Many of Utah’s iconic arches, towers, and fins are located beyond the entrances of national parks, and come with attendant crowds, fees, and traffic. Not so with Wilson Arch, an elegant sandstone feature that sits along Highway 191 south of Moab on BLM land. The pull-out, located less than a mile south of La Sal Junction, is well-marked.
This large Entrada Sandstone arch, which was named after a Dry Valley pioneer named Joe Wilson, is accessed by an easy scramble up red dirt. If you don’t have the time or energy to hike to the arch, the view from the pull-off is pretty spectacular—the sandstone structure frames the blue, Utah sky in picture-perfect fashion.
But, if you are interested in trekking up the hill, you will be rewarded handsomely. The elliptical-shaped arch (I wouldn’t say the arch is elliptical-shaped, but the arch opening is) is a great spot for a midday picnic or a scenic perch to take in the fins and formations of the incredible landscape. Sitting underneath the arch offers a lovely view of the graceful lines of this large rock structure, which has been sculpted by wind, water, and time. Unfortunately, the proximity to the road has made it an easy target for vandals, evidenced by an appalling number of names and other words scratched into the rock. Please be a good steward and leave the rock as it is.
If you are feeling even more adventurous after your hike, you can climb to the top of the arch and rappel down. The climb is only rated a 5.3, but serious exposure, and a couple tricky moves makes it a good idea to rope up. The route follows a system of cracks and grooves on the right side of the arch. It’s not the climb that attracts people though, the real appeal is in the rappel.
Many climbers simul-rappel through the eye of the arch — which means they use each others body weight to slowly lower each other down on either side of the arch. This is a thrilling activity for climbers and onlookers — including folks in the cars driving by. There are also rappel anchors at the top if you don’t feel safe with the simul-rappel. It’s recommended that climbers take 2 60-meter ropes, a light rack of cams from .5” to 2,” and extra webbing.
Wilson Arch is easily accessible, beautiful, and definitely worth the five-minute hike it takes to get there. To add to the appeal, it’s free. Families, climbers, and anyone who appreciates the landscape of southern Utah should be sure to visit.