Arches National Park and surrounding area

Arches National Park

Below is the official Arches National Park map as a jpeg and in three geocoded formats, as a GeoTIFF, as a KMZ file, and in Oruxmaps format. The official park map as a PDF can be found here.

Arches NP Park Service Map

The Google map that follows contains the location of most of the major arches within the National Park and best times to shoot. Separate layers are available for various sections of the park. 4WD is required to reach Covert and La Boca arches, and for Eye of the Whale. The road to Eye of the Whale is heavily banked in some places (25 degrees) and I was actually afraid my top heavy FJ Cruiser would flip onto its side. If I go there again I might walk part of it. Some of the areas covered by the map include:

Balanced Rock Area

Balanced Rock - most people park at the lot next to Balanced Rock and shoot from up close. Better shots are available from across the road. Instead of turning into the Balanced Rock Parking area turn left onto Willow Springs Trail/ BLM 378. Go 700 feet and park in the lot on the right. Shoot from the slickrock north of the parking lot with a medium telephoto (150 - 200 mm) to emphasize the La Sal Mountains or Turret Arch in the background. Shooting from a distance also minimizes perspective problems. There is an unofficial one car pullover about 750 feet further down Willow Spring Road and you can shoot with an even longer lens from there. Balanced Rock is best at sunset though sunrise works as well.

Eye of the Whale Arch is in the same general area. From the intersection of BLM 378 and Arches Scenic Drive go 0.8 miles on BLM 378 and turn right onto a strictly 4WD dirt road. Continue 1.9 miles to a parking area on the left. This dirt road is heavily banked and most people will be uncomfortable driving it even in a 4WD vehicle. The arch is best shot from inside, or proceed around it and shoot from its southwest side in mid to late afternoon The arch opens to the southwest and it's likely you'll have it to yourself, a rare experience in the park.

The Organ

The Organ is nicely reflected in the water pockets that follow a rain. The morning after a rain drive 1.1 miles past the Park Avenue trailhead on Arches Scenic Drive and park at the small pullout on the right side. Hike east 50 - 100 yards and look for nicely shaped water pockets on the slickrock. Even one inch of water will create a good reflection. Shoot ground level from the very edge of the water pocket. A long exposure may help smooth out the water, and for a different look toss a small stone into the pool and shoot the resulting ripples.

Windows Area

Turret Arch through the North Window is a magnificent shot at sunrise. From the Windows parking area hike through the North Window and carefully make your way to the cliffs about 150 feet to the northeast. Ascend to the ledge. To get a good shot of Turret you'll need to scramble around or over a large rock, be careful. In prior visits there was park service sign indicating that entering the area to the northeast of the North Window was prohibited, the last time I was there the sign was missing.

Double Arch through Cove Arch is occasionally shot, and I have yet to visit it. A scramble and a walk over a narrow ledge are needed to shoot through the arch.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is perhaps the most photographed arch in the world, and several hundred people visit it on nice evenings. It is best at sunset. It is also best in winter when it is fully lit closer to sunset, when the La Sals are snow covered, and there are far fewer visitors. However the last part of the trail to Delicate Arch is on a narrow ledge which is in shade. This part can be very icy for some time after a snowfall. You should inquire at the Arches visitor center as to conditions before undertaking a winter visit. For somewhat unique perspectives of Delicate Arch consider shooting it through Frame Arch with a wide angle lens, or from the bowl below. The bowl below is most safely accessed by walking around Delicate Arch to its left side.

Broken and Sand Dune Arches

Broken Arch is accessed via an easy .7 mile one way hike. It is best at sunrise. Walk through the arch and position yourself so as to include the photogenic fins in the background. I like shooting Broken Arch with an ultrawide from its far right corner. On the way back to your car visit Sand Dune Arch which gets great reflected light. Bring out the blues and reds in post.

Devil's Garden

The Devil's Garden area contains two impressive arches. Landscape Arch has a span of 290 feet and is the longest natural arch in the United States. It is the fifth longest in the world, the other four being in China. It is best photographed at dawn in Spring and Summer. Part of Landscape arch is in shadow at sunrise during fall and winter. An easy one mile hike is required to visit the arch. Double O arch is a very photogenic arch located about 2.5 miles from the Devils Graden trailhead. It is best at sunset though sunrise also works. At sunrise use the arch's silhouette to frame the fins in the background. Double O is best from its southwest side which can be accessed by going around or through the arch. The five plus miles round trip trail to Double O arch is great fun and should definitely be included on your visit to the park.

Tower Arch and The Marching Men

Tower Arch and the Klondike Bluffs area of the park is infrequently visited due to the relatively long drives and hikes involved. The easiest way to get to Tower Arch is to drive 7.2 miles along Salt Valley Road and turn left onto the second of two nearby dirt roads you come to. Continue one mile to trailhead parking. For those with high clearance 4WD vehicles and good skills you can also access the arch by turning left at the first dirt road, about 100 yards before the second. The drive on this road includes a steep sandy hill easy to get stuck on. The hike to Tower Arch via the first route above is about 1.3 miles one way but seems longer than that as there are many ups and downs, and a sand dune near the end. The hike from the second approach is only a few tenths of a mile long. Tower arch is best shot from the inside under indirect lighting only. Mid-afternoon works well. You'll need a fisheye or ultrawide and pano head to capture the full length of the arch. The shadow of the arch makes a semi-circle and is quite attractive. Save sunset for The Marching Men formation to the southeast. May is a good time to shoot the Marching Men, look for wildflowers on the dunes as foreground.

Covert and La Boca Arches

Covert and La Boca Arches are seldom shot and a nice side trip if you're tired of the crowds. Although Covert Arch is only 2.5 miles from Delicate Arch as the crow flies, we ain't no crow. The Covert Arch trailhead is eighty miles from Moab much of which is on dirt roads which are impassable when wet. The map below shows driving directions. The hike to Covert is at least 1.5 miles off-trail and there is no trailhead parking. Park alongside the one lane dirt road nearest the arch as best you can. From your car continue west-northwest about one mile to the head of the canyon. The arch can be shot using a telephoto lens from the canyon head, or you can drop down to the slickrock bench below the rim and hike to the interior of the arch. There are two places where you can easily access the bench; they are marked on the map below. The arch opens to the south-southwest and is best shot from its south side in the afternoon to avoid ugly shadows. Mornings might work in late Fall and early Winter. If you pass through the arch to its north side you'll find a small alcove to the right. Shoot from within the alcove with a pano head or fisheye and it will look like there are two arches present. La Boca arch is in the same area as Covert Arch and is quite attractive. It also gives the appearance of a double arch when shot from inside. Finally, while in the area you can continue on the main road past the La Boca turn-off and eventually reach some great overlooks of the Colorado River, the La Sal mountains, and Fisher Towers.

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map. To view the layers and point on interest names click on the icon in the upper left of the map.

Locations outside the park

If the crowds inside the parks are getting you down here are some good alternatives outside the parks. With the exceptions of Corona Arch and Fisher Towers most are seldom visited:

Corona Arch

Corona Arch, also known as Little Rainbow Bridge, is just outside of Moab and the hike is only 1.1 miles. As a result you will run into others at the arch, especially at sunset. The arch can be shot at either sunrise or sunset with sunset being preferable. The hike has about 400 feet of elevation gain with most at the beginning. Bowtie Arch is close by and can be shot on the return.

Delta Pool

Spectacular Delta Pool refers to a triangular (greek delta) shaped pool of rain water sitting high on an unnamed mesa (henceforth Pool Mesa) 15 miles northwest of Moab. Delta Pool is well shaded and usually has water in it. Merrimac Butte can be seen in the background.

Getting to Delta Pool involves an easy drive and a hard hike. 2WD should suffice for the drive except in poor conditions. From the intersection of Highways 128 and 191 in Moab drive north 12.9 miles and turn left onto Mill Canyon Road. After 0.6 miles bear left onto BLM 215. Continue 0.5 miles and turn right onto Mill Canyon Road. Continue 0.7 miles to a parking area on the right. This parking area is the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracks trailhead.

There is no trail to Delta Pool from the parking area, though cairns are beginning to show up sporadically. My route is shown in red on the map below. My route is certainly not optimal but it works. From the parking area walk 0.1 miles south on Mill Canyon Road and turn left into a wash. You should find occasional use trails on both sides of the wash. Proceed up the right side of the wash for 0.2 miles. You should see a noticeable break in the cliffs to the south. The break is clearly visible in Google Earth and is the start of a small slot. Proceed to the slot by carefully go up the rocky hillside in a generally southwest direction. Your destination is the start of the crack at 38.70873, -109.73835. After reaching this waypoint continue 200 feet up the slot. There is a short drop at the end of the slot which can be bypassed on the right side. When you emerge from the slot you'll be at the top of Pool Mesa. Mark this point on your GPS to facilitate your return, especially if you plan to stay for sunset. Delta pool is 0.6 miles south-southeast from the crack. The route has many minor obstacles but is not difficult.

Delta pool faces south and can be shot at any time of the day. In Tom Till's excellent image he shot Delta pool at sunset and the pool is in full shade. If you shoot mid-day the pool will be front lit and have even lighting which some might prefer. I like both approaches.

While in the area consider hiking the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail described here, and visiting the dinosaur tracksite at 38.72072, -109.73399. Also in the area is the Halfway Stage Station, which I found uninteresting from the photographer's point of view.

Faux Falls

Faux Falls is a man-made falls created in 1981 to divert water from Mill Creek to Ken's Lake. The falls is an easy 0.5 mile hike from the trailhead at 38.47809, -109.41824. At the trailhead park on the right side of the road. The parking area on the left is reserved for overnight campers. After parking proceed up the now washed out (and closed) road to the falls. In hot weather you may find locals cooling off at the base of the falls, where the water is a few feet deep. Faux Falls is best shot in the afternoon, and is a good hot weather or cloudy weather destination.

Fisher Towers

Fisher Towers is a great late day destination near Moab. The towers take on a fantastic red glow at sunset, perhaps the reddest rock you will see. They can be shot from a distance to emphasize the La Sal Mountains, or close up. Both are shown on the map below. There are usually rock climbers at Fisher Towers so bring a telephoto if you wish to "shoot" them.

Secret Spire

Secret Spire is a spectacular hoodoo resting on a sea of slickrock. It is a good mid-morning or mid-afternoon destination and can be combined with a trip to either Mesa Arch or False Kiva. The drive to Secret Spire, although long, is not particularly interesting until the last turn off after which high clearance 4WD is needed. If you are in a private passenger car I suggest you walk this 0.5 mile section as shown in green on the map below. There is a small arch about 50 yards northeast of Secret Spire, with difficulty you can shoot the spire through the arch, or more simply include the arch as background. There will be a lot of sky in your Secret Spire images so save this location for a day with great clouds.

Tukuhnikivatz Arch

Tukuhnikivatz Arch is a little visited arch located about ten miles south of Moab. It is a sunset only shot unless you want to use its silhouette to frame a sunrise. The arch frames the third highest mountain (Mount Tukuhnikivatz - 12,482 feet) in the La Sal range. A round trip three mile hike is needed to access the arch. Most of the hike is on an old road but the last 0.3 miles are steeply up hill and largely trail-less, though you should be able to find occasional footprints and cairns to help you find the route. I've included the track I took to get to the arch on the map below. The track should be accurate to within ten feet or so. I suggest you use a GPS and roughly follow my track where it makes sense. I would not like to hike down from this arch in the dark so don't stay too late.

Tukuhnikivatz Arch is best at sunset. If you are shooting dead on use as long a lens as possible to maximize the size of Mount Tukuhnikivatz in the distance. I wasn't able to get much longer than 40 mm. Try photographing the arch from different perspectives by getting closer to the arch and shooting with a wide angle off center. The images I've included in the gallery show how the image changes as you get closer to the arch and shoot more to its left side.

At sunset the arch will be in shadow but Mount Tukuhnikivatz will have a wonderful alpenglow.

Here are directions to Tukuhnikivatz Arch:

Google Map of the above locations

To view the map larger please click on the box in the upper right corner of the map. To view the layers and point on interest names click on the icon in the upper left of the map.

USGS 24K Topo Maps for all of Arches NP and vicinity

Arches NP itself is covered by seven 24K topo maps. Each map can be downloaded below. The main maps are the Windows section and Mollie's Hogan. Six other maps have been included to cover some of the major photo ops outside the park. For reference here is an image showing the names of all 13 topo maps and their location. Individual topo maps can be downloaded from the table following this image, as can a merge map covering all of Arches National Park.

Arches NP Topo Maps

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Big Bend KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Cisco SW KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Dewey KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Dubinsky Wash KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Fisher Towers KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Gold Bar Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Jug Rock KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Kane Springs KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Klondike Bluffs KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merrimac Butte KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Moab KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Mollie Hogans KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Rill Creek KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
The Windows Section KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all Arches NP Maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


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