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Sand Dune and Broken Arch Loop

Storm Clouds Behind Broken Arch
Broken Arch towering above the landscape as stormy weather moves in. Arches National Park, Utah

The Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch hike is a 1.7 mile round trip, with the option to extend it into 2.9 miles to include Tapestry Arch and the full Broken Arch Loop. While the first two arches receive the most visitation, Tapestry Arch remains relatively unvisited.

Sand Dune and Broken Arch Loop Trail Description

Sand Dune Arch

The trail for Sand Dune and Broken Arch begins by dipping into a large grasslands flat between sandstone fins and buttes. Shortly after, a sign directs you to Sand Dune Arch by forking right.

Enter into a narrow canyon between fins, emerging into a slightly wider canyon just beyond. Continue through the short canyon and Sand Dune Arch will be on your right, situated in a discrete cove waiting for you to arrive. Head back to the main trail the same way you came in.

Broken Arch

Back at the main trail, head right to continue toward Broken Arch. At this point the trail meanders across the expansive grasslands flat, providing you with a different type of openness than you find in many other places in the park.

Stormy weather engulfing the landscape along the Broken Arch Trail and distant sandstone fins. Arches National Park, Utah

You soon begin hiking along the base of the sandstone buttes and fins that were on the other side of the flat. The trail gets a little more bumpy here as you weave through a small juniper forest and up and down small rises in the sandstone.

Soon enough, Broken Arch opens up in front of you, a large slab of sandstone spanning dozens of feet above you. It’s a beautiful sight that’s easy to appreciate after an easy hike in.

If you’d like to make this the end of your hike, as the majority of people do, head back to the trailhead the same way you came in. To extend the hike with another arch, continue reading.

Tapestry Arch

Most people at this point will hike back to the trailhead, unaware of the treasures that await by passing through the gateway of Broken Arch. Completing the loop to Tapestry Arch will increase your round trip distance from 1.7 miles, to 2.9 miles. Fortunately, none of the terrain is very difficult, though there are a few sandy spots prior to the arch.

Tapestry Arch rising high above a juinper tree. Arches National Park, Utah

After passing through Broken Arch you’ll wander along smaller sandstone buttes to either side of the trail. This quickly becomes surrounded by a juniper and pinyon pine forest below the buttes before the trail transitions onto slickrock from sand. Cairns guide your way over as Tapestry Arch becomes visible ahead. It’s here that you’ll reach the fork for the arch, heading right to access it.

The trail to Tapestry Arch quickly takes advantage of a wash you’ll travel down part of the way, with branches blocking the wash farther down to let you know to ascend out of it to your left. You’ll navigate over more slickrock guided by cairns, bringing you below the commanding Tapestry Arch.

What makes this arch so special is that the arch itself is impressive simply by itself, but equidistant on either side are two large alcove, themselves future arches making Tapestry Arch more of a panoramic view than simply one arch. It’s well worth the extra distance, and once you’ve come this far, you might as well close out the loop.

Stormy weather rolling in over the sandstone landscape along the Broken Arch Loop. Arches National Park, Utah

Once back on the main trail, you’ll continue up through the flats toward the sandstone buttes ahead. You’ll quickly reach the campground, which directs you to campsite 51 to resume the trail, which can be accessed by heading left.

You’ll resume the trail among large fins and buttes as you climb steadily upward guided by cairns. Beyond the trail the landscape rises and falls over hills and canyons and cliffs on its way toward the distant horizon.

Once on the crest of the climb, you’ll drop down in between two massive fins on either side, tucking you away into a deep canyon. The trail zigs and zags its way out and you’ll begin hiking along the base where the loop closes out back at the main trail. Head right at the junction to get back to the trailhead.

Getting There

From the Arches National Park entrance station, continue along the main park road for 15.9 miles until you reach the Sand Dune Arch parking lot on the right.

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Mike@FreeRoamingPhotography.com