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Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Sarah Puckett
The Tower Arch hike leads to a breathtaking natural wonder located in the heart of the iconic Arches National Park in Utah. As one of the lesser-known arches within the park, Tower Arch offers a serene and uncrowded experience for nature enthusiasts seeking to explore the wonders of this magnificent national park.
The Tower Arch trail is my favorite hike I’ve done in Arches National Park! It’s relatively short at just about 3 miles round trip, with 290 feet of elevation gain. It’s a moderate hike and suitable for kids who have had some previous hiking experience.
In this blog post, I share what you can expect on the Tower Arch Trail, how to get to the trailhead, what to bring, and where to take the best photos. My hope is you’ll see why I love the Tower Arch hike and add it to your Utah National Parks bucket list!
Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.
Tower Arch Trail At-A-Glance
- Trail Name: Tower Arch Trail
- Location: Arches National Park (Moab, Utah)
- Distance: 3 miles round trip
- Elevation Gain: 290 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Reservations Needed? Yes, April 1 through October 31
- Pets allowed? No
- Drones allowed? No
Arches National Park Reservations
Timed-entry reservations are required to enter Arches National Park from April 1 through October 31 every year. If you are visiting the park during this annual window, you can make your reservation 3 months in advance of the date you want to visit here. Tickets are first-come, first-served, so it is a good idea to be online and ready to purchase your ticket right when the tickets are released daily at 8 am Mountain Time.
From November 1 through March 31, timed-entry permits are not required.
Regardless of when you visit, you will need to pay an entrance fee ($30 per private vehicle) OR use your national park pass.
If you plan on visiting more than 3-4 national parks in a calendar year, we recommend buying the parks pass since it gets you entry to all national park sites in the US at no additional cost.
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Where is the Tower Arch Trailhead?
Technically, you can get to the Tower Arch hike from two different trailheads. One is the main trailhead, and the other is accessed via a rough 4×4 road.
The Tower Arch trailhead is located down a grated dirt road off Arches Scenic Drive called Salt Valley Road. It’s 8 miles from the turn off to the trailhead. This is one of two roads that lead to the Klondike Bluffs are of Arches National Park.
The road is bumpy but in good condition. As long as it hasn’t recently rained, any vehicle should be able to make this drive.
At the trailhead there is a vault toilet and an information board about the Tower Arch hike. The parking lot is reasonably large, especially for the relatively low amount of traffic this trail gets.
The GPS coordinates for the main trailhead are 38.79608, -109.658861.
Alternative 4×4 Trailhead
You will need a 4WD vehicle that can navigate some tight corners and large boulders in order to access the Alternative Trailhead. The advantage of this route is that you get a fun ride if you like offroad adventures, and a shorter hike at just 0.5 miles round trip.
We attempted to access this trailhead in our 4×4 Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, and had to turn around part way up the first big hill when we saw the tight turn and large rocks we’d need to traverse. So, we just parked at the main trailhead and hiked from there.
How difficult is the Tower Arch hike?
We think the Tower Arch hike is moderately difficult. It will be easier in cooler months and more difficult in summer months, since there is minimal shade on the trail and this region of Utah is known for its hot hot heat. We hiked in November, and a short-sleeved shirt and shorts would have been appropriate by midday. Note that mornings and nights can be chilly yearround though so pack layers! You can read more about what to pack on a trip to Arches National Park here (COMING SOON).
Weather conditions aside, the trail has uphill and downhill portions in both directions of the hike. Some of the climbs are through ankle deep sand, which is more challenging than hiking on firmer terrain.
How long does the Tower Arch Hike take?
Since the trail is 3 miles long round trip, estimate 1.5 hours if you hike at a 30-minutes per mile pace, plus however much time you want at the arch itself to relax, enjoy the views, snack, etc.!
It took us 2 hours, with about 30 minutes at the arch itself taking photos and chatting with other hikers.
When is the best time to hike to Tower Arch?
In general, we recommend timing your hike to Tower Arch, and the US Southwest in general, with shoulder months in spring and fall. This is when temperatures are most mild, not too hot and not too cold.
It doesn’t really matter what time of you day you hike to Tower Arch, though we would advise against hiking in the dark since it could be hard to find your way. In terms of best time of the day to avoid crowds, though, that’s not really a question you have to worry about on this hike. It’s one of the least-hiked trails in Arches National Park so even midday you will likely only see a few other people. The only thing I might consider is that afternoons tend to have a higher likelihood for thunderstorms.
What should I bring and wear to hike Tower Arch Trail?
At a minimum, you should have the 10 Essentials on every hike. See the basic list below, plus links to where to buy. Note that these are affiliate links, meaning I will receive a commission when you purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you! Thank you for your support!
- Navigation: Such as a map, compass, or a GPS device. Shop compasses on REI.com
- Headlamp: Don’t forget extra batteries. Shop headlamps on REI.com
- Sun protection: Use hats, glasses, clothes, and lotion to protect yourself from. the sun. Shop sun protection on REI.com
- First aid: We bought a small kit at REI that is stocked with all the basics you’ll need. Shop first aid on REI.com
- Knife: Or a gear repair kit. Shop knives on REI.com
- Fire: Such as matches, lighter, or stove. Shop fire-starting gear on REI.com
- Shelter: Can be as light as an emergency bivy if you aren’t planning to camp (and you cannot camp at Tower Arch). Shop shelters on REI.com
- Extra food: The key word is extra. Shop food on REI.com
- Extra water: Again, bring more than you need. Shop outdoor hydration gear on REI.com
- Extra clothes: Pack layers and be prepared for any weather. Shop clothing on REI.com
Stuck in a packing quandary?
Check out our ultimate national park packing list!
Most important on the Tower Arch Trail are water, salty snacks, and sun protection. Do not underestimate that desert sun!
You can hike the Tower Arch trail in any athletic footwear you feel comfortable wearing. You do not necessarily need hiking boots for this one, but you’ll benefit from some grip in the soles.
Tower Arch Trail Notes + What to Expect
From the parking lot, it’s a short but steep scramble up a bluff. You’ll need to climb over a few rocks. This is the “hardest” part of the trail, but just take it slowly and follow the cairns and your GPS map to stay on the best course!
At the top, the trail evens out over slickrock. Follow the cairns (note: never remove or place your own unless authorized to do so by the land managing body, in this case the National Park Service). This stretch of the trail provides great views of the Salt Valley, Klondike Bluffs, and the “Marching Men” rock formation, made up of a line of towers that give the row its name.
You’ll pass by Parallel Arch on the trail just before you reach Tower Arch. It’s easy to miss and quite small.
You can’t miss Tower Arch, however! At 92 feet wide and with a tall rock tower standing to the left of the arch when you first see it, it’s a dominating feature of the landscape!
Climb up and through the arch for a fun hike into the arch, and an incredible view through Tower Arch out west over the direction from which you came.
Hang out under or around Tower Arch for as long as you like before returning back down the trail the way you came.
Photography Tips at Tower Arch
As a general rule, you will get the best light for photos in the time periods around sunrise and sunset. We think there are better spots in Arches National Park for sunrise and sunset than Tower Arch, though. The next best time would be on an overcast day, which we were lucky to have! Our photos were shot at midday on a cloudy day.
Here are the photo spots we loved best:
- Looking at Tower Arch from the trail as you first approach it
- Looking up at Tower Arch from the far left base of the arch
- Looking through Tower Arch to the west
We shoot with a Sony a7iii and use a tripod to capture photos of us together. You can find all of our camera gear on Amazon here.
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