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Bring your own cerveza
Corona Arch, located just a couple miles outside of Moab, is a gem of an arch. Often called "Little Rainbow Bridge", this partially freestanding arch is still mighty impressive with a span of 140 feet and a height of 105. Located on BLM land neighboring the mighty Colorado River, this arch is accessible free of charge and with less of a crowd than its cousins in nearby Arches National Park. The hike itself is short, but it is largely on slickrock that really makes it a blast. Two other natural arches can also be seen on the hike, Pinto Arch and Bowtie Arch.
The BLM trailhead is well signed on Potash Road. The Colorado River dominates the scenery as it winds its way into Canyonlands National Park. The is initially an old road grade that abruptly climbs up a nearby hill. After cresting the hill, the trail crosses a railroad track. The cuts in the rock that allow the railroad to pass are an impressive set of tiers. The railroad actually connects the fertilizer plant down the road at Potash to a potash mine near Moab. Further up the canyon, this railroad track enters a tunnel, the other end of which is visible at the north end of Moab by the uranium tailings pile.
After crossing the railroad tracks, the trail winds around the edge of a cliff, and high up in the cliffs to the north northeast is a small pour-off arch called Pinto Arch. Unless you want to do some exploring, Pinto Arch remains distant. The old roadbed starts to ascend once more. The flat, wide road grade soon disappears, and the trail gets rough. As you crest the top of the second incline, slickrock dominates the terrain, and the trail turns into more of a cairned route. Cairns are copious and should be easy to follow. A small sandy section is soon encountered, then it is slickrock once more.
Keep following the cairns, and soon you will encounter a spot where the slickrock gets kind of steep, and a cable is provided for hikers to grab onto. It looked a bit unnecessary to me. Just past the cable, you start rounding the corner, and then BAM! Straight ahead across a side canyon is Corona Arch, attached like a jug handle to the opposing cliff. You'll notice a large elongated cairn nearby, and I think everyone pauses here in awe and figures they might as well add to the pile. If you look at the cliff to the left of Corona, you can see a smaller arch that makes what looks to be kind of a skylight, that is Bowtie Arch.
The cairns will take you on a traverse around the slickrock side canyon over to Corona, passing under Bowtie along the way. You will reach a spot where the slickrock steepens, and small steps have been carved into the sandstone. Yet another cable is provided to grab a hold of. A small flat section of slickrock is encountered before another steep section pops up. The slickrock would be easy enough to climb up here, but a small metal latter is provided, which most tend to use.
After the two steep spots, the rest of the traverse is relatively flat. You pass under Bowtie, which is impressive in its own right. Corona Arch becomes closer and closer with every step. It does look similar to Rainbow Bridge, and they are even carved out of the same rock formation, the Navajo Sandstone.
You can walk right under the arch and marvel at its resistance to the force of gravity. Relaxing in the shade underneath is a popular activity, although there might be a risk of getting bonked by a falling slab of rock. We continued along the slickrock on the other side of Corona and took in the view from over there, which also provides open views toward the Colorado River gorge.
Being outside of Arches, this hike is less crowded than Delicate Arch, the Windows, or Devil's Garden. However, it still sees a fair amount of use being advertised in the local hiking guidebooks and having incredibly convenient access. On a beautiful Sunday in November around noon, we saw somewhere between 25-35 people on this short trail. If you want the arch to yourself, try some combination of early in the day, mid-week, and off-season. Regardless, this hike is an absolute blast and well worth checking out!
Kids, dogs and heat
Of the 25-35 people we saw, quite a few brought their kids and dogs. The combination of slickrock and abrupt drop-offs if you wander off the trail has the potential for serious injury for the precious ones (human and canine). Take the necessary precautions to avoid such an incident. Dogs may require leashes. We met a particularly fearless Jack Russell Terrier named Louie out there that could have used one. Lastly, the nature of the slickrock makes the hike open to the elements, especially the heat and sun. Please make sure your party comes prepared with enough water for everyone.
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