The Mesa Arch Trail in Canyonlands National Park is a nice easy loop trail that starts off the main road in the Island in the Sky portion of the park. Island in the Sky is a mesa with thousand foot cliffs on all sides. The views of the canyons that surround it are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon and possibly even more magnificent.
The trail itself is just .6 miles in length and well marked. I was able to hike this trail with several of my children right after sunrise. Supposedly there are bighorn sheep all over this park so we had our eyes out looking for them. Unfortunately, the hard to see bighorn still evaded us. At the far part of the loop we got to Mesa Arch just as the sun was rising behind it. We were able to get a picture of all us under the arch thanks to some other hikers. Mesa Arch is right on the cliff with a significant fall right behind it. Peeking through the arch down at the canyons below made our morning. We were able to quickly get back to the car and head on to the next overlook in this underrated park.
If you are in Southern Utah, don’t neglect visiting Canyonlands NP in favor of other more famous parks like Arches or Zion. Canyonlands is an amazing experience and I recommend this quick trail as well as the entire park.
I was able to spend a day in Canyonlands National Park near Moab UT recently (July 2016). Canyonlands is a massive National Park split into 3 main sections: Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. It would easily take a couple weeks to explore it all. With limited time, I decided to take in the Island in the Sky portion of the park.
Island in the Sky is amazingly beautiful and filled with those iconic views you think of when considering the Southwestern United States. Island in the Sky is a mesa overlooking 1000 foot drops in every direction surrounded by canyons and the Colorado and Green rivers. You can get a great overhead view of the Needles portion of the park on the other side of the Colorado river. Needles is full of colorful spires that reach into the sky beckoning you to come hike through. The Maze portion is far off and remote. The Maze is one of those places it takes a few days of backpacking to get to (no roads!).
When visiting Island in the Sky, make sure you leave your car and take the short hike to Mesa arch. It is gorgeous. I was able to catch it with the sun rising behind it. The trails over at Upheaval Dome and Whale Rock are a bit longer but also great hikes. Make sure you take in the overlooks at Grand Point and Green River. Both have those views where you just don’t want to blink in case you miss anything.
When leaving Island in the Sky, stop off a Dead Horse Point State Park near the entrance to Island in the Sky. It is an extra fee, but well worth it for the iconic view of the horseshoe curve in the Colorado River. The picture of me with my daughter linked to this post is actually from there. It looks more dangerous than it is! I promise.
A return trip here for hiking in the Needles section is definitely on the bucket list. I can’t wait to return.