Visiting Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park 

Mesa Arch Trail
Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, located in Canyonlands National Park was one of my favorite short hikes I did during my trip to Moab. Despite being located in the busiest area of the park, the Islands in the Sky District, surprisingly, it wasn’t completely overrun by tourists in November.

From where I stayed in Moab, it was a 45 minute drive away, while Arches was just 10 minutes away. I can see why Canyonlands often gets overlooked as Arches is just more convenient to visit.

Is Canyonlands worth visiting when Arches is the more convenient choice?

Yes! I definitely recommend spending at least a day exploring Canyonlands.

A lot of people just visit Arches National Park. And while, yes, it is the more famous park of the two, some of the best views in Utah can be seen from Canyonlands National Park. I highly recommend making time for both parks on your trip.

Canyonlands National Park Entrance fee

It will cost you $30 per vehicle to enter the park. $25 if you are on a motorcycle and $15 per person if you walk in or ride a bike into the park. Not sure anyone really does this as the park is huge.

Mesa Arch Trail Details:

  • Trailhead: Mesa Arch Trailhead (google map link here) Only a 10 min drive from visitors center.
  • Distance: .5 mi (.8 km) roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Pets: No pets allowed
  • Kid Friendly: Yes!
  • Fee: $30 per car to enter the park (hike is free after entering)

What to Expect on the Mesa Arch Trail

This short “hike” is only about a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot. Considering the ease of the trail, this hike has a very high payoff for very little effort. Keep reading for more details on what to expect on the actual hike.

Mesa Arch Trailhead and Parking

The Mesa Arch trailhead is located just a 10 minute drive from the Islands in the Sky visitors center. Google map link to the Mesa Arch trailhead here.

There are bathrooms and trash cans at the trailhead.

The parking lot is fairly big and was almost empty when I was there in November. I had no issues finding parking.

Mesa Arch Trail

The actual trail is very easy to follow. The terrain is mostly sand and rock. Honestly, you could do it in flip flops fine.

It is not wheelchair or stroller friendly.

The trail is not mind blowingly beautiful, but the payoff is huge!

Mesa Arch trail view from parking lot.
Mesa Arch trail view looking back to the parking lot.

The trail is marked by cairns (stacks of man made rock piles) all along the way.

Cairns marking the trail to Mesa Arch.
Cairns marking the trail to Mesa Arch.

Tips for Visiting Mesa Arch

Explore the area!

While most people only go to the main arch, take photos and leave I highly recommend exploring the area to get different angles and viewpoints.

I personally loved climbing up a few rocks and going to the top of Mesa Arch to the left. The exact area I liked the best was to the left of the arch if you are facing it, and up. The views were incredible from up there.

For a while, I had the entire upper deck to myself! Eventually, people saw me and became curious. Before I knew it, the top became more crowded than the bottom. lol. It was then I went back down to the bottom of Mesa Arch and was able to take photos by myself with no one around.

Mesa Arch Trail Canyonlands
The views from the top area of Mesa Arch. Taken on my Sony A7IV.
Top of Mesa Arch
Top of Mesa Arch. Taken on my film camera (Contax t3) unedited. Film stock is Ektar 100.

Expect a Fast Turn Around at the Arch

People come and go very fast here. As someone who likes to take her time in places like this, I was shocked at how fast the turnaround was. It ended up working in my favor since there were short gaps where everyone left and I was able to take photos alone without feeling rushed or like I was standing in anyones way while they were also trying to take photos.

I quite enjoyed not having to wait in a line for my turn. Anyone else hate that? I felt like I had to constantly do this at Arches.

Best Time to Visit

This particular hike is great to visit anytime of year. However, there are some benefits to going during different seasons.

The best time to go will depend on what you want out of your trip. Example. If you want to avoid the extreme cold or extreme heat I recommend going in spring or fall. However, spring will be the most crowded.

I spoke with a park ranger there and he said May is the busiest month and January is the least visited month.

If you value avoiding the crowds and don’t mind the cold go in late fall to early winter (November to February).

If you want to have Mesa Arch practically to yourself, go in mid January. That is when Canyonlands receives the fewest visitors all year!

Mesa Arch for Sunrise

Mesa Arch is a super popular sunrise spot for photographers so keep that in mind. If you want to photograph Mesa Arch during sunrise I recommend getting there early to preserve your spot. They fill up fast all year round!


Considering that Mesa Arch is the most popular trail in the entire park I was shocked it wasn’t more crowded. I went in November and the Mesa Arch trail was actually less crowded than any of the hikes I did in Arches. Even the less common ones like the Park Avenue Trail.

Mesa Arch is super popular among photographers during sunrise. You will run into the most people during this time. More on that below.

Overall, Canyonland’s see’s a lot fewer visitors often gets overshadowed by Arches. Which is only an opportunity for me! Way fewer people but the scenery is just as good, if not better!

Other Easy Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

If you are looking for more easy hikes you can do in the Islands in the Sky area of the park here are a few.

Murphy Point hike (3.6 mi or 5.8 km) and the Grand View Point hike (2 mi or 3.2km).

Is the Mesa Arch Trail worth it?

Yes! This was one of my favorite hikes or viewpoints during my time in Arches and Canyonlands. The payoff is so high for such an easy hike.

Previous articleDelicate Arch Hike (Easily The Best Hike in Arches Nat Park)
Next articleDouble Arch Trail in Arches Nat Park (Low effort, high payoff hike)
Hey there! I'm Claire, the founder of & While spending 4 years completely bedridden and miserable from an unexpected illness I decided to begin writing about my past travel adventures and now the rest is history. Thank you so much for visiting the website. I hope you enjoy it!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here