The Southwestern United States is an absolutely beautiful place. Some of our most popular and scenic natural landmarks are found throughout this part of the country. In an effort to protect these places for current and future generations, the most unique of these places are most often found within the boundaries of National Parks and Monuments. While this is great in that it protects them and makes them accessible to the public, it can sometimes have the opposite affect for those of us who adventure with their dogs. Aka.. Fido is often not welcome.
Arches National Park with a Dog
I’m not trying to start a big debate about why these rules apply and whether or not we agree with them. The fact is that they do and there is little to do about it. So, we did our best on our recent cross country road trip to pick and choose places that were a bit more accommodating towards our pups. Some National Parks allow dogs on a few specific (usually paved) trails or in certain areas of the park. Sometimes National Monuments (like White Sands and Grand Staircase-Escalante) are a bit more accommodating. Other places allow dogs on the roads or in your car, but not on any trails whatsoever, paved or not. Arches is one of those parks.
That being said, I had been looking forward to checking out Arches for months. I knew it wasn’t super dog friendly, but if we were going to be all the way out there, I wanted to at least check it out. So, I came up with a plan. We would do what we could of Arches with the dogs, which was basically drive through and stop to take some pictures (while leaving the dogs in the car) and then find somewhere else to hike. Thankfully, it wasn’t a hot time of year, so we could drive around the park and hop out for a few seconds to take pictures without worrying about the dogs in the heat. In all honesty, we usually left the car running with the AC on anyway, but I’m a bit of an overprotective dog mom, so there’s that.
We did an audio driving tour, which gave us some insight into the park and the landscape, including explaining how the different kinds of arches were formed. While it was nice to see and to say we were there, the sheer amount of people and lack of dog friendly trails quickly got old and we decided to leave. This is where the good stuff started!
A Dog-Friendly Alternative to Arches
Just outside of Moab, UT, and only a 15 minute drive from the Arches National Park Entrance, is the Corona Arch Trailhead. Because there is an actual hike and you can’t see the arch from the road, it is nowhere near as crazy as Arches NP. Even on a weekday in the “off-season,” all of the National Parks that we visited were swarming with a ridiculous amount of rude, loud, obnoxious tourists. Before you say it, I know we’re tourists too, but I like to think that we’re a different kind of tourists. We actually spend time in the outdoors and we hike in our real lives, not take a few steps from the road to pose in front of a rock formation. Anywho, enough about Arches..
Corona & Bowtie Arches
The hike to Corona Arch (and Bowtie along the way) is an easy to moderate 3 mile out-and-back trail, depending on your fitness level. The first section of the trail is a super easy sandy path through cactus and rock. You cross a set of railroad tracks on an old dirt road and then ascend uphill to the top of the bench. Once you reach the top, the hike gets a lot more interesting. The sandy trail disappears and cairns appear, which lead you along the slickrock towards the arches.
As soon as you get to the top, it just opens up to this breathtaking vista of sloping slickrock and beautiful cliffs. There are numerous little caves and countless cairns that hikers have built along the trail. One section in particular has transformed into a gorgeous cairn “garden” of sorts. Roxie was as entranced as I was by all of the mini towers of balanced rocks.
Watch Your Footing
This is where the “moderate” rating comes in, The first half of the hike is relatively easy and flat, then you encounter a few places where the slickrock gets pretty steep. The first of these sections has a set of rudimentary steps carved into the rock paired with a chain railing to assist your climb. While some hikers were a little uncertain in this section, our dogs were complete champs and just scrambled up the rock alongside us. Shortly after this section is another steep incline. This one has a metal ladder to make climbing easier. If you prefer, you can also take a slightly longer and less steep route here that avoids the ladder. We did this on the way up because it was easier with the dogs. On the way back down though, we just chose to carry them down both of these sections.
Shortly after these sections, you come to your first major arch, Bowtie Arch. Bowtie is a pothole arch, which means the opening is at the top, like a pothole. While this is the lesser known arch on this hike, I think Bowtie is simply stunning!
The main attraction… Corona Arch. A large, beautiful, natural sandstone arch with a 110 foot opening. When I say pictures don’t do it justice, I mean not at all. And it looks pretty freaking cool in pictures. If you are ever in the area, with or without your dog, you NEED to check out this place.
I’d call this a moderately trafficked trail, but even so it wasn’t crowded by any means. When we reached Corona Arch, we were two of maybe 6 or 7 people up there. It was relaxing and awe-inspiring in all the best ways. We sat there with the dogs, reveling in the beauty of this special place, and hydrating for our trek back to the car. Of all the places we visited on our trip, this was by far one of my favorites.
This is what I’d like you to take away from this post. Well, two things. The first is this… Go to Moab, go to Utah. Do some hiking to beautiful places like Corona Arch. The second and I think more important takeaway is this. Don’t get frustrated by the pet policies of the big, popular National Parks. Don’t let them keep you from seeing amazing places, with your dog. Do your research before you go to see how dog-friendly a park is, but if it’s not what you want to hear, find another way. Many National Parks have amazing public spaces just outside their boundaries with similar (if not just as amazing) landscapes. On top of that, a lot of them are free, not to mention a lot less crowded.
Thanks for reading,
Debbie & THE MUTTS