3 (mostly) family-friendly arch hikes around Moab

Cara MacDonald

3 (mostly) family-friendly arch hikes around Moab

By Cara MacDonald, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Aug. 14, 2020 at 12:24 p.m.


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MOAB — There are innumerable fun activities for any age and skill level around Moab.

But for families looking to enjoy the town and its surrounding nature for the first time, or those who want to enjoy more of what this desert oasis has to offer, here are great hikes accessible to the whole family:

Corona Arch

The Corona Arch trail is a 3-mile round-trip hike to the famous (and currently quite festive) Corona Arch which stands impressively on the edge of a cliff and puts to shame many other famous arches in the Moab area. The hardest portion of this hike is a small cliff that must be ascended with the assistance of a ladder and rope, but it is not difficult and many people make the ascent even with dogs or young children.

The trailhead is located about 10 miles down Potash Road, which is a left-hand turn-off around 4 miles north from Moab. The entire trail is quite clear and well-marked; it begins with crossing scenic railroad tracks before ascending onto a bench. Hikers then proceed along the slickrock path following the small piles of rocks (cairns) until reaching some steps and a ladder with ropes to help hikers ascend.

From there, the trail leads hikers under Bowtie Arch and out to Corona Arch, which sits picturesquely at the edge of the bench. Hikers can return the way they ascended.

Note: This hike is exposed and does not feature any water, so prepare for high heat and bring plenty of water to cope with soaring summer and fall temperatures.

Mill Creek Trail

The Mill Creek Trail, located at the edge of Moab and near the Sand Flats, is an out-and-back path featuring swimming holes, waterfalls, and a creek with the option to extend the hike to as long as 7 ½ miles round-trip.

The initial hike to Mill Creek Waterfall is about 0.8 miles, and the entire distance can be hiked alongside the creek — if you prefer to stay dry — or in the creek, if you’re looking to cool off in the water. The initial waterfall and swimming pool are a popular destination for cliff jumping, swimming and enjoying the water during hot desert days.

Should you decide to hike beyond Mill Creek Waterfall, the trail extends a ways further and will feature more swimming holes and even a natural slide honed into sandstone rocks. There may be water snakes and rattlesnakes in this canyon, so stay vigilant and exercise caution as needed.

Culvert (Dragonfly) Canyon

The hardest and least family-friendly of these hikes is the more challenging Culvert Canyon, a less-traveled hiking destination along Potash Road located just a little way down the street from Corona Arch Trailhead (which is hard to miss). At mile marker 5 on Potash Road, pull off to find a huge culvert that descends under the railroad tracks and creates a tunnel.

After exiting the culvert, ascend the winding path around pools and over to the first overhang, which looms over a pool of water. Bypass the overhang and then skirt around the next large pool employing the use of ledges to the right to pass the water feature.

Beyond the second pool, some gray boulders cue the moment to exit the canyon. Along the left-hand slope, cairns illuminate the route up the slope. Once on the rim, follow a faded trail that runs parallel to a long cliff and look for cairns as you keep north by ensuring a big rock buttress stays to your left.

When a dark rock tower appears to your left, you will be presented with a choice. "You can approach the south entrance of Jeep Arch by walking up and around this landmark on either side," according to Moab Happenings. The website suggests another, "easier route that pursues a northly course by keeping the rock tower to the left. At this point, continue on to the next mammoth rock mesa to pick up the well-used trail which will take you to the north entrance of the arch."

The arch, to be found at the end of the hike, is shaped like a jeep and looks as if someone punched a giant hole through the side of a cliff.

Although the primary goal of the hike is to access Jeep Arch, hikers who do not wish to go the whole way or bother navigating the faded trail up higher may enjoy a pleasant couple of hours wandering around in the canyon until they reach a pour-over, which hinders their ability to go further. This shortened hike is far more family-friendly and still features many stunning views.

What are your favorite hikes around Moab? Comment below.

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