17 Arches Across the West (you probably haven’t heard of)

Indian Rock in Yosemite National Park, California

Indian Rock in Yosemite National Park, California

There’s something about the gracious span of an arch that takes our breath away.  The gravity-defying feat is eye-catching at worst, and enthralling at best.




Many people know about famous arches and natural bridges, like Delicate Arch or Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, but the arches are defiantly not limited to one park, or even to the state of Utah.  So I’ve gathered some of the most impressive arches across the west (that you probably haven’t heard of).

 

Druid Arch at the end of a long, sandy wash in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Druid Arch at the end of a long, sandy wash in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Druid Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.  It’s a long trek through a sandy wash, up dryfalls, and within a seemingly endless canyon.  But the arch is magnificent, and worth the arduous hike.  10.2 miles out & back.

 

Indian Rock, high on the cliff in Yosemite National Park, California

Indian Rock, high on the cliff in Yosemite National Park, California

Indian Rock, Yosemite National Park, California.  Who’s heard of Indian Rock?  Even the hikers of North Dome – the trail used to access the arch – walk right past the arch, high on the hillside, without realizing it’s even there.  Or if they do, they smile and move on.  But it’s a ton of fun to go up to it and enjoy it up close – if you don’t mind a bit of a scramble. 6.6 miles, out & back

 

The upper side of Jacob Hamblin Arch in Glen Canyon Recreation Area, Utah

The upper side of Jacob Hamblin Arch in Glen Canyon Recreation Area, Utah

Jacob Hamblin Arch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. The “trail” – such as it is; since it’s more of route than a trail – takes you straight across the Utah desert, then on a scramble down into a slot canyon.  It’s not for the faint of heart, or the tentative of foot, but the arch is quite something. About 2 miles out & back.

 

The arch on Floras Lake Beach, Oregon

The arch on Floras Lake Beach, Oregon

Floras Lake Beach Arch, Floras Lake Beach, Oregon.  Tucked away from the wind surfers on Floras Lake, the hike – there isn’t a trail – traverses the sandy beach between the Pacific Ocean and towering cliffs.  4.6 miles out & back.

 

The Big Balanced Rock in Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Big Balanced Rock in Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Balanced Rock, Big Bend National Park, Texas.  The Grapevine Hills Trail doesn’t make it sound like there’s an impressive arch at the end of the hike, but there is: a natural Stonehenge, a large rock balanced atop several others to create the archway.  It’s worth the road by the garbage dump to see the span in person. 2.2 miles out & back.

 

Metate Arch in Devils Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Metate Arch in Devils Garden, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Metate and Mano Arches, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.  Again, there’s no trail (is this beginning to sound familiar?), but you get to wander through fantastic formations of all kinds (and more than one color!) to find the two arches, near each other about in the center of the garden. Mileage varies, but you won’t be hiking more than about a quarter mile – or maybe a mile if you explore a lot.

 

Tower Bridge along the Fairyland Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Tower Bridge along the Fairyland Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Tower Bridge, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. There is a trail to this one!  Located along the park’s Fairyland Trail, the hike through orange spires and clusters of hoodoos is epic, even without the “bridge” arch. 8.25 mile loop or about 4.25 miles out & back from North Campground.

 

Lexington Arch in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Lexington Arch in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Lexington Arch, Great Basin National Park, Nevada.  The road to the trailhead may be rather more exciting than you want to tackle, and if you actually want to get to the arch (or even get a good viewpoint of it), you’ll have to scramble off the trail.  But it’s a pretty incredible sight. 3.5 miles out & back.

 

Broken Bow Arch, deep in a canyon in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Broken Bow Arch, deep in a canyon in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Broken Bow Arch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Drive the (very bumpy) Hole-in-the-Rock Road about 40 miles, then take the side road to the parking area, descend into a wash, and follow the trail downcanyon to the arch – reminiscent of arches in Arches National Park, only bigger.  Explore the stream for even more of an adventure. About 6.0 miles out & back.

 

One of the arches in Pioneer Park just outside of St. George, Utah

One of the arches in Pioneer Park just outside of St. George, Utah

Arches in Pioneer Park, Utah.  Pioneer Park is a hidden gem, just north of St. George, Utah (so close to the city, people stop there on their way home from church).  It’s a wildland of red rocks, several arches (all unnamed, as far as I can tell), and even a slot canyon – exploration encouraged!  Mileage varies, depending on route and exploration

 

The Keyhole at Monument Rocks, Kansas

The Keyhole at Monument Rocks, Kansas

The Keyhole, Monument Rocks, Kansas.  Arches aren’t limited to Red Rock Country.  This arch might not be completely natural – it was created when someone shot a bullet through the rock formation that once guided pioneers across the prairie – but it’s very impressive and grows bigger by the year. Mileage varies, but you can just about drive to it.

 

Corona Arch outside of Moab, Utah

Corona Arch outside of Moab, Utah

Corona Arch & Bowtie Arch, Utah.  Owned by the BLM, the route starts above the Colorado River and leads to a majestic arch and a pothole-style arch. About 3.0 mile out & back.

 

Two arches in Peek-a-boo Slot, Utah

Two arches in Peek-a-boo Slot, Utah

Peek-a-Boo Slot, formally Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah.  Hike the trail to the wash, then scramble a near-sheer wall into one of Utah’s beautiful slot canyons.  Several arches grace the entrance, making it a beautiful, if adventurous, hike. 3.5 mile lollipop loop with Spooky Slot.

An unnamed sea arch somewhere between the Natural Bridge and Thunder Rock Cove in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Oregon

An unnamed sea arch somewhere between the Natural Bridge and Thunder Rock Cove in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Oregon

Sea Arches in Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Oregon.  There are many arches in the sea stacks along the coast – the most famous one in the corridor being at the Arch Rock Picnic Area.  For slightly more adventure, check out the social trails near the Natural Bridge Overlook.  Mileage varies, but can be less than a quarter mile.

 

Musselman Arch from the side, along the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Musselman Arch from the side, along the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Musselman Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.  You’ll need a permit and a 4×4 vehicle to get to it, but Musselman Arch is definitely unique, on the edge of a canyon with red and white spires below. 0.15 miles out & back or loop

 

Coyote Natural Bridge in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Coyote Natural Bridge in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Coyote Natural Bridge, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Walk down the stream in Coyote Gulch to this lovely little natural bridge, with ancient American Indian relics in alcoves close by.  Continue down the gulch to see Stevens Arch, much larger and more impressive than even Coyote Natural Bridge. About 8 miles out & back.

 

One or two of the sea arches along the Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument Trail, California

One or two of the sea arches along the Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument Trail, California

Sea Arches, Point Arena-Stornetta National Monument, California. The cliff-top walk takes you by more sea arches than I could count – and high tide, the water covers some but churns within others in spectacular jets of spray. 3.5-6.8 miles out & back or as a 3.45 mile shuttle.

 

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Looking for even more arches?  This guide suggests so many arches beyond the normal, road-side and trail-side features in the Arches and Moab area.