Mesa Arch, Island in the Sky: Mesa Arch Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch - .75 miles

Island in the Sky: Mesa Arch Trailhead

Mesa Arch in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands

Mesa Arch in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands

Round-Trip Length: .75 miles
Start-End Elevation: 6,136' - 6,120' (6,185' max elevation)
Elevation Change: -16' net elevation loss (+140' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Mesa Arch - .75 Miles Round-Trip

The Mesa Arch Trailhead is located 6.1 miles from the Island in the Sky visitor center in Canyonlands National Park. This low sandstone arch is perched on the eastern edge of the Island in the Sky mesa with views that extend across Buck Canyon, the White Rim, Colorado River and La Sal Mountains.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The arch was formed by millennia of freeze-thaw cycles that chipped away at underlying rock to create the gap we see today.

Freeze-thaw erosion occurs when water gets trapped in rock fractures and freezes and expands. Expanding ice in tight places puts pressure on soft rock (like sandstone), gradually grinding particles away. Ice will eventually melt and perhaps freeze again, thus perpetuating the cycle.

This process is particularly pronounced in climates like Canyonlands, which can experience temperature extremes on any given day and throughout the year.

A short trail passes through brush flats and slickrock to the mesa rim and arch. Just behind the arch, cliffs plunge over a thousand feet into canyons that feed the Colorado River.

While crowds are common at Mesa Arch, it’s quite easy to scramble off to more secluded viewpoints on either side of it. You may return the way you came, or take the equidistant loop option.

This dramatic setting is framed by the La Sal Mountains to the east, topped by Mount Peale at 12,721’. The La Sal range extends about 18 miles north – south, with three main peak clusters separated by long, thin saddles.

The La Sal Mountains and Manti - La Sal National Forest support the densest black bear and largest elk population in Utah.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 23.347 W109 52.082 — 0.0 miles : Mesa Arch Trailhead
  • N38 23.282 W109 51.820 — .37 miles : Mesa Arch

Worth Noting

  • Mesa Arch is an ideal family hike, best lit in the early morning and late afternoon.
  • Primary constituents of the brush flats include blackbrush, saltbush, rabbitbrush, sage, Mormon tea, pinyon, juniper, prickly pear cactus and a variety of grasses and wildflowers. Look for lizards, rabbit, wood rats and deer in this food-rich habitat.
  • It’s possible to walk atop the arch, but this is considered unsafe and not recommended. Parents should maintain close control of children in the area, especially on cliff edges.

Directions to Trailhead

The Mesa Arch Trailhead is located 6.1 miles from teh Island in the Sky Visitor Center

Contact Information

Canyonlands National Park

2282 SW Resource Blvd

Moab, UT 84532

Island in the Sky District: 435.259.4712

Backcountry Reservation Office: 435.259.4351

Park Administration: 435.719.2100

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



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