Corona Arch Hike, Moab (Bowtie Arch Too!)

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You don’t have to set foot inside Arches National Park to see one of the most amazing natural arches in the Moab area.  Corona Arch is absolutely huge – it’s 105 feet high and 140 feet across.  And yes, you’ve seen it before.  Corona Arch gained fame a few years back in a viral YouTube video, as the site of the “World’s Largest Rope Swing”.

Corona Arch isn’t far from town and requires just a fairly easy 3-mile round-trip hike to enjoy.  You’ll also get to see a bonus arch, Bowtie Arch, and plenty of other uniquely Utah scenery along the way.

Location

Corona Arch is located near Moab, Utah.  From Moab, drive north on US 191, then turn left onto Potash Road (U-279).  Drive 10 miles, then look for the parking lot for the trailhead on the right.

My Visit

Just getting to the Corona Arch trailhead is part of the fun.  You’ll need to drive out Potash Road to find the trailhead, but I’d strongly recommend driving all the way to the end of this road, just to see it all.  Potash Road is squeezed in between the Colorado River on one side, and sandstone cliffs on the other.  The cliffs are popular with rock-climbers, who dangle directly above the road.

Potash Road isn’t all beautiful, though.  It gets its name from the potash plant at the end of the road — a big, ugly industrial site.  The beginning of the road, near US 191 on the north side of Moab, is overshadowed by power lines. But, the middle of this road is pure Moab magic.

As you drive Potash Road, you’ll notice a set of railroad tracks that run nearby.  This rail line ends at the potash plant, and it’s still active, with one or two trains using it every day.

Once you’ve parked at the Corona Arch trailhead and walked up a small hill, you’ll need to cross these railroad tracks.

The crossing is located at the end of a deep cut through a sandstone hill.  It feels a lot like a tunnel that’s missing its roof.

The rail line passes through this cut, then continues on into a wider canyon.  We’ll be able to see it again, once we get to Corona Arch.

As you cross the railroad and continue up the trail…

… you’ll have a nice view back at Potash Road, the railroad tracks, and the incredible canyon carved by the Colorado River.

The trail is pretty uneventful for a while.  You’ll cross through an open desert landscape, with future arches visible on the surrounding hills.  After a while…

… you’ll come to this corner.  Here, the trail crosses the slickrock, and there’s a cable attached to the rock, to help you navigate the curve.  You could probably do it just fine without the cable, because the hillside isn’t too steep here, but it’s still nice to have it as a safety net.

As soon as you get around this corner, the scenery changes dramatically and the fun really begins.

Corona Arch Hike

Now, Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch are both in view.  There’s a small canyon that you have to circle around to get there…

… and in one spot, there’s a small ladder attached to the rock, to help you get up a challenging part of the trail.  After that, you’re there!

You’ll come upon Bowtie Arch first.  With a little effort, you can climb up to a spot that’s almost directly below the arch.  It feels a lot like being inside a toilet bowl, looking up.

Skirt the ledge from Bowtie Arch…

… around to the main attraction, Corona Arch.

This massive structure boggles the mind.  It’s hard to conceive how it could have ever formed.

Some erosion on the cliff near the arch is starting to form more future arches, but for now, it sort-of looks like a face.

Have you noticed something unusual in all of these pictures?  There’s nobody.  No people at all.  I was visiting in late January, and I pretty much had the place to myself.  I saw a couple of people when I arrived at Corona Arch, but they were getting ready to leave.  Once they were gone, I stayed at least a half-hour, maybe longer, and nobody else ever showed up.  That’s pretty great for a place that gets 40,000 visitors per year.

Earlier, I mentioned that viral video that shows people rope-swinging off Corona Arch.  You can check it out here if you’d like.  It’s pretty incredible stuff.  But it’s also worth noting that the following year, someone died here when he misjudged the length of rope he needed.  After that, rope-swinging was made illegal here.  I’m unclear on whether that ban still stands.

But, if you want to rope-swing, or you’d just like to climb up to the top of Corona Arch, it shouldn’t be very hard to do.

After you’ve passed under the arch, keep going.  The cliff gets steeper here, but you’ll also find a less-steep slope that should be easy to climb. I even saw a rope left behind on this part, although I didn’t feel confident enough to give it a try.  Like I said, I hadn’t seen anyone else in quite a while, and I figured I might need to wait a while if I needed a rescue.  But, I’m pretty sure you could use this route to get all the way up to the top of the arch (and maybe even over to the top of the Bowtie Arch toilet bowl!)

While you’re over there on the far side of the arch, be sure to take a look down into the canyon.  Way down at the bottom, you’ll see those train tracks.  Just imagine the effort that went into putting in a railroad to the potash plant!

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive out Potash Road:

The Bottom Line

With so many great hikes in Arches and Canyonlands, it would be easy to overlook some of the great trails along Potash Road, including the hike to Corona Arch.  But if you watch that rope swing video, you’ll probably want to add Corona and Bowtie to your plans.

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