Thursday, June 18, 2009

Aqueduct Arch Trail

The Aqueduct Arch Trail starts about 11.2 miles north along Harts Point Road in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area in southeast Utah and is not marked. The Harts Point area is between Canyonlands Park and Indian Creek to the west and the Hatch Point district of Canyon Rims to the east.

The Harts Point Road is about 12 miles west along Utah Route 211 on the way to the Needles District of Canyonlands Park. This area is wild and remote canyon country with no facilities for visitors.

There is a two track 4WD road leading east off of the graded road for about 2.2 miles from the unmarked trail head, then a right turn that leads for a short distance and the road ends. The walking along the slightly sandy road is easy and there are good canyon views to the east toward the La Sal Mountains.

The end of the road overlooks a side canyon of Harts Draw. The arch is near the bottom of the main part of this side canyon, and is not visible from the end of the road.

There are some hiker cairns leading down through a cliff area and then the route follows a small drainage to the canyon rim. The arch is visible toward the east side. There are more rock cairns leading down from the rim into a side canyon that allow a closer view. I went down to the next main shelf below the rim and stopped there.

The route continues further down into the canyon but appears to get more difficult. Aqueduct Arch looks like it was once a large deep alcove and the roof collapsed. There are other similar alcoves that are visible in the area. I scanned with binoculars for Ancestral Pueblo ruins in the alcoves but didn’t spot anything.

It took me about 0:45 minutes to get to the end of the 4WD road and I hiked another 30 minutes to the rim and somewhat down into the canyon. It was a relatively cool 70 F mid June day and I carried two liters of water. My total hike was 2:40 hours. Nearby to the Aqueduct Arch route is a shorter hike to Mug Handle Arch. The Chris Moore Guide to Natural Arches in the Moab Area is very helpful for finding these large spectacular arches.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mug Handle Arch Trail

The Mug Handle Arch Trail is in the Harts Point section of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area in southeast Utah. The Harts Point Area is a mesa top that overlooks the east side of the Indian Creek corridor that leads to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

About 12 miles along Utah scenic route 211 there is a sign pointing out Harts Draw Road to the south. The road to Harts Point is the north leading part of the same road. The Harts Point area doesn't have any visitor facilities. I started my hike 11.6 miles along this graded road next to an old windmill on the west side. The turbine for the windmill is in ruins on the ground and has been there so long a sage brush is growing up though it.

The unmarked trail to Aqueduct Arch begins in this same vicinity. The terrain here is scattered Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers with areas where sage brush dominates. There is good canyon country in the Harts Point area, but not the spectacular view points that are the highlight of the more developed Hatch Point area of Canyon Rims.

From the old windmill I walked about 5 minutes west along the two track road to a point where there were some views down into one of the canyons that is along the Indian Creek area, then worked back south and east along the side canyon rim, crossing a large area of slick rock sandstone. The road I walked on is more or less parallel to the canyon with the arch.

The Mug Handle Arch is back toward the head of the canyon and is not visible immediately. There is a shelf below the canyon rim that allows a reasonable approach for a good view. There isn't a trail so a hiker has to pick his own route. There are a number of large alcoves in this side canyon that look like good potential Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites but I didn't see any standing structures.

It is easy to view the Mug Handle Arch from the opposite side and a shorter walk. From the old windmill, the canyon head is only a few hundred yards directly south. From the canyon head there are good views down canyon toward what looks like the Dugout Ranch area of Indian Creek. The huge Wingate Sandstone cliffs visible below are popular climbing areas.

I spent about 1:30 hiking in the Mug Handle Arch area. The distance was less than 1 mile with much of the time spent scanning and moving slowly over the uneven terrain. Chris Moore’s guide book to the Natural Arches of the Moab Area is very helpful in finding these large unmarked arches.