Distance: 3 miles round trip | Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours | Level: Easy – Moderate
Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch are two of Moab’s most spectacular natural wonders. When researching things to do in Moab for our Utah road trip, most results highlighted hikes within surrounding National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands.
Luckily, hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail at sunset was recommended to us by a local. The same awesome local who recommend hiking Castleton Tower Trail, another one of our favorites from the trip.
Hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail is a great option for hikers of all ages and experience levels. The arches are easily accessible and less crowded than other surrounding National Park hikes.
Oh, and did I mention it’s free?
In this guide, I will cover what to expect hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail, why you should hike it at sunset, tips for safely doing so, and how to capture Corona Arch under a starry night sky.
Why You Should Hike Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail at Sunset
Best Time to Hike Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail
Is Corona Arch better at sunrise or sunset?
Both sunrise and sunset are great times to hike to Corona Arch. While Corona Arch is also beautiful at sunrise, I would argue that the best option is to hike Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail at sunset.
For one, by starting the hike in the evening, temperatures will be cooling down rather than gradually heating up. You also won’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. That’s always a win.
Another benefit to hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail at sunset is the dwindling crowds. Most people will be gunning for Corona Arch at sunrise or trying to get back to their car before it’s too dark. Those daring enough to sit and admire the sun going down over the canyon are in for a real treat.
Lastly, if you go for sunset and opt to stay awhile, you’ll get to be one of the few people who witness the star littered sky glowing bright behind Corona Arch.
I still get chills thinking about Cole and I laying on our backs under Corona Arch staring up into the milky way. A perfect moment, frozen in time.
For tips on how to photograph Corona Arch at night, keep reading!
Tips for Safely Hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail at Sunset
Hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail at sunset is a magical experience but it does take some planning and preparation.
Know your Abilities
Before setting out on any sunset hike, it’s important to take into consideration your own hiking abilities and pace before determining when you should start. If you know you hike at a slower pace, consider starting early so you don’t, one, miss the sunset, or, two, wind up hiking in the dark, unplanned.
Be Mindful of Time
Unless you want to stay past sundown to see the stars, being mindful of time (and knowing what time the sun sets) is critical.
You don’t want to put yourself in a dangerous situation and have to navigate your way back in the dark. This hike isn’t particularly challenging, but there are many wide sections of slickrock that can make it difficult to find the “trail.”
Take Note of Trail Markers
All along the trail, there are paint swatches and rock cairns (rock piles) to help indicate the path. Keep note of these markers on your way in so that you can confidently navigate your way back out.
You most likely wont remember where they are necessarily but its a good reminder nonetheless to take in the surroundings and remain vigilant.
Pack a Headlamp
Even if you plan to hike out before it’s dark, you can never be too safe. Plus, you might get to Corona Arch, be completely enamored with your surroundings, and decide you don’t want to scurry out after all.
Not only will having a headlamp on hand help you safely hike out, it will also help you get “the shot.” More on this later!
What to Expect Hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail
To be completely honest, I wasn’t necessarily stoked for this trail. We already explored nearby Arches National Park, and figured once you’ve seen an arch you’ve seen them all.
I was wrong.
The trail begins from a small parking lot located right across the road from the Colorado River. Even the ride out to the trailhead was beautiful. We knew we were in for a treat.
From the parking lot (there are vault toilets here by the way) the trail leads hikers up a set of steep stairs. Truthfully, this is the most physically demanding part of the hike.
One you reach the top of the stairs, you’ll come to a trail registration box and set of railroad tracks. Sign the log, cross the tracks, and continue on your way.
Keep in mind, this trail is a bit trickier than your ordinary trail with a straightforward and narrow path.
The “path” gets quite wide at times as you make your way across slabs of slickrock. Make sure to take note of the blue and green paint marks on the rock and follow any rock cairns you see.
It’s also not a bad idea to have your AllTrails map handy.
Technical Trail Sections
Before reaching both Bowtie Arch and Corona Arch hikers will have to navigate two short sections of cables. The cable sections are not anything too technical but they do give comfort when traversing exposed and steep sections of the trail.
There is also a small ladder hikers need to climb in order to make the final pass over the ledge and onto the rock bench both Bowtie Arch and Corona Arch are located on. Once you climb the ladder, you still have a ways to go before reaching the arches, but they remain in sight the whole time.
Take note of the juniper tree next to the ladder, it’s a good landmark for finding the ladder in the dark.
In my opinion, what’s so captivating about Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail is the canyon encompassing both Arches. Once you round the corner near the end of the hike it’s hard to know where you should be looking: Bowtie Arch, Corona Arch, or Bootlegger Canyon.
Bowtie Arch is a unique pothole arch, located off to the left just before you get to Corona Arch. The two arches are so close together hikers can see them both at the same time.
At first, I assumed Bowtie Arch was going to be smaller and less impressive than Corona Arch. Figuring it had just somehow managed to weasel its way in the trail title. However, once I stood at the base of the arch and gazed upward, I found myself wondering how it wasn’t getting more attention.
Bowtie Arch was the first pothole arch I had ever seen. Pothole arches are formed by rainwater slowly eroding away the rock beneath. The result is a natural planetarium. Even understanding the science behind how it was formed, Bowtie Arch is, nonetheless, one of those incredible natural phenomenons that has you questioning, “but, how?!”
Just a few steps past Bowtie Arch is the stunning Corona Arch. Another completely underrated arch in my book.
Corona Arch gives off major Delicate Arch vibes, without the hordes of people. Most people stop once they get to the arch, but I encourage you to walk under it and take in the view from the other side as well. It’s beautiful in all directions.
At this point, with not a soul in sight, Cole and I found a spot along the rock wall, made ourselves at home, and watched the sun set over Bootlegger Canyon. Just before the sun set below the canyon wall, it cast a vibrant red glow onto Corona Arch.
It was magical.
We lounged in that same spot for hours waiting for the sky to turn dark. We danced under the arch, cheered to an epic road trip, and laughed until the sun went down.
What to Pack
The trail to Corona Arch isn’t the most difficult but it does requires shoes with good support and tread. There are a couple of slanted slickrock sections that can be tricky. You’ll want to make sure you’re wearing shoes that you trust and that make you feel confident in your footing.
My go-to hiking shoes are Saucony Peregrine 11 ST‘s.
As I mentioned before, anytime you head out for a sunset hike, even if you intend on completing the trail before dark, pack a headlamp. I, like others I’m sure, have learned this the hard way.
Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail can be tricky to follow at times due to its width. Staying on the right track requires some help from rock cairns and painted marks on the rock.
Day Pack + Water
Regardless of the length of hike, I always recommend bringing along a day pack. It’s always better to be over prepared rather than under.
Throw all your goodies in your pack: water, headlamp, camera, tripod, and picnic style dinner for the perfect sunset experience under Corona Arch.
I’ve had a few day packs over the years, but nothing tops the Gregory Nano 16L Backpack.
Camera + Tripod
Obviously this is a personal choice but I would have been so sad had I not brought along my camera and tripod along on this hike. It’s a great hike to snag some beautiful shots because it is drastically less crowded than the rock formations in Arches National Park.
A tripod is crucial in snapping some photos of the stunning night sky shinning over Corona Arch. We had so much fun trying to capture the arch and night sky in all of its silent beauty.
I shoot with a Sony a6000, which I love. It’s compact and perfect for hikes and road trips. I go into specific detail for how to photograph the arch at night below.
One of my favorite things Cole and I did while in Utah was stop and have a few beers under Corona Arch. To pass the time between sunset and star gazing, when there wasn’t a soul around, we cracked open a beer or two and enjoyed the view.
It’s already become one of those memories where the details are a little fuzzy but the way I felt during the moment is clear as day. So often we complete a hike in a hurry to see the view, then turn around and head back out without really taking the time to process what we just saw.
For this one I encourage you to stay awhile. Soak it in.
And, if you’re confident in your abilities to hike out after sunset, this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
How to Photograph Corona Arch At Night
Full transparency, I had never experimented with photographing stars before doing so at Corona Arch. But the night sky was so incredible and clear behind the arch I couldn’t not try.
After attempting to capture the rich color, twinkle in the stars, and contrast of the arch in front of the dark sky for what felt like ages, I nearly keeled over when I saw this shot in the view finder.
Seems like an appropriate time for a #nailedit.
In order to get this shot, you need both a headlamp (or light source in general) and tripod. The headlamp helps create a focal point for the camera and the tripod helps steady the camera for the long shutter speed.
Here are the camera settings we started from, and adjusted as needed:
Shutter Speed: 20 seconds
Focus Mode: AF-S
Focus Areas: Flexible shot
Self Timer: 2 seconds
White Balance: Auto
Taking the Shot
The tricky part about photographing at night is creating enough light, but not too much, for the camera to focus on. It took a lot of trial and error of lightening and darkening the shot before we were stoked on the outcome.
If your image is too dark increase the ISO, and if it’s too light decrease it. For clarity, make sure you remove your hands from the camera as softly as you can, making sure to create zero movement in the tripod.
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Have you been to Moab or planning a trip? Drop any questions you have about hiking Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail or adventuring around Moab in general below.