Hiking Bowtie & Corona Arch in Moab, Utah
Another school year is over which only means one thing: adventure, adventure, adventure! Every summer for the past five years, I’ve had the opportunity to explore some pretty incredible places: Alaska, Ecuador, New York, Havasupai, Canada, New Zealand, Peru, Florida, Alaska again… But now it’s 2020 and we’re in a global pandemic with the United States seemingly leading the charge. I wanted to plan a massive road trip up to the state of Washington, over to Montana, down to Utah, over to Colorado, and ultimately make my way to Buffalo. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit when I would have been doing the majority of the planning and the National Parks shut their gates; the parks closed. I actively monitored the situation and realized some of the parks started implementing a phased reopening. So, while the road trip didn’t quite cover as much distance and as many parks as I had originally hoped, I was still able to get out for a shorter ‘venture.
The first day of the trip was a long one. I flew from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City on Southwest Airlines. Given the pandemic, that experience in and of itself was an adventure. Masks/face coverings were mandatory through the duration of the flight and all of the middle seats were empty. The airline had a limited snack and beverage service, offering just ice water and a snack mix. I took the shuttle to pick up my rental car – a Dodge Caravan! – and made two stops before getting out of the city, one to pick up some provisions (bread for PB & J, water, etc.) and one to get an AUX cord for the vehicle (who knew they even made those anymore!?). I finally got on my way and started the long yet scenic drive to Moab, listening to travel-related podcasts and marveling in the beauty along the way.
I was conflicted as to whether I would have time to hike to the Corona Arch the following day so I decided to do the 2.5/3-mile hike, starting just after 7:00 pm. The trailhead is off Potash Road which follows the north side of the Colorado River from Highway 191. The turnoff for Potash Road is about four miles from Moab while the trailhead is about ten miles down Potash Road. I quickly packed my daypack with some water, grabbed my headlamp, and started along the clearly marked trail.
The trail crosses over railroad tracks that cut right through the canyon. This is an active railroad track and trains use the tracks to transport potash from the Potash Mine, North America’s largest potash deposit. What is potash? Great question! Potash is used as a water softener and fertilizer. Once you safely cross over the railroad tracks, follow the sandy trail up and over the sandstone slabs. My favorite part of the hike was approaching the small cliff that required using a long cable that was anchored to some posts to get up and down. Shortly thereafter you’ll have your first sight of Corona Arch albeit its still fairly far in the distance.
As you climb the five-step metal ladder, admire the small, twisted juniper tree. Keep walking and you’ll see Bowtie Arch above the trail to your left. The pothole arch formed when a pothole above filled with water and eroded down into a cave. Personally, this arch reminds me of aliens and UFOs. See what I mean?! Keep walking and you’ll soon be at Corona Arch.
Corona Arch is made of Navajo sandstone and its opening measures 140 feet across, 105 feet high! It’s truly incredible. I loved that you could walk right up to the arch, under the arch, and even on the other side of the arch. Lay down under the arch and realize just how small you are in comparison. I was fortunate to watch the sunset over Bootlegger Canyon from Corona Arch. I wanted to stay longer but the sun was setting fast. I returned via the same trail back to the trailhead, trailing a family of four with just enough distance to feel safe hiking in the dark.
It had been a long, long day and I was exhausted. I was so tired I didn’t make it to my reserved campsite in Dead Horse Point State Park but rather parked the van in the parking lot at the intersection of Highway 313 and Highway 191, folded the seats down, locked the doors, pulled out my sleeping bag, and was asleep before my head hit the pillow. I got just enough rest to get back in the driver’s seat as my eyes popped open with the 4:30 am alarm… if only things went according to plan… but instead, it’s always an adventure…