop begins just a few yards from the beginning of the trail. Both directions measure the same overall distance but the left side of the loop does less climbing than the right side of the loop. If you are worried about your conditioning you could hike out and back using the left side of the loop and expend a little less energy by avoiding the higher hill on the right side of the loop. (The locals that are accustomed to hiking and don't pay that much attention to the distance are probably laughing by now.)

The park service has framed steps with long slabs of rock to help control the erosion. I helped one lady get up that was having trouble managing the steps and was trying to walk along the side of the trail. She had caught her foot on something and had fallen.

Most visitors seemed to be hiking to the arch along the right side of the loop in the counter clockwise direction. The trail meanders around sandstone cliffs through pinyon and juniper trees.

Mesa Arch clings to the edge of the cliffs high above Buckskin Canyon. On a busy day you may have to exercise a little bit of patients while you wait for your turn to take some pictures.

The arch frames the distant landscape like a giant picture window. If you look into the deep canyons off in the distance you might be able to get a glimpse of the Colorado River as it flows on toward its confluence with the Green River and into Cataract Canyon. If you ever get the urge for a totally awesome multi-day rafting trip Cataract Canyon is definitely a world class adventure for you to consider.

Looking more to the east through Mesa Arch you can see several pinnacles, buttes and the La Sal Mountains.

A closer look at one of the rock formations reveals another arch named Washer Woman.

The hike around the left side of the loop on the return trip is a fairly easy stroll. In the not too distant background you can see Aztec Butte which has several Ancient Puebloan style granaries and structures along its upper rim. I personally feel that it is one of the four must see sites in the Island in the Sky district along with Mesa Arch, Grand View Point and Upheaval Dome. Fortunately I didn't have to limit myself to only four sites.

Canyonlands boasts numerous flowers in the spring and early summer months. These Pale Evening Primroses are among some of the most conspicuous varieties.

Mesa Arch is one of the most beautiful arches that you will find anywhere and Canyonlands is within an easy drive of Grand Junction, Colorado. If you want to spend more than just one day at Canyonlands and don't want to pay the high price for a room in Moab and if you don't mind camping out you can probably find a spot at the BLM's Horsethief Campground located along the highway before you get to the Island in the Sky. Or if you are lucky you may be able to gnab one of the spots in the parks campground.   One important thing to remember whenever you visit the Island District is that you need to bring everything you will need with you including food, water and gas. If you would like to see Mesa Arch for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.