People come to southeast Utah from all over the world to see the sandstone arches in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. But believe it or not, one of the most spectacular arches in Utah’s canyon country is not in a national park. It’s not certain where the name Corona came from, but some folks suggest that the arch was so named because it looks like a solar flare arching off the sun (these flares are known as coronas). Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t miss this arch on your canyon country visit:
It’s One of the Most Impressive Arches in the World
Located in a side canyon of the Colorado River called Bootlegger Canyon, Corona Arch stands more than 100 feet high with a 140-foot-wide opening. In official arch terminology it’s known as a buttress arch—where one side is connected to the rock face and the other side juts out from the cliff, making it a partly freestanding arch. (Delicate Arch, by comparison, is a completely freestanding arch.) Like Delicate Arch, Corona Arch is one of those iconic canyon country landforms that makes you wonder how the forces of geology could have sculpted so perfect a picture.
No Entrance Fee Required
In 2015, both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks increased their entrance fees from $10 to $25. Far be it from me to say these increases weren’t justified—I know it takes a lot of financial resources to maintain parks and provide visitor services. But it’s refreshing to find a truly stunning formation like Corona Arch that you can hike to and see without opening up your wallet. And should a government shutdown ever close the national parks (like it did in 2013) and leave you searching for alternative destinations, you can head to Corona Arch without worrying about whether the “gates” will be closed.
The Trail Won’t Test Your Endurance
It’s only 1.5 miles from your car to the base of Corona Arch. From the parking lot, you’ll start by climbing a short steep hill, but after that it’s pretty easy hiking. Although the trail’s total elevation gain is only 440 feet, you will have to negotiate a steep 20-foot section of slickrock using a safety cable and steps carved into the rock. Immediately after that, a short ladder boosts you up to the top of the sandstone bench. None of these obstacles are difficult, but if you’re not feeling overly adventurous or energetic, you can still get a distant view of Corona Arch without climbing to the top. From the top of the ladder, it’s an easy walk along the bench to the base of the arch.
You Get a Bonus Arch on the Way
After you’ve climbed the two ladders and are making your way around the sandstone bench to the arch, you’ll pass beneath Bowtie Arch, a sandstone pothole arch with a diameter of about 30 feet. Pothole arches form when water collects in depressions in the sandstone, eventually cutting through to the layer below via chemical weathering. Below Bowtie Arch is a series of hanging seeps, where mosses and greenery grow in sharp contrast to the surrounding red rock.
No More Rope Swingers
With the top of Corona Arch towering 105 feet above the sandstone floor, it’s not surprising that the colossal rock span would attract daredevils. First, let me say that I personally have nothing against extreme adventure sports if that’s your thing. I just didn’t inherit the gene that compels one to plunge from high places (and I managed to travel around New Zealand twice without being the least bit tempted to bungee jump). That said, it’s very disappointing to hike to Corona for some peace and quiet and photography, only to arrive and find it covered in ropes and climbing equipment. Well, you won’t have to worry about that now—at least for the time being. In early 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) banned all roped activities at Corona Arch, largely due to the number of complaints they received from hikers and photographers seeking solitude and quiet at the arch. The ban will initially be in place for two years while the BLM studies the impacts of roped activities on both the environment and on hikers and photographers.
Have you hiked to Corona Arch? What was your favorite part of the trail?