Arch Canyon Trail is two adventures in one. The first adventure is a classic Utah 4x4 trail into the canyon followed by an awesome canyon hike to get to several large arches at the end of the jeep trail.
To access the ATV trail / Jeep road we started from Comb Wash Campground at the bottom of the Comb Wash cliff along UT 95. From the campground it is an easy mile or two along a standard dirt road that most any car can access. However, once you reach the mouth of Arch Canyon you will need a 4x4 to continue as the trail uses the creek as the trail for a few hundred yards.
Once into the canyon the first thing you will notice are the ruins along the north wall of the canyon. Arch Canyon is famous for it's vast collection of Cedar Mesa Ruins. If you are on a road trip with a standard car you could walk to the first few ruins, but to get to the best ones you will need a UTV or Jeep. I don't know how many ruins are in the canyon but they can be seen all around. Many are well hidden. We found one ruin while taking a lunch break, it was very well preserved and I don't think many people have seen it.
One ruin actually looked like a prison with bars. The ruin was high up on the canyon wall and I have no idea how the original inhabitant got to the ruin. The deeper the canyon got the higher up the ruins where. There is another trail that will take you to the rim of the canyon where one of the best ruins in all of Utah is located. It is known as Lewis Lodge and is well worth a day to go explore that ruin.
The Jeep Road into the canyon is simply stunning. The huge cliffs of Cedar Mesa Sandstone are amazing. Just as chance would have it, we made our trip in the afternoon and the sun angles were awesome. The trail really looked like something out of a movie or a CGI creation, think Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. The deeper into Arch Canyon we traveled the more jaw dropping it got.
The 4x4 trail portion of the adventure will eventually end at a bucket list campsite. If we would have known we would have brought our camping supplies along with us. As it was we were staying at Moab Adventure Condo's 11A4 Condo back in Moab. The huge canyon walls with the beautiful old growth ponderosa trees really set this area apart from the typically canyon hike you would find in Moab.
This is the end of the Side by Side trail. But don't worry, the hike to Angle Arch is not bad. If you look closely you can see the arch in the center of the rock wall. Trust me the arch is much larger than it appears here. Though Arches National Park is famous for it's arches, this Utah Arch is larger than just about all in the national park.
For scale notice on the size of trees around the opening. The only thing that holds this arch back from being epic is the fact that there is no clear sky behind the opening. If this were the case, this canyon would likely be a national park. Well, I guess it kind of is in Bear's Ear National Monument, but on one really knows were that is as it seems each new president changes the boundaries to the monument.
The name of this arch can be a little confusing. There is another arch in the nearby Needles District of Canyonlands National Park also named Angle Arch. The arch in Canyonlands actually looks like an angle. To be honest, I believe this arch needs a new name to set it apart from its more well known cousin. Can you think of a good name? The first thing that comes to mind for me is Tower Arch but there is already one of those in Arches National Park. I think Elk Ridge Arch could be a good name for this huge span as the area behind the arch is known as Elk Ridge. Another possible name could be Cedar Mesa Arch as the arch is located in Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Regardless of name, this is one very impressive arch and well worth the drive from Moab, Utah to visit.
The hiking trail eventually leads to one of the most lovely arches I have ever seen, Cathedral Arch. It is surprising to see just how simular this arch is to Angle Arch, but to be honest I think this one is better in it's own way. Cathedral Arch is a little farther away from the back of the canyon wall, thus allowing more light behind the span and giving the allusion it is out by itself, kind of like Corona Arch near Moab. The hike to get to this point is at least a mile, maybe more, but it well worth it. I think it is a shame when people are so concerned with UTV trail riding or Jeep trail riding that they can't take the hour or two to see these sites that very few ever experience. Trust me this hike is so beautiful and interesting you will be to the arch before you remotely realize how far you have walked. There is a third arch in the canyon known as Keystone Arch but I did not have time to get to the arch, considering our late start. Guess I will have to go back, dang!
As always if you are planning a trip to Moab consider staying in our condos, Moab Adventure Condo. The condos are nice with lots of room and are a great value as compared with a hotel room. We also have locations in Kanab, Utah, Zion National Park's backdoor.