The trail is easy to follow although it does cross some wide expanses of slickrock pavement. These sections, however, are well marked with cairns. A couple of slickrock sections also have metal cables to use as handrails as well as a ladder on one steep step. If you have a fear of heights or unsure footing, it’s best to stop after the first cable to view the arch.
During the warmer months, do this hike first thing in the morning since it gets sun all day. Carry plenty of water and wear a hat. Little shade is found along the trail, except beneath overhanging cliffs in the late afternoon. Watch children, as the trail skirts numerous drop-offs.
Start at the trailhead on the right side of the parking area. The trail quickly climbs a rocky talus slope and reaches a BLM register box just before railroad tracks at 0.1 mile. Sign in and cross the tracks. Trains use the tracks to haul potash from the Potash Mine and North America’s largest potash deposit. Potash, used as a water softener and fertilizer, is extracted by solution mining, and then processed and shipped by truck and railroad.
The sandy trail follows an old road north alongside a cliff, then bends right below the cliff. Look up left to the high canyon rim to see Pinto Arch, a pothole arch. The trail climbs up a shallow rocky canyon to a broad bench and heads northeast across sand and slickrock pavement until it’s below a tall slabby cliff. Hike across sloping slabs below the cliff to a long cable anchored to posts. Past the cable at 0.7 mile is your first view of Corona Arch, a dramatic span above Bootlegger Canyon. If you’re queasy about heights, this is the best turn-around point.
The trail, crossing slickrock pavement, bends left here along a wide stone bench and reaches another cable. Grab the cable and climb steps chopped into a sandstone slab. Climb a five-step metal ladder above to a small, twisted juniper tree and a higher bench. Follow the broad slickrock bench around the head of a cul-de-sac canyon and bend east toward Corona Arch.
Bowtie Arch towers above the trail to your left. This pothole arch formed when a pothole above, usually filled with water, eroded down into a cave below. Continue hiking along a sloping sandstone slab and reach Corona Arch after 1.5 miles.
Corona Arch is a spectacular span composed of Navajo sandstone. The arch opening measures 140 feet across by 105 feet high. Lie down beneath the arch in its long, narrow shadow on hot days to get a true measure of both its size and fragility. Since the arch is located outside of Arches National Park, it hasn’t received the same protections as its federally sheltered neighbors, and adventurers use it for fun and excitement. Although the practice is now banned, airplanes have flown through the opening, while climbers still ascend to the top and rappel off.
Finish the hike by following the trail back to the trailhead.
Overview: This excellent hike above the Colorado River Canyon leads to three arches, including Corona Arch, one of the largest arches in the Moab area. Superb hike for those who want to enjoy arches far from the crowds in Arches National Park.
Distance: 3 miles out and back
Approximate hiking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate; 250-foot elevation gain
Trail surface: Single-track dirt path and sandstone slabs
Best season: Year-round. Summers are hot.
Other trail users: None
Canine compatibility: Dogs allowed
Fees and permits: None
Maps: USGS Gold Bar, Moab Trails Illustrated Explorer
Trail contacts: Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Moab Field Office, 82 E. Dogwood, Moab 84532; (435) 259-2100; website
Finding the trailhead: From Moab, drive northwest on US 191 to a left (south) turn on UT 279/Potash Road (1.3 miles west of the Colorado River Bridge). Drive south on UT 279 for 10 miles to the signed Corona Arch Trailhead on the right (east) side of the highway opposite the Gold Bar Campground.
Trailhead GPS: N 38 34.467', W 109 37.941'
* Corona Arch by John Fowler