UT_2014-02: Sand Dune and Broken Arch Loop

Wonderful short hike to three beautiful arches. We’ve visited Arches several times over the past few years but we had not taken the time to explore around Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch. That was probably in part due arriving at the trailhead parking lot later in the morning when the lot was full, after we had completed some other hike. This trip we decided to cover some new ground around Moab, including Sand Dune and Broken Arches, so after just short stop in the Windows Section we headed straight to the trailhead. We were much earlier in the day than our previous visits, so there was only one other car in the lot when we arrive at 8:20. We quickly got our day packs one and headed to the trail. There was a marker at the trailhead that showed the route of this three-mile long, lollipop trail. But it was a bit chilly this morning as the overcast hid the warming rays of the sun. Jackets or not? It’s bound to warm up quickly so I opted not. The first stop on the trail is Sand Dune Arch, hidden in the fins just a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. To get to the arch is another tenth of a mile along a narrow gap between the fins. The sand is a little deep in places but not too difficult. The arch is tucked back off to the right from the trail between the fins. It is not a huge arch, but it does have a nice contour. There is also what appears to be the remains of an fallen arch (the ends of the old arch in the fin next to Sand Dune). Just more evidence to the ever changing nature of Arches National Park. Of course other evidence to changes in the park was the barricade just to the south of Sand Dune Arch to keep the tourists from further damaging the that area with carved graffiti. C’mon people, use your heads. So back out to the main trail, we headed across an open field, marching toward the distance set of fins that house Broken Arch. The wildflowers were awesome along this stretch of the trail and the views all around were outstanding. The fins in front of us were getting the morning light. The fins behind us were more in shadow but had some interesting light play as well with the sun trying to sneak through. But in addition to the morning light I was also glad that it was morning for the cool temperatures as this part of the trail is completely exposed. Makes for great views, but I bet could be brutal on a hot afternoon. Broken Arch was visible at the far right of the collection of fins we were approaching. Once we reached the fins, the trail worked along the edge of the rock toward the arch. We got some interesting up close views of the fins and other formations as well as a few small critter sightings. Overall this is a very easy section of trail; flat but sandy and completely exposed, so make sure to take the proper precautions (bring plenty of water, slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat). We reached Broken Arch about ten ‘til nine. Quite an impressive sandstone sculpture. There were a few little pools of water in the slickrock from the rain yesterday, but none were positioned in such a way to provide an interesting reflection shot (in fact there were other puddles scattered along the trail, but nothing that provided any photographic interest…at least not that I could see). But the arch itself made a great frame for the landscape back to the south. We enjoyed the views from around the arch for a few minutes, then continued on around the loop. There were nice views along the trail, with a few sandstone monuments along the trail and bigger vistas off to the north where the red rocks were capped by a layer of lighter colored sediment. The rocks in that area were domed, like old churches or something. The trail alternated between slickrock and sand and had a bit of a roll to it as we worked through a couple of gullies. Then we got a little surprise as there was a sign stating that the trail to Tapestry Arch was another 100 yards down the trail. Well, we did not know there was another major arch on the trail, so we got a bit of a bonus (maybe it was marked on the sign at the trailhead and I just missed it). We could now see the arch off in the distance, out among the church domes. Well, let’s find that trail and check it out. The sign was well placed, as this would appear to be a good place to head across the desert to reach the arch, but the marked spur was the better way to go as it is the established trail and therefore should reduce the impact to the area. So the spur trail was pretty easy except for the one point where there was a big juniper bush sort of hanging across the wash. The girls stayed in the wash and worked around the tree while I took the high road and scrambled up on the slickrock bench, where the next set of cairns was located. Nice view of Tapestry Arch from this point. We cruised on over the slickrock, down through the next wash and back up on the sandstone to the arch. I climbed up onto the shelf below the arch, but that was as far as I could go as there was no access beyond the arch. Nice views from up there though, plus I worked around to get a glimpse up the adjacent canyon. We were right in the midst of the dark red rocks with the tan domes. We retraced our steps back to the main loop then moved on to the campground. How convenient, the trail enters the campground right next to the outhouse. So we took a little break and read the signage which provides information on the trail and gave good directions to the point where the trail exit the campground (over near campsite 51, I think it was). I reckon it was about 9:45 by the time we left the campground. To this point, we had seen three other people on the trail. The trail started to climb once we exited the campground. Nothing major in terms of difficultly, but it was uphill. But that was OK as the vistas from the high ground were some of the best along the trail. Nice view looking back out over Tapestry Arch with the some interesting cloud formations as a backdrop. Then we dropped back down into the sandstone fins and through the narrow, downhill passages. This was another sort of interesting little section of the trail, walking through the tall fins and spires, but the lighting was not the greatest as we were heading back into the sun. We soon broke out of the sandstone fins and back into the open expanse between Broken and Sand Dune Arches. There were a few more folks on the trail now, but still it was not crowded. I reckon we were back at the trailhead a little before 10:00, so not quite two hours to complete the loop. The trailhead parking lot was not packed when we returned but it was certainly a lot more crowded than when we arrived two hours ago. Early start, that’s the way to go. This was a gem of a hike. It does not get the attention of the Fiery Furnace, Devils Garden to Delicate Arch, but it is certainly worth the effort. You know, it is sort of an easier version of the Devils Garden. It is much less than half the distance and takes much less time and is an easier trail, but it offers three great arches and some great views all along the trail. Maybe this is a good option for folks who are not up for the longer and more challenging primitive trail through the Devils Garden.

Hiking/Backpacking

Utah, United States
OhioHick photo
time : Sep 22, 2014 8:25 AM
duration : 1h 51m 45s
distance : 3 mi
total_ascent : 446 ft
highest_point : 5207 ft
avg_speed : 1.6 mi/h
user_id : OhioHick
user_firstname : Allen
user_lastname : Arrington
Wonderful short hike to three beautiful arches. We’ve visited Arches several times over the past few years but we had not taken the time to explore around Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch. That was probably in part due arriving at the trailhead parking lot later in the morning when the lot was full, after we had completed some other hike. This trip we decided to cover some new ground around Moab, including Sand Dune and Broken Arches, so after just short stop in the Windows Section we headed straight to the trailhead. We were much earlier in the day than our previous visits, so there was only one other car in the lot when we arrive at 8:20. We quickly got our day packs one and headed to the trail. There was a marker at the trailhead that showed the route of this three-mile long, lollipop trail. But it was a bit chilly this morning as the overcast hid the warming rays of the sun. Jackets or not? It’s bound to warm up quickly so I opted not. The first stop on the trail is Sand Dune Arch, hidden in the fins just a tenth of a mile from the trailhead. To get to the arch is another tenth of a mile along a narrow gap between the fins. The sand is a little deep in places but not too difficult. The arch is tucked back off to the right from the trail between the fins. It is not a huge arch, but it does have a nice contour. There is also what appears to be the remains of an fallen arch (the ends of the old arch in the fin next to Sand Dune). Just more evidence to the ever changing nature of Arches National Park. Of course other evidence to changes in the park was the barricade just to the south of Sand Dune Arch to keep the tourists from further damaging the that area with carved graffiti. C’mon people, use your heads. So back out to the main trail, we headed across an open field, marching toward the distance set of fins that house Broken Arch. The wildflowers were awesome along this stretch of the trail and the views all around were outstanding. The fins in front of us were getting the morning light. The fins behind us were more in shadow but had some interesting light play as well with the sun trying to sneak through. But in addition to the morning light I was also glad that it was morning for the cool temperatures as this part of the trail is completely exposed. Makes for great views, but I bet could be brutal on a hot afternoon. Broken Arch was visible at the far right of the collection of fins we were approaching. Once we reached the fins, the trail worked along the edge of the rock toward the arch. We got some interesting up close views of the fins and other formations as well as a few small critter sightings. Overall this is a very easy section of trail; flat but sandy and completely exposed, so make sure to take the proper precautions (bring plenty of water, slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat). We reached Broken Arch about ten ‘til nine. Quite an impressive sandstone sculpture. There were a few little pools of water in the slickrock from the rain yesterday, but none were positioned in such a way to provide an interesting reflection shot (in fact there were other puddles scattered along the trail, but nothing that provided any photographic interest…at least not that I could see). But the arch itself made a great frame for the landscape back to the south. We enjoyed the views from around the arch for a few minutes, then continued on around the loop. There were nice views along the trail, with a few sandstone monuments along the trail and bigger vistas off to the north where the red rocks were capped by a layer of lighter colored sediment. The rocks in that area were domed, like old churches or something. The trail alternated between slickrock and sand and had a bit of a roll to it as we worked through a couple of gullies. Then we got a little surprise as there was a sign stating that the trail to Tapestry Arch was another 100 yards down the trail. Well, we did not know there was another major arch on the trail, so we got a bit of a bonus (maybe it was marked on the sign at the trailhead and I just missed it). We could now see the arch off in the distance, out among the church domes. Well, let’s find that trail and check it out. The sign was well placed, as this would appear to be a good place to head across the desert to reach the arch, but the marked spur was the better way to go as it is the established trail and therefore should reduce the impact to the area. So the spur trail was pretty easy except for the one point where there was a big juniper bush sort of hanging across the wash. The girls stayed in the wash and worked around the tree while I took the high road and scrambled up on the slickrock bench, where the next set of cairns was located. Nice view of Tapestry Arch from this point. We cruised on over the slickrock, down through the next wash and back up on the sandstone to the arch. I climbed up onto the shelf below the arch, but that was as far as I could go as there was no access beyond the arch. Nice views from up there though, plus I worked around to get a glimpse up the adjacent canyon. We were right in the midst of the dark red rocks with the tan domes. We retraced our steps back to the main loop then moved on to the campground. How convenient, the trail enters the campground right next to the outhouse. So we took a little break and read the signage which provides information on the trail and gave good directions to the point where the trail exit the campground (over near campsite 51, I think it was). I reckon it was about 9:45 by the time we left the campground. To this point, we had seen three other people on the trail. The trail started to climb once we exited the campground. Nothing major in terms of difficultly, but it was uphill. But that was OK as the vistas from the high ground were some of the best along the trail. Nice view looking back out over Tapestry Arch with the some interesting cloud formations as a backdrop. Then we dropped back down into the sandstone fins and through the narrow, downhill passages. This was another sort of interesting little section of the trail, walking through the tall fins and spires, but the lighting was not the greatest as we were heading back into the sun. We soon broke out of the sandstone fins and back into the open expanse between Broken and Sand Dune Arches. There were a few more folks on the trail now, but still it was not crowded. I reckon we were back at the trailhead a little before 10:00, so not quite two hours to complete the loop. The trailhead parking lot was not packed when we returned but it was certainly a lot more crowded than when we arrived two hours ago. Early start, that’s the way to go. This was a gem of a hike. It does not get the attention of the Fiery Furnace, Devils Garden to Delicate Arch, but it is certainly worth the effort. You know, it is sort of an easier version of the Devils Garden. It is much less than half the distance and takes much less time and is an easier trail, but it offers three great arches and some great views all along the trail. Maybe this is a good option for folks who are not up for the longer and more challenging primitive trail through the Devils Garden.
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