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Mill Creek Arch

Updated: Mar 18

Moab’s Mill Creek is most famous for the waterfall on Left Fork but for some reason, I always seem to find myself on the Right Fork. Right Fork starts right in town with a lovely creek in a canyon with lots of rock art. However, for this hike, I started about 10 miles south of town near Ken’s Lake. Off-roaders will know this area as the exit to the Steel Bender Trail, sometimes known as Flat Pass.

There is an interesting abandoned cave house just below the arch. I have taken people to the cave house many times because it is near our Moab vacation rental, known as Moab Adventure Condo. Its close location typically makes for a good first taste of Moab after a long day of traveling.

I pride myself on being able to locate things like rock art and arches but I have to give credit to my daughter who spotted the arch last spring. As we pulled up to explore the cave house with some in town family she asked, "What arch is that”. I said, "It’s not an arch it’s a cave house” and she said, "Look up” and I saw it.

Well, you see, seeing things like that ain‘t no good for me. The thought of the arch eats on me, there is something in me that makes me have to get close to the arch. For a normal person, seeing the arch from the ground is all they need. I guess I’m not normal, I have to get up to it. The problem is there is no clear way to get up on top of the rocks.

So when I got there this afternoon I spent a few minutes scoping the area for a way up. All I could find was a small gap in the rocks, so I decided to give it a shot. The first obstacle was crossing Mill Creek. The creek is deep but just barely wide enough to try and jump. When I say barely, I mean barely. But I got across without getting wet.

Spanish Valley from Mill Creek Arch
Ledge next arch, Spanish Valley in distance

I was immediately greeted with a pour off I had to get around just to enter the gap. Once in the gap or slot the trail bottom was easy enough. There were a few scrambles but nothing to write home about. As I ascended the slot, I kept my eye on the left wall looking for any crack in the wall that I thought I might be able to use. It wasn’t too long before I found an accessible ledge I could barely get up. I was thinking to myself, “If I fall no one will ever find me over here”.

Mill Creek Arch from Mill Creek
Mill Creek Arch from Mill Creek

I eventually got to the top and after a few dead ends, I knew I was where I needed to be. Sure enough right on the edge of the cliff was a beautiful arch glowing in the warm winter sun. Just in case you didn’t realize, no one ever comes up to this arch, it’s hidden. But, when I got to the edge the wind was blowing extremely hard, so hard it was difficult to keep your balance.

Over the wind, I could hear whistles and shouts and what I thought was someone telling me to “get down” and “to get off that”. It was really strange, there was no way anyone could see me. I think it may have been someone, maybe with kids, looking at the cave house 200 feet below the arch.

Mill Creek Cave House
Road to Mill Creek cave house from arch

I’m glad I made the trip up here and pioneered a route to the top. In the future maybe I will take the extra adventurous guest with me past the cave house and to Mill Creek Arch. Forget letting them get their feet wet on Moab, I will give them a baptism by fire.

The trail pass Ken’s Lake climbs to the top of a small pass, I guess this is Flat Pass. Anyways, regardless of the official name the trail is very scenic and is actually a dirt road that any car can drive down. At the top of the pass are some hoodoos and they make for lovely pictures during the late afternoon.

Once the top of the pass is made I would find a good parking spot and walk down the backside. If however, you are in a truck or tall SUV you should have no problem descending. At the bottom of the decent stay to the left, the right leads to the end of Steel Bender trail and some neat cowboyglyphs. You will immediately see a small dam across Mill Creek for diverting water to Ken’s Lake. Find a convenient place to park and walk across the dam. You will see a slot canyon coming into your left while crossing the dam, that is your hike.

Cave house below Mill Creek Arch
Cave house below Mill Creek Arch

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