Lower Courthouse Wash Trail

Lower Courthouse Wash stretches from the Entrance Road bridge just north of the Tower of Babel in Arches National Park, down to Highway 191 and the confluence of the Wash and the Colorado River. This generally wide canyon contains a stream with several swimming holes. It is a fun place to go for a casual hike, a quick swim, or for a trek down to the confluence with the Colorado River. Most visitors end up hiking down the creek bed itself, wading through the water; it is refreshing in the summer heat, and then the treacherous and slow travel of hiking through the sandy drifts of the riverbank are not a problem.

Trail Head: 38.649538, -109.598298

Trail Type: Hiking

Length: 5.5 miles one way

Difficulty: Moderate

The trailhead for the Lower Courthouse Wash is located just north of the bridge on the Arches Entrance Road, which is 4.5 miles north of the park entrance. Unless visitors are willing to turn and hike 5.5 miles back up the wash again, a shuttle needs to be arranged to pick them at the bottom, just outside of Moab.

Visitors who are pressed for time or physical capability, but still wish to enjoy the Wash, hike the quarter-mile distance down the wash to the first swimming holes and then hike back out, making a quick, half-mile trip.

Just over a mile into the Wash, hikers will encounter their first major side canyons. This is the first—and shortest (at .7 miles long)—of four canyons that cut their way down into the Lower Courthouse Wash from the Petrified Dunes to the east. All four of these canyons are fun, and worth exploring if one has the time, fresh water, and stamina to add more miles to their trip. The second of these canyons is the longest, stretching for three miles into the Petrified Dunes. The dunes, as their name suggests, were petrified over long periods of pressurization and cementation.

The end of the Wash opens up to the highway just north of Moab. Half a mile from the end of the Wash, located on the East cliff face, paralleling the highway, there is a large (19 feet long by 52 feet long) Petroglyph and pictograph panel that is represents many humans, animals, and abstract objects. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and has needed restoration in the past on account of vandalism.

Alternatively, some hikers begin the trek up at the head of the Upper Wash—just below the Utah Highway 313 (Dead Horse Point Mesa) junction with US Highway 191, 5.75 miles northwest of the park entrance. From there, they hike all the way down, past the bridge that marks the beginning of the Lower Wash, and on to the end of Courthouse Wash, at Highway 191 outside of Moab. This longer route adds 6.5 miles to their trip, and would require a shuttle unless visitors are qualified as super-hikers and do not mind returning the 12 miles (for a total of 24 miles) that they just descended through the wash.

Click here for more information about Arches and the surrounding area.

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