Mesa Arch, Canyonlands – 10/17/16

Our final afternoon hike on this Tuesday in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands was to Mesa Arch.


We’ve seen photos where sunrise makes the arch glow, but an afternoon non-glowing arch is beautiful enough. And it’s a fun trail with some ups and downs. This strange butte is across the way:


This is Biological Soil Crust, a lumpy black soil that can store water and serves as the incubator for high desert plant seeds. There are a lot of signs urging visitors to stay on the trails to protect these rare habitats.


The trail includes flat slickrock, and steps through sagebrush and junipers:

Love this gnarled tree stump supporting a tiny cairn:img_8925

Even on a late October afternoon, the arch is a magnet for photographers, and you have to wait your turn to capture some good photos without other visitors. Summertime must be crazy busy.


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Part of what makes this arch an iconic image is that from certain spots, the arch frames the spires and monuments in the canyon behind it:

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As you climb up and away from the arch, and back to the trailhead, you get more views from different angles, and see more of the other visitors:

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On the hike back to the car, you’ve got great views of the 4-wheel drive White Rim Trail dirt road down below. We watched a few vehicles navigating the switchbacks:


The drive back out from Island in the Sky still provides gorgeous scenery.img_8946 img_8947

There are fossilized records and footprints that dinosaurs once roamed the area, which Utah has dubbed its Dinosaur Diamond. So this business is set up on the corner between Arches and Canyonlands – Paleosafari Moab Giants, where you can learn about dinosaurs and “travel back in time to walk with over 100 full size dinosaur models.” It looks fun for families, and was a head-turner for adults driving by.


One full day in Island in the Sky, and we did almost every “easy” hike (fairly level, under 2 hours) the Park rangers recommend. If you’re more physically fit and would like to do some of the longer hikes down into and up out of the canyons, you’ll need more than one day. Bring lots of water, even on the short hikes.


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