Arches Park Avenue Trail

Overview: A must-do short stroll in the shadow of nature’s skyscrapers.

Start: Park Avenue Parking Area

Distance: 2 miles out and back (or 1 mile if you can do a car shuttle)

Difficulty: Easy

Maps: USGS Arches National Park; Trails Illustrated Arches National Park

Finding the trailhead: The Park Avenue Parking Area is on your left 2.5 miles from the entrance station. The Courthouse Towers Parking Area is on your right 3.7 miles from the entrance station in the shadow of massive Courthouse Towers.

Trailhead GPS (Park Avenue Parking Area): 38.624348, -109.599481

Trailhead GPS (Courthouse Towers Parking Area: 38.637085, -109.600133

The Park Avenue Trail is most aptly named for New York City’s famous street. Early travelers noticed a similarity between these sandstone spires and the famous skyscrapers along New York’s Park Avenue, and the name stuck. The main difference, of course, is that the “skyscrapers” of Arches National Park were sculpted by nature.

Although you can start at either end of this shuttle trail, starting at the south end (Park Avenue) results in a totally downhill hike. However, if you want to take this shuttle route as you leave the park, start at the north end, and have somebody pick you up at the south end. (If you can’t arrange a shuttle, this hike is still definitely worth taking, even with double the mileage [still only 2 miles] by going out and back.)

You’ll really be missing something if you leave Arches without taking this short hike. You can see the Courthouse Towers, Tower of Babel, Three Gossips, the Organ, and other grand “skyscrapers” from the road, but if you don’t take this hike, you’ll miss the truly stimulating experience of walking among them.

From the south trailhead the trail starts out as a concrete path leading to a scenic overlook about 100 yards from the trailhead. From here a well-defined trail goes through juniper and cactus until it melts into a slickrock dry wash and stays there until just before you return to the main road. The trail disappears, but there’s no chance of getting lost. Stay in the dry wash and follow well-placed cairns to the Courthouse Towers Parking Area.

Hike information adapted from Best Easy Day Hikes Canyonlands and Arches National Parks (FalconGuides), which includes mile-by-mile hike descriptions and maps.