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Arches National Park is the first national park I ever visited way back in 2015 and it was my favorite for a while because of that. But then I started going to a lot of other parks and it fell lower in my ranking (but still fairly high, not top 5 though) because it was so busy and I hadn’t seen as much there as I wanted.
Then I went back in December 2021 and fell even more in love with it thanks to Fiery Furnace and the Tower Arch Trail. When I say these two hikes entirely changed my perception of the park, I mean it.
It’s still not in my top 5 five but I love it so much more now. Today is all about the Tower Arch Trail in the backcountry of Arches. I had no idea this trail existed until just before this trip but I knew I had to do it.
We had already done a couple of hikes in Canyonlands before this (a different day) but this was our first hike in Arches. We ended up doing this hike in the afternoon and finished just before the sun was starting to set.
We got to the trailhead at the exact same time as two other people and didn’t want to just immediately follow them onto the trail so we wasted some time at the car. I also tried to watch the path they took up the first rock scrambly part of the trail.
Once they were over the hill, we headed out. The beginning part wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. It’s fairly easy as far as rock scrambles go and once you’re over that, the trail is pretty easy to follow.
At the top of the scramble, you have a great view of the valley below you, Devils Garden across from you, the La Sal Mountains in the distance, and more of the park behind you.
This whole Klondike Bluffs area is really popular for hiking, biking, and off-road driving. You can also reach this spot from Highway 191 if you don’t want to go in through the park but I don’t know the road conditions that way.
Cairns mark the whole trail so as long as you keep an eye on them and keep an eye out for them ahead of you, you’ll be good. If you can’t see any, you probably got off the trail, so just back track a little and look for another one.
Downloading the map on AllTrails helped keep up on track. A post that I saw about this trail before we did it said it was like a nice stroll and maybe it is if you’re used to hiking ten miles with tons of elevation gain, but this isn’t a flat trail and it wasn’t a “nice stroll.”
It’s far from being the hardest hike I’ve done but it’s not just a quick breezy hike. First you scramble up, then you hike down then you climb up a sand dune, then up more sand, and then do it in reverse. It is a great hike but it’s more than a stroll.
I stopped for breaks and water a lot on this hike, but to be fair, I hadn’t hike in a while, only a couple times since my parents had left a month before so I wasn’t in top top shape. If you are in tip top shape, this shouldn’t be bad.
The middle section between the top of the rock scramble and the bottom of the sand dune is part slick rock, part carved rock stairs. We got a little off track in the middle of this but quickly found our way back with a cairn.
The worst part was definitely climbing up the sand but there was a great view of the Marching Men formation from here so it was ok. Once we made it up the first sand dune, we hung out and enjoyed the view before facing even more sand.
The second sandy section isn’t as bad and before you know it, Tower Arch! It comes out of nowhere but it’s a really nice arch. It’s pretty huge and it gets it’s name from the rock that towers above/behind the arch.
There was another guy at the arch that started the trail after us and plowed on by us (he was going so fast!) but we all kept to ourselves. We climbed up under the arch and enjoyed the view looking out from it.
One side of it is wide open and one side is a rock wall so you can only see out one way but it is beautiful. We headed back down after that and noticed some cool rocks on the way back. I learned it’s called chert and it kind of looks like ham.
We headed out and on our way kept hearing a weird buzzy noise. Turns out it was a drone around a rock not far away. Remember, drones are annoying and not allowed here.
Some other people pulled up as we were scrambling down and even though there wasn’t much time before sunset, up they went and out we went for some much wanted food.
I really ended up loving the Tower Arch Trail and would definitely recommend it if you want to get away from the crowds at, say Delicate Arch, Park Avenue, or Landscape Arch. This is a wonderful hike in Arches it’s a little off-the-beaten-path from a typical Arches visit.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! Buy a national park journal here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
Arches National Park reservations
As of April 1, 2022, you now need a timed entry permit reservation from April 3 to October 3. You need this to enter the park between 6AM and 6PM. Your reservation allows entry in a two hour window. You can go in and out before and after that as the park is open 24/7.
Arches was facing serious overcrowding in the summer and were having to close the entrance by 10AM pretty frequently because parking would fill up. This new system is to help combat that.
The permit is $2 and you will also need to pay the park entrance fee when you get to the park. You can pay the fee or get the national park pass which covers all NPS site entry fees (but not camping, tours, parking, etc.)
If you can’t get a permit in advance, some are set aside for the next day (so April 2 entry permits would be available the evening of April 1). If you can’t get that either, your options are to skip it or enter the park before 6AM or after 6PM.
If you have a camping reservation, a Fiery Furnace permit, or a backcountry permit you do not need a timed entry permit. You also do not need the permit from October 4-April 2. You can find all the details here.
Where is the Tower Arch Trailhead in Arches?
It’s super easy to get to the Tower Arch Trailhead in Arches and most cars should be able to get there. Some of the drive is on the main paved road and some is on washboard-y dirt road. The turnoff (coming from the visitor center) is just past Sand Dune Arch on the left, but before Devils Garden.
You can put Tower Arch Trailhead into Google Maps and it will take you right there. If it is rainy or has recently rained (or snowed) I would not advise driving this road. The dirt road you turn onto is Arches Salt Wash.
Eventually you’ll come to a fork in the road. First there is a turn on the left, then the fork after that. At the fork, go to the left on Klondike Bluffs Road. If you continue straight, (or to the right, I guess) you would be on Salt Valley Road.
This part of the road ends at the trailhead. It’s a 50 minute drive from the visitor center to the trailhead. It’s a pretty straightforward drive and you won’t have phone service out here for the most part. I randomly got it near the trailhead for a bit but it was bad.
How long is the Tower Arch Trail in Arches?
The trail is 2.4 – 3 miles round-trip so it is a great choice if you want a trail that isn’t long but longer than a mile. This only takes 2-3 hours depending on how fast you hike and how often you stop.
Is the Tower Arch Trail hard?
It’s not easy but it’s not too strenuous. It’s moderate and pretty much the whole thing is going up then down then back up then down then up some more before you go back out. It has 600 feet of elevation gain so it’s not crazy but it is definitely a moderate hike.
There is a little rock scrambling at the very beginning to find the way up, but it’s not too bad. There happened to be two other people starting before us so I watched them go up to kind of get an idea of the trail. There are cairns along the whole thing, so just follow those and you’ll be good.
Is the Tower Arch Trail worth it?
Yes! This was a beautiful trail and it was so quiet (though that could have been because it was a weekday in December) but I loved this trail and it made me appreciate Arches a lot more than before.
I really loved the Tower Arch Trail and doing this hike made me appreciate Arches a lot more than before. It felt like I was just doing the same things every time I went there and this got me out of that weird Arches funk I was in.
Tower Arch photo gallery
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Have you hiked the Tower Arch Trail in Arches? What did you think of it? Do you want to hi. e it? What is your favorite hike in Arches?