Distance: 2.4 miles roundtrip | Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours | Level: Moderate
Tower Arch Trail was hands down our favorite hike we did in Arches National Park. The trail winds hikers through what’s known as the Klondike Bluffs area of the park. The landscape consists of unique sandstone spires, towering rock walls, and sweeping views of the vibrant red landscape.
Tower Arch Trail is not only stunning but it’s also possibly the only place you can feel alone in Arches National Park. Our love of quiet trails and off-the-beaten path adventures made our trek to Tower Arch the best hike we did during our entire Arizona-Utah road trip.
Not only is the trail beautiful and relatively easy, but Tower Arch itself is truly magnificent.
In this guide, I highlight what to expect when hiking Tower Arch Trail, how to find the trailhead, tips for a safe and fun trek, and what to pack for the best experience.
I also discuss the new implementation of the pilot timed entry system so you can plan ahead and have a great adventure.
Table of Contents
A Guide to Tower Arch Trail: The Best Hike in Arches National Park
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Arches National Park Reservations
As of January 3, 2022, Arches National Park requires a reservation to visit the park between April 3rd – October 3rd from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tickets go on sale three months in advance and will go quickly. Tickets can only be purchased online or by phone, not at the park.
To ensure you snag the date and time you’re aiming for, make sure that you’ve already created an account with recreation.gov and are logged in prior to attempting to reserve a ticket.
Timed entry tickets can be purchased here.
Make sure to have your timed entry ticket, photo ID, and valid park pass (you can also pay at the booth) upon arrival. We love our America the Beautiful pass so we can get unlimited access to all U.S. National Parks throughout the year.
If, however, you are unable to secure a reservation for your date, a small number of next-day tickets will become available every day at 6:00 p.m. MST.
While having to make a reservation is never ideal, the timed entry system will drastically improve congestion, making your trip to Arches much more enjoyable. The system also hopes to minimize visitor impacts on the park’s lands.
You can learn more about the timed entry system here.
Finding Tower Arch Trailhead
Tower Arch Trailhead is located roughly 8 miles down Salt Valley Road, a gravel and relatively unmaintained road. The trailhead is not located right off of Arches Scenic Drive, like many of the other hikes in the park.
This added step of getting to the trailhead is what helps this hike keep its incredible “hidden gem” status. To find the trailhead, I recommend using Google offline maps.
Before we leave for any trip, we always download the area for offline usage. 90% of the time we are adventuring in “no cell service” areas. This little travel hack has come in handy more times than I can count, and finding the Tower Arch Trailhead was no different.
At the very least, make sure to have a park map on hand.
Salt Valley Road is located just past Sand Dune Arch, where Arches Scenic Drive becomes Devils Garden Road. Instead of continuing onto Devils Garden Road, visitors must hang a left onto the gravel road.
If you were to continue straight onto Devils Garden Road, you would find yourself at the Devils Garden trailhead. Devils Garden Trail is another epic hike in Arches National Park that can’t be missed.
At first, Cole and I looked at one another in an understood this-can’t-be-right exchange. Rest assured that if you find yourself driving on a gravel road seemingly leading to nowheresville, you are, in fact, in the right place.
It’s all part of the hike’s appeal.
Make sure to use caution when cruising down Salt Valley Road. You don’t need a four-wheel drive vehicle to safely manage the road conditions but you do need to go slowly. There are several washboard sections that can cause your car to slide if attempted at higher speeds.
Drive slowly and keep an eye out for Klondike Bluffs Road. This is where you’ll make a left into the trailhead parking lot.
Tips for Safely Hiking Tower Arch Trail
With Tower Arch being one of the more secluded hikes in Arches National Park, it’s important that hikers take extra caution before adventuring onto the trail.
Below I’ve compiled a list of safety tips to help you have a fun and safe hike.
Download Offline Maps
As I mentioned earlier, downloading offline maps is a must when exploring areas with little to no cell service. Having access to GPS has saved our butts in more than one situation. We have also been able to help out a lot of lost hikers that were lucky enough to run into us.
For driving, we use Google Maps as our go-to offline resource. Simply open the app, type in the area, adjust how much of the area you want to be included, and hit download. This is best attempted on WiFi or with good cell service.
For navigating trails, we use AllTrails. AllTrails is an incredible app full of over 300,000 trail guides. We never start a hike without it.
Follow Rock Cairns
It wasn’t until we hiked in Utah that we discovered rock cairns being used as the main trail marker. Rock cairns are small stacks of rocks used to help hikers stay on the trail.
When we visited Tower Arch Trail, there were rock cairns to help guide the way every couple of steps. There were several times throughout the hike when a straight-forward trail was not evident. In this instance, the general rule of thumb is to hike to one, pause, and look around for the next one.
If you find you’ve been walking for some time without seeing one, chances are you’re going in the wrong direction. Retrace your steps until you spot one again.
Take note of these to avoid getting off the trail: not only for your own safety but also to help protect the fragile desert landscape.
Check the Weather
Checking the weather before any hike is always a good idea, but it’s especially important before venturing out to Tower Arch Trail. During heavy rains, the gravel road out to Tower Arch becomes impassable.
Both would be great alternatives in the event of inclement weather.
Start Early (Or Wait)
The bottom line, like most hikes in southern Utah, there is zero tree canopy. If you attempt this hike in the middle of the day the sun will be blazing.
We hiked Tower Arch Trail first thing in the morning, just after sunrise, and the conditions were perfect. The sun wasn’t too intense, the temperature was mild, and there wasn’t a soul on the trail.
What more could you ask for?
While I haven’t hiked this trail at sunset, I’m assuming the conditions would be just as enjoyable. I’ve said it a million times, you just can’t beat the magic of the desert just before the sun rises or just after it sets.
Tell a Friend
This safety tip speaks for itself. As we all know, unexpected things can happen at any point. Don’t go solo-adventuring to Tower Arch Trail without telling your plans to at least one friend.
What to Expect Hiking Tower Arch Trail
Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect when we set foot on Tower Arch Trail. Unlike the more visited arches in the park, we hadn’t read or seen much about Tower Arch.
In fact, I stumbled upon the trail the night before as I was scanning AllTrails. With zero expectations, we began the trail just after sunrise.
At the trailhead, there are surprisingly clean vault toilets and a trail map. If you forgot to download the trail map or grab one from the booth, snap a photo of the trail board for reference.
From the get-go, the trail takes hikers up a series of switchbacks. This first part of the trail is the most strenuous and short-lived. Once you reach the top of the climb, the trail remains pretty mellow with the occasional gradual change in elevation.
Once you trek to the top of the Klondike Bluff area the views are vast. In all directions, there are towering red rocks lining the rim. Rather than one straightforward and narrow trail, Tower Arch Trail feels like a playground to explore.
While it’s tempting to go galavanting through the area, keep in mind the fragile state of desert soil and stick closely to the rock cairns.
About a mile in, you’ll notice four sandstone spires off in the distance. These peculiar figures are known as the Marching Men.
Words can’t really describe the feeling these free-standing needles evoke, but otherworldly comes to mind. After a drawn-out, “howww?!” we proceeded on in search of Tower Arch.
As you near the arch, the trail narrows and begins weaving hikers between the rocks. The hike gets a little more scrambly and exciting around this point.
Judging by our distance we knew we had to be close to the arch. Still, the arch continued to elude us as we navigated our way through the sandy trail and rock formations.
Then, as if it appeared from nowhere, we had the most glorious view of the mighty Tower Arch.
In my opinion, Tower Arch is the grandest arch in the park. The arch is massive, spanning 92 feet, and sturdy in its depth. Glancing out over the arch feels as though you’re standing in a man-made concert hall or amphitheater.
We excitedly made our way to the arch, again it takes a bit of scrambling, and quickly found ourselves feeling very small.
We took some time exploring under and around Tower Arch before deciding to just sit and take it all in. It’s not often you get to experience nature of this grandeur, alone.
What to Pack for Tower Arch Trail
Due to its remote nature and lack of foot traffic, you’ll want to make sure you’re properly prepared for the adventure to Tower Arch. Below, I’ve put together a list of items I recommend bringing along for the hike.
Are you tired of reading this reminder yet?
I’m still in disbelief at the number of hikers we saw in Arches National Park without an adequate supply of water. Remember the general rule of thumb: 1 liter per every 2 miles.
While we’re on the topic, make sure your water bottle is reusable.
There’s a strong chance the sun will be blazing during your hike so make sure you come prepared. Pack a pair of sunglasses and/or a hat, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
Our go-to environmentally safe sunscreen brand is All Good.
Trust me when I say, you’re going to want your camera for this hike. There are not many hikes you can go on these days, especially when in a National Park, where you won’t have hoards of other people in your photo.
Some of my favorite photos from our time spent in Utah came from this hike. No hurrying to snap a photo. No waiting for others to move out from under the arch. Just you and nature.
I use and love my Sony a6000. If you don’t have a camera, your phone will work just fine.
Lastly, don’t be that person carrying your water bottle in one hand and your phone in the other. Hikes, especially longer and hotter ones, are much more enjoyable when you can throw all your essentials in a pack.
I never hike without my Gregory Nano 16L daypack. It’s small enough not to bother me but large enough to fit all my goodies.
Other Things to do in Arches
Have you been to Arches National Park or planning a Utah Mighty 5 road trip? Drop any questions you have about hiking Tower Arch Trail or adventuring around the park in general below.
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