Canyonlands National Park
Enjoy the short, circular, Mesa Arch Trail for wondrous views through this geological ‘window’ towards Buck Canyon and the distant La Sal Mountains
Mesa Arch Hike
There is so much to see in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands that you are literally spoiled for choice. However, if like us time is of the essence, you probably won’t be able to see everything but certainly, add the Mesa Arch Trail to your list whatever you do!
Mesa Arch, known as a pothole arch, sits atop the mesa’s eastern rim, acting like a picture frame for the magnificent Buck Canyon panorama.
The short Mesa Arch loop trail leads you right up to the arch, from where you can enjoy expansive vistas including a selection of the Park’s many unique geological features.
Where is Mesa Arch Trail?
The Mesa Arch trailhead is located 6.1 miles (9.82 km) south of the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, on Grand View Point Road. This is the main road that runs north to south through Island in the Sky.
Where to park for the Mesa Arch Trail?
There is a dedicated car park situated next to the trailhead that is highlighted on this map with an orange ‘P’.
How to get to Mesa Arch Trail?
Leave US Route 191 and turn onto UT 313, 11 miles (17.5 km) north of Moab. After approximately 14 miles the UT 313 swings to the left, towards Dead Horse State Park.
Do not turn left at this point, instead following Grand View Point Road into the National Park. Then, around 6 miles south of the visitor center you will see the Mesa Arch parking area on your left.
Mesa Arch Trail Description
Upon leaving the car park, the trail immediately splits with both options leading to Mesa Arch, the loop being just as enjoyable whichever way you go.
We took the anti-clockwise variation and headed up the gentle slope on the well-made dirt path on the hike to Mesa Arch. Soon, the trail levels out, winding its way through the sandy terrain adorned with Pinyon Pines and Juniper trees.
Shortly after, the trail descends and some way before reaching the eastern cliffs, Mesa Arch will come into sight. So, keep your eyes peeled!
Upon reaching Mesa Arch, you can’t help but be drawn to the incredible framed view that the arch creates of the dramatic Utah landscape out to the east.
Not only do you enjoy views towards Buck Canyon but also a number of the geological features that complete the picture. These include Monster Tower (sandstone tower), Washer Woman Arch (sandstone arch) and Airport Tower (sandstone butte).
Then, in the distance sit the La Sal Mountains, the upper slopes of which remain snow-covered until June.
Being one of the most popular attractions in Canyonlands, you will almost certainly be sharing your hike to Mesa Arch with others.
However, venture a short distance off to either side of the arch and you can find a spot to soak in the magnificent views in relative peace.
Once you have had your fill of the splendour that surrounds you, rejoin the loop trail for the short jaunt back to the parking area.
Mesa Arch Trail – Our Thoughts
The Canyonlands Mesa Arch hike is an easy trail suitable for those of all ages and abilities, so definitely one for the kids.
This is one of the National Park’s most popular attractions and for good reason. If like many visitors you haven’t got the time to see all the incredible sights on offer, make sure the Mesa Arch Trail is on your To-Do list.
It may seem strange to be visiting an arch in Canyonlands when Arches National Park is just up the road, but I think you will be happy you did as the viewing rewards are simply spectacular!
Mesa Arch Trail – Q & As
How long is the hike to Mesa Arch?
It should take no more than 10-15 minutes to reach the arch and approximately the same time to return to the car park. So, 20-30 minutes in total.
How long is Mesa Arch Trail?
0.68 miles (1.1 km)
Is the Mesa Arch Trail difficult?
Absolutely not. This is a short easy hike with just a 23 metre (75 feet) elevation change between the highest and lowest points on the trail.
Is the trail dangerous?
No. But do be mindful that Mesa Arch is perched at the top of a 152 metre (500 foot) cliff, so stay away from the edge. Furthermore, if you are visiting with children, watch them carefully around the arch.
Are dogs allowed on the Mesa Arch Trail?
No. Pets are not allowed on any hiking trail or overlook in Canyonlands National Park. However, there are designated areas where pets are permitted within the Park. Discover where these are.
Can you walk on Mesa Arch?
No. You should not walk on Mesa Arch or any other arch in Canyonlands. This is stated on the National Park Service hiking page. Direct quote:
“To promote visitor safety and the opportunity to view natural features undisturbed, climbing, scrambling, walking or standing upon, or rappelling off any arch is prohibited in the park.”
How was Mesa Arch Formed?
Mesa Arch was formed as a result of water seeping through cracks in the sandstone cliff repeatedly freezing and thawing over time.
When is the best time to visit Mesa Arch?
The Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands is open all through the year. However, the most popular time to visit Mesa Arch is during the Spring or Fall (Autumn) when temperatures are less extreme.
If you are banking on a crowd-free visit, consider arriving between November and March. Conversely, visitor numbers are at their highest between the months of April and June and September and October.
Mesa Arch Sunrise
Experiencing Mesa Arch at any time of day is a real treat. However, it is without a doubt that the Mesa Arch sunrise is the prime viewing event and a photographer’s favourite.
Mesa Arch at sunrise is quite a spectacle as the sun rises above the distant mountains casting its rays across the canyon, turning the underside of the arch a glowing orange.
If you are not an early bird and therefore unable to make the sunrise at Mesa Arch, you may wish to catch the Mesa Arch sunset instead. It may not be the viewing spectacular that daybreak offers but it certainly won’t disappoint.
Check out the sunrise and sunset times for Canyonlands to make sure you arrive on time.
What else is there to do in the Island of the Sky District?
There is plenty to keep you occupied in this district of Canyonlands. The number of attractions you get to see is dependent on how much time you have at your disposal.
We had just a single day to enjoy the sights of both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Therefore, we had to be very particular when choosing from the many attractions on offer.
As well as the Mesa Arch Trail, we also opted for the Grand View Point Trail which is another short and easy hike with memorable vistas.
In addition to the two short hikes, we also managed to pack in the following three viewpoints:
- Shafer Canyon Overlook
- Shafer Canyon Viewpoint
- Green River Overlook
These are all incredible and should definitely make up part of your Island in the Sky experience. However, if you have more time at your disposal, you may wish to discover some of the other hikes and viewpoints also on offer at Island in the Sky.
Have you experienced this trail?
If you have, please share your experience with us and our readers. If you have any questions that we have not answered here, please let us know and we will get back to you just as quickly as we can.
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Chuck berg says
Thanks for all the sharing that you guys do. We will be with the back roads tour through Bryson Zion. We will then have an extra three days following the trip and be staying in St. George Utah. Wondering if you can make recommendations of day trips with that being our base. Chuck berg
Gavin Evans says
Hi Chuck, I have to be honest with you but the only reason we stayed in St George was to act as our base for Zion National Park. As you are already going to Zion and Bryce Canyon (both amazing by the way) as part of your tour, the best I can do is offer the following TripAdvisor link for additional things to do around St George. Hope this helps. Enjoy your visit! Best wishes, Gavin https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attractions-g57119-Activities-St_George_Utah.html