Mesa Arch Canyonlands National Park Utah Mesa Arch Canyonlands Moab Utah

Mesa Arch is an easy to visit landmark in the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park. This pothole arch spans across the mesa’s edge, framing a scenic canyon vista. A 0.7-mile loop trail brings you right up to Mesa Arch, one of the park’s most popular points of interest.

A nature guide is available at the trailhead, and can be used to learn more about park vegetation and geology. The guide is quick to remind you to stay on the trail, a point you will see repeated through Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. This is because stray footsteps can damage the cryptogamic soil just off trail. This black crust on the ground forms the foundation for desert ecosystems. The vital mixture of lichens, moss, fungus and algae prevents soil erosion and helps support larger plants.

Just beyond the parking lot, the trail comes to a Y. Both routes lead to Mesa Arch, and the loop is equally enjoyable in both directions. As you hike, keep and eye on the edge of the mesa for sneak peaks of the iconic arch.

Mesa Arch
Looking out through Mesa Arch

The trail ends in front of an elegant stone that spans fifty feet across the top of a 500-foot vertical cliff. Mesa Arch is classified as a pothole arch because it was formed by surface water that pooled on the sandstone behind the arch, slowly eroding the rock. The result is an arch that dangles across the mesa’s edge.

Geology aside, the arch provides the frame for a stunning Utah landscape. Along the mesa to the east is another arch, named Washing Woman Arch. Below the mesa is the prominent white rim of spectacular canyons carved by the Colorado River. Rounding out the view, the snow-capped peaks of the La Sal Mountains meet the sky at the horizon.

Mesa Arch
Looking out at Buck Canyon

The arch is beautiful any time of day, but if you end up here around sunrise or sunset, you will likely be in for a beautiful show. After leaving the arch, complete the loop to return to the trailhead for a 0.7-mile hike with 75 feet of elevation. On the way back, you will have a nice view of Aztec Butte rising above the mesa beyond the parking lot.

To get to the trailhead: From the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, drive south for 6.3 miles and turn left into the parking area for Mesa Arch. If you reach the intersection with Upheaval Dome Road, you have gone too far.

Trailhead address: Grand View Point Road, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT 84532
Trailhead coordinates: 38.38915, -109.8681 (38° 23′ 20.9″N 109° 52′ 05.2″W)

Trail Map
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Elevation Profile
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These photos were taken in June of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Canyonlands hike Aztec Butte
This is a 1.8 -mile hike ascends a dome-shaped butte that houses Puebloan granaries and offers nice views of Taylor Canyon.
Canyonlands hike Upheaval Dome
This 1.7-mile hike visits two overlooks along the rim of a puzzling three-mile wide crater.
Canyonlands hike Whale Rock
This one-mile hike ascends a whale-shaped sandstone formation near Upheaval Dome.
Murphy Point Canyonlands National Park Murphy Point
This 3.6-mile hike visits a west-facing point on the Island in the Sky overlooking canyons carved by the Green River.
Canyonlands National Park More trails in Utah
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Delicate Arches National Park Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
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Double Arches National Park Double Arch in Arches National Park
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Window Arch Arches National Park Window Arches in Arches National Park
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Morning Glory Bridge hiking Morning Glory Bridge in Moab
This 6-mile round trip hike travels through a scenic canyon to a 243-foot long natural bridge.
Arch Rock Hike Joshua Tree Arch Rock in Joshua Tree
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Tagged with · Arches · Island in the Sky
Distance: 0.7 miles · Elevation change: 75 feet

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5 Comments on Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

  1. […] 5am I headed off to Canyonlands N.P. and Mesa Arch for the sunrise shot. With some clearing on the horizon, I was hoping I would get the photo that so […]

  2. […] Mesa Arch Trail […]

  3. […] so recently I was in Canyonlands National Park for a sunrise shoot through Mesa Arch.  There were a number of other photographers there before sunrise.  What was a surprise was the […]

  4. […] 45 minutes to Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District.  Stroll to Mesa Arch (0.7 mile loop), then take the steps out to Grand View Point (2 miles RT).  Drive 2 hours down to […]

  5. […] made the quick 30 min drive from the town of Moab to Canyonlands National Park. There we saw the Mesa Arch and did trails on the Island in the Sky loop which offered incredible panoramic views.  We made […]