Tower Arch

Tower Arch

Arches National Park

          Tower Arch is located in the remote Klondike Bluffs section of Arches National Park. The arch has an interesting history and is often visited by those spending several days in the park. While not totally secluded this route usually enjoys diminutive crowds. This route follows a well defined trail and is a good choice for novice hikers who want to visit a more remote section of Arches National Park.

General Information:
Click Here for Map           Tower Arch is a wonderful desert hike that will require 2 to 3 hours round trip. The route is 1 1/2 miles each way across open desert. Elevation gain on this hike is minor. This route should be easy for most healthy hikers. Tower Arch requires you carry a least enough water for half-a-day in the desert, depending on current conditions.

          Navigation for this route is easy. There trail is well marked and often traveled. Mistakes in navigation are easy to overcome and correct on this route. A GPS is extreme overkill. Good map reading skills and the USGS 7.5' Map titled "Klondike Bluffs" are helpful. All waypoints and maps for this route use the WGS84 datum. This route is rated class 1 I using the Yosemite Decimal System.

          Follow the route described and you will avoid areas of cryptobiotic crust along this route. Please avoid disturbing all cryptobiotic crust. Stay on existing trails, walk in wash bottoms or on slickrock. Go out of your way, literally, to avoid cryptobiotic soil. Cryptobiotic crust requires five to ten years of undisturbed growth before it even becomes visible as an irregular, blackish mat on the soil surface. A single footprint by a careless hiker can destroy decades of growth!

Tower Arch Facts:
          Tower Arch is an old fin type natural arch, weathered into the Entrada sandstone. It has a span of 92 feet, a height of 43 feet, a thickness of 50 feet, and a width of 29 feet.

Tower Arch History:
          What fun is a monster arch without a bit of controversy? Those who look closely will find two inscriptions, one each on the north and south abutments of the arch.

          The inscription on the south abutment reads "DISCOV'D BY M. AND MRS. ALEX RINGHOEFFER AND SONS 1922-23." the inscription has led to much controversy because the name "Ringhoffer" is misspelled and the date 1922-23 is cryptic. The Ringhoffer family operated a silver mine in Salt Valley and spent Sundays exploring the surrounding country. The family was probably aware of the arch. It is unknown who actually carved the inscription.

          The second inscription reads "Minaret Bridge, H.S. Bell 1927." In 1933 and 1934 the Arches National Monument Scientific Expedition conducted an in-depth reconnaissance of the new monument. The expedition was led by Frank Beckwith, a local newspaper editor and amateur scientist, who was responsible for naming many of the arches. Including the naming of Tower Arch. It appears that Beckwith was unaware or disregarded the name Minaret Bridge.

Interesting rock formation along the trail. Parallel Arch

Trailhead Information:
          Follow the main road into Arches National Park and do not turn-off until told to do so. From Arches National Park Visitor Center drive into the park for 16.3 to the signed dirt road on the south (left) side of the road. Turn south on the dirt road, pass through a gate that is locked during bad weather, and follow the dirt road for 7.0 miles to a signed junction. The spur road to the west (left) offers 4x4 access to Klondike Bulls. Continue north (straight ahead) on the main dirt road for an additional 50 yards to a second signed spur road heading west (left). Follow the second spur road for 1.0 miles to the Tower Arch trailhead.

          The Tower Arch Trailhead is identified by parking for several vehicles, information kiosk and a a pit toilet. The trailhead is accessible to all vehicles in good weather. The dirt road become impassable during inclement weather.

Sierra and Stormy with a carin between them. Tower Arch

Route Information:
The entire route is easy to follow if to watch for cairns (small stacks of rocks) used to mark the route. From the Tower Arch Trailhead (N38 47' 33", W109 40' 31") follow the trail west. The route immediately climbs a short but steep ridge that might require some minor scrambling. From the top of the ridge you will be presented with an outstanding view of the area. From the ridge the trail crosses a long rocky area that requires hiking from cairn to cairn and descends slightly to the bottom of a minor drainage. The route crosses the drainage and climbs a short but steep sand hill before turning north into a passage that snakes through the rocks. Along this section you will pass next to Parallel Arch (N38 47' 17", W109 41' 13") on your right (east) side. 75 yards past Parallel Arch you will encounter a trail junction (N38 47' 19", W109 41' 15"). The trail to the west leads to the optional 4x4 Trailhead. At this point you should be presented with a fantastic view of Tower Arch (N38 47' 20", W109 41' 14"). Continue following the main trail 100 yards east, as it climbs beneath the massive arch. The more adventurous will find the surrounding area interesting to explore.

Looking through Tower Arch from the back side.

Optional 4x4 Trailhead:
Those with a 4x4 can drive the optional 4x4 route that swings wide to the south before approaching Tower Arch. The 4x4 Trailhead (N38 47' 08", W109 41' 25") offers a view of the arch from a distance. Those who wish to actually visit the arch must follow the hiking trail east for 1/4 mile.

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