Corona Arch: A great hike through the desert to an amazing arch.
Hiked on Monday, September 22, 2014; reviewed on November 2, 2014 See this review on Trip Advisor or the track on Ramblr.
The hike to Corona Arch has been on my list for a long time; it took us four trips to Moab to finally make it to the arch. If I had realized what a great short hike this is, I would have done it much sooner!
Since we had been hiking in Arches in the morning, we did not start out for the trailhead until 3:00 in order to miss the midday heat as I had read that the trail is very exposed. We made the drive out the Potash road and easily found the parking area for the trailhead, arriving about 3:30. We had ideal conditions with blue skies and the temperature in the mid 80s F.
I’ll cut to the chase, this is an outstanding hike. It was not exactly what I was expecting based on comments from friends who have made the hike. I thought the hike would be a bit more difficult and take longer to get to the arch. But it is a interesting hike with nice views along most of the route and the amazing pay off at the end with Bowtie and Corona Arch.
The first part of the trail is the toughest, as it climbs fairly steeply up a rocky slope from the trailhead to the railroad tracks via a few switchbacks. There is a short level section at the tracks, then the trail climbs again to get to the slickrock bench. I liked the views at the railroad crossing; you can get some interesting shots using the tracks and there are also nice views of the river with the red rocks. Once up on the slickrock, the trail is fairly easy and well marked, but there are a couple of novel obstacles to negotiate, but we’ll get to those shortly.
I found the trail to be very scenic for its entire length. Nice views of the sandstone cliffs all along the trail. But the trail is exposed, so be prepared for a hot, sunny walk (make sure you have water, sunscreen and a hat at a minimum). There were enough cairns along the way to ensure that we were on the right track (and speaking of tracks, you’ll be paralleling the train tracks as they are off to the right down in the valley during the hike to the arch). Speaking of cairns we found example of the hikers making their mark along the trail. There is another “Buddha Beach” built on slickrock. This one is not as expansive and the collection of cairns and rock sculptures in Sedona, but it obviously took some effort and I guess has been added to by many hikers over time.
OK, now for those novel obstacles. There are three sections of the trail where aids have been added to assist the hikers on their trek to Corona Arch. The first is a cable that runs along the edge of a little pour-off; the cable is there to keep you from sliding down the pour, although it is not a long drop. Personally I thought this set of cables was more of a hindrance than a help. However, that is not the case with the second set of cables. These cables are located at a point in the trail where you get your first views of the arches but also where the trail turns sharply up a steep section of slickrock. To get up to the level of the arches, there are cables along with footholds carved into the rock and then finally a short ladder to get up the final tier. The cables and ladder make the hike a LOT easier (I think that you could get up the slickrock where the ladder is located, but I’m not sure how to get around the section where the cables are used. Doesn’t matter, we made it!)
As mentioned, about at the point where the second set of cables is set is where you first see Bowtie Arch and Corona Arch across the valley. Great views from here, but better views are coming as we walked around the slickrock closer to the arches. We also saw a series of hanging gardens growing in the pour-offs below Bowtie Arch. It is always amazing how the plants take advantage of every water source available in the desert.
We completed our hike with a walk under the big arch. We had the place mostly to ourselves for a few minutes. There were only two other hikers on the trail ahead of us and they continued on past the Corona Arch, I think trying to find the trail to the top. So we just enjoyed a few peaceful minutes sitting under the arch and enjoying the desert landscape.
The return hike gave us the opportunity to enjoy the scenery along the trail again. Plus there were a few critters to see along the trail. The lizards were out sunning themselves in the late afternoon sun. We also tried to spot birds in the alcoves along the top of some of the cliffs. There were a few that were obviously used by birds as marked by the white streaks running down from the openings, but no raptors were spotted. We were back at the trailhead at 5:20, so about two hours to complete this great hike. Total distance was 2.4 miles and every step was worth it. I can see making this hike more than once.