Start: Tower Arch Trailhead
Distance: 3.4 miles; out-and-back
Difficulty: Moderately difficult; could be considered strenuous on a hot summer day
Maps: USGS Arches National Park; Trails Illustrated Arches National Park
Finding the trailhead: Turn left (west) onto Salt Valley Road, which leaves the main road 16 miles beyond the entrance station. You can take any vehicle on this road, but the NPS recommends staying off it when it’s wet, so don’t get caught in a thunderstorm. Follow the road for 7.1 miles until you see a junction with a sign pointing to a left turn to Klondike Bluffs. Take this road for 1.1 miles until it ends at the Tower Arch Trailhead. At this junction be sure to take the second left turn to Klondike Bluffs Road, not the first left, a primitive four-wheel-drive road to Balanced Rock.
Trailhead GPS: 38.792439, -109.675108
Tower Arch is a short but rugged hike, or as indicated by the sign at the trailhead, a primitive trail, and the NPS considers it “strenuous.” To avoid an afternoon thunderstorm, which makes the Salt Valley Road impassable, get up early to do this hike.
The trail immediately starts to climb to the top of the bluff, up a steep but short incline. After this brief climb the trail continues up and down until you see massive Tower Arch surrounded by a maze of spectacular sandstone spires. Along the way you get great views of the austere Klondike Bluffs on your right.
Part of the trail is on slickrock, so always be watching for the next cairn. The roughest part of the trail, however, goes through two stretches of loose sand near the end of the hike that make hiking uphill difficult. It’s easier coming back, though.
You can climb up under the arch and get a great view while taking a deserved rest stop. In spring you’ll see the magnificent, snowcapped La Sal Mountains to the east through the arch opening.