Upper Courthouse Wash

The Upper Courthouse Wash trail of Arches National Park boasts a semi-challenging hike into a wide, meandering canyon constructed of the amazing sandstone for which the Moab area is famous. The Upper Wash boasts arches, green riparian habitat, cool water (especially attractive in the summer heat), and few crowds. Many hikers end up hiking through the creek itself, as it is next to impossible to follow the entire length without getting wet eventually, and usually the cool water and firm, wet sand is preferable to the heat and the dry, deep sand of the banks.

Trail Head: 38.6868566614234, -109.6530567345314
Trail Type: Hiking
Length: 6 miles one way
Difficulty: Moderate

The head of the Upper Wash route begins outside of Arches National Park, just below the Utah Highway 313 (Dead Horse Point Mesa) junction with US Highway 191, 5.75 miles northwest of the park entrance. This is actually Sevenmile Wash, though it is a part of the greater Courthouse Wash canyon system. From there, it flows southeast into the park, and down to the Arches Entrance Road bridge, where it becomes the Lower Courthouse Wash. The wash offers several options for hikers: start at the top or the bottom, hike out and back, or arrange a shuttle, hike just the Upper Wash, just the Lower Wash, or combine them for an extended hike.


The waterway that eventually becomes the Courthouse Wash actually starts up on the plateau that leads to Dead Horse Point, passing the Monitor and Merrimac buttes, and paralleling Utah Highway 313 on its way down towards Arches National Park.


Three miles down the canyon, Sevenmile Wash joins up with the Courthouse Wash Narrows, which originates in the Cedar Ridge, Willow Springs Trail area. The Courthouse Wash Narrows zigzag down into Sevenmile from the north and west, very narrow for quite a way before it opens up and dumps into the main wash. These narrows are a favored side-trek for many of the hikers and waders in the Courthouse Wash.


Ring Arch is a small, seldom-visited beauty of an arch within a side canyon, only 1.5 miles above the Arches Entrance Road bridge. It requires some rock-scrambling to get to, but is worth it for the memories and photos of an arch that not everyone knows about or has seen.


Many hikers prefer to begin their trek at the bottom, and then hike up the wash, instead of going from the top down. Visitors who are pressed for time or physical capability, but still wish to enjoy the Wash, hike the quarter-mile distance down the Lower Wash to the first swimming holes and then hike back out, making a quick, half-mile trip.


Alternatively, some hikers continue the 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 5.5 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.

The end of the Lower 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.

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

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