Sunrise Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah provides the frame for some of the most stunning landscape in Utah. A short, easy hike will take you to the edge of the canyon and right to the rim of the arch. Sunrise at Mesa Arch with the brilliant red glow of the rising sun reflecting off the underside of the arch will most certainly have you in awe of this spectacular scene.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch

Sunrise at Canyonlands Mesa Arch offers a magnificent view of Buck Canyon below. The arch frames the spectacular view of the rugged White Rim below and the La Sal Mountains in the background. It can be seen through the arch after a short .5 mile round trip hike. On most days, the underside of the arch glows from reflected sunlight just after sunrise, an absolutely magnificent scene.

We left Moab, Utah where we were staying around 4:30 am for the 1 hour drive to Canyonlands National Park. Although the hike to get to the arch takes only 15 minutes there are two reasons for leaving so early…1) the arch is small and 2) it’s very popular.

Arriving at Mesa Arch Early 

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Photographers at the arch arrive early! Some of the finest photos of the arch are taken at sunrise. Be prepared to jockey for position on most mornings well before sunrise. This is what we were greeted with when we arrived before first light. The entire opening of the arch was packed with photographers that had already staked their claim to their chosen spots.

Where is Mesa Arch?

The arch is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Drive south for 6.3 miles from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and turn left into the parking area for Mesa Arch located on Grand View Point Road. The trailhead which begins here is a short, well marked and easy to follow trail. The arch is located right on the rim of the plateau.

The arch is perched on a cliff with the entire canyon and the La Sal Mountains as a backdrop. The trail will take you to the edge of the plateau where you will have an expansive view of the rugged terrain below. Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park also offers breathtaking views after a short hike.

The flowers in Canyonlands National Park were beautiful. We saw many brilliantly colored flowers along the trail which meanders through an attractive juniper and piñon woodland.

This lizard and grasshopper seemed to be facing off as we walked along the trail. I’m not sure of the outcome as we continued on our way back to the parking area.

The nature guide we picked up at the trailhead informed us of how our footsteps can damage the cryptogamic soil that is just off trail. It explained how the black crust on the ground forms the basis for desert ecosystems. This vital mixture of algae, lichen mosses and fungi prevents soil erosion to helps support the growth of larger plants. Please be careful to stay on the trail to help prevent damage to the delicate environment.

 

What is Mesa Arch?

Mesa Arch is classified as a pothole arch. The arch was formed by surface water pooling on the sandstone behind the arch which slowly eroded the rock. This erosion resulted in an arch that is suspended across the mesa’s edge. Sitting on the edge of the mesa, admiring the view of the expansive canyon below through the arch, I was definitely not in a hurry to leave.

This is the view from the top of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Standing on top of the arch was quite scary. The arch spans fifty feet across the top of a 500-foot vertical cliff. The arch itself is not very wide. I felt like I was standing on top of the world. Although we saw several visitors walk across the arch the day we were there I could only stand at the beginning of the arch and would not recommend anyone trying to walk the length of the arch. It’s a long way down!

Sunrise revealed Washer Woman Arch which can be seen in the distance just as the sun was making its first appearance. Washer Woman is an arch resembling a woman standing at a wash tub washing clothes. Below is White Rim Canyon, carved over years by the Colorado River. The La Sal Mountains can be seen in the distance beyond the canyon.

Sunrise at this spot would have to be one of the more spectacular experiences in Canyonlands National Park. The scenery here is amazing any time of day but standing in front of this arch witnessing the beginning of a new day is spectacular!

Have you been to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park? Would you like to see more from Utah? Let us know in the Comments!

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