Mesa Arch, Island in the Sky: Mesa Arch Trailhead, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mesa Arch - .75 miles
Island in the Sky: Mesa Arch Trailhead
|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)|
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.
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.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey 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
- 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.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $25 fee per vehicle to enter Canyonlands National Park (defined as private passenger cars with 15 people or less). Passes are good for 7 consecutive days.
- $15 per motorcycle.
- $10 per person (walk or bike).
- Dogs are not permitted on trails in Canyonlands National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
The Mesa Arch Trailhead is located 6.1 miles from teh Island in the Sky Visitor Center
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