NABSQNO 12S-309018-4143957 Utah
Early morning light on Kolob Arch in Zion National Park.
Photo by Galen Berry, NABS.
Kolob Arch is located in Zion National Park. It is an adult alcove natural arch eroded in Navajo sandstone. A very accurate measurement of Kolob Arch taken in October 2006 found that this arch has a span of 287 feet, just 3 feet short of the span of Landscape Arch.
The hike to Kolob Arch is 14 miles round trip, and can be done as a long day hike or an overnight backpack (a permit is required for overnight camping). The arch can be approached from either of two trailheads, at Lee Pass on the Kolob Canyons Road (the more common route) or from Hop Valley on the Kolob Reservoir Road. You may get your feet wet on the Hop Valley route. The distance to the arch is the same (seven miles) via either route, and with a car shuttle you can hike from one trailhead to the other and see twice as much scenery that way.
Kolob Arch is close to the cliff behind it (a separation of 44 feet). The arch itself is not accessible and the viewpoint is about a quarter mile away. One cannot see sky through the arch from the established viewpoint, and travel off-trail is discouraged by posted signs.
The best times for this hike are in the spring and fall when the temperatures are mild. This applies also to any of the other arches listed here which require hiking. Summers are very hot throughout the Colorado Plateau region.
Descriptions of the hike can be found in several guidebooks. The most thorough descriptions are in the following two sources: (1) The booklet Hiking in Zion National Park: The Trails, put out by the Zion Natural History Association (1-800-635-3959); and (2) Utah's National Parks by Ron Adkison, Wilderness Press, 1991 (1-800-443-7227). This book also includes maps. The excellent Trails Illustrated map of Zion National Park also shows the route very clearly (1-800-962-1643).
Directions to trailheads: For the Lee Pass trailhead, take Exit 40 from Interstate 15 (19 miles south of Cedar City and 34 miles north of St. George) and then drive 4.1 miles on the Kolob Canyons Road to the parking area at Lee Pass. For the Hop Valley trailhead, take the Kolob Reservoir Road from the east end of the town of Virgin on Utah State Highway 9. At 12.5 miles there is a signed junction to the trailhead on the left.
Zion National Park has about half a dozen other natural arches. The most interesting of them is Bridge Mountain Arch, a highly unique piece of rock that is only 3 feet thick and 156 feet long, but since the rock is at a considerable angle, it only spans a distance of 120 feet (these figures come from Volume 8 of Robert H. Vreeland's Nature's Bridges and Arches, now out of print). Bridge Mountain Arch can be seen with binoculars from the Visitors Center, but actually reaching the arch requires a strenuous cross-country hike and some technical climbing skills. Details of the route can be found in the Zion Natural History Association book Exploring the Backcountry of Zion National Park.
The "Great Arch" at Zion is not a natural arch but is instead a large alcove with no opening.
Our next stop is Aloba Arch, or ...