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.

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