Mesa Arch at Sunrise in the Canyonlands

Mesa Arch at Sunrise in the Canyonlands

United States
United States

When Is the Best Time

Mesa Arch is one of the most popular spots in the Canyonlands. This narrow rock arch right on the edge of a cliff offers a breathtaking panoramic view. The Canyonlands National Park is not overrun, with less than 500.000 visitors annually. Most people visit this area in spring and autumn, April, May, September, and October due to the hot summer temperatures. There are fewer daytrippers in winter.

Mesa Arch at sunrise

You get the best shots of Mesa Arch during and shortly after sunrise. There can be many photographers around with their tripods blocking the best spaces. But they are leaving shortly after the sunrise when the light becomes best illuminating the underside of the arch, in Ray's opinion, when the sun has gotten a little higher. He is a professional photographer and provided these fantastic pictures of the magical sunrise in the winter.

Mesa Arch full of photographers at sunrise
This is the reality at sunrise - Picture by Toshimi I. Kristof

The best time to visit Mesa Arch is the magical sunrise. During the day, the light is too bright for perfect pictures, but if you come just to soak in the beautiful scenery, avoid the sunrise or visit Utah in the winter, which is the quietest season.

Weather Canyonlands

Mesa Arch with snow in winter at sunrise

Utah doesn't experience much rain throughout the year or snow in winter. It is a desert climate in the Canyonlands and at Mesa Arch. The "wettest" months are July to October. 

Spring (March-May)

The best months regarding the day temperature are March until May. March is already nice with 59°F/15°C, April is pleasant, around 68°F/20°C during the day, and May is like a lovely summer day, around 77°F/25°C. Nights are chilly, ranging from freezing to 46°F/8°C.

Summer (June-mid-September)

If you plan your visit in summer, you have to be an early riser to enjoy the cool mornings. Daytime temperatures are in the high 90s° F/high 30s°C. Nights cool down, ranging from 55-62°F/13-17°C. Thunderstorms can build up in the afternoon due to the heat, and flash flooding can occur. The soil is too dry to soak in the water quickly. 

Moses and Zeus rock formation view from Mesa Arch
Moses and Zeus - sandstone rock formation in winter

Autumn (mid-September-November)

The beginning of fall is a lovely season; day temperatures are pleasant, ranging from 77-70°F/25-21°C from mid-September to October. Night temperatures drop already below 50°F/10°C. November is colder on average 55°F/13°C during the day and night drop to freezing. However, with a softshell jacket, temperatures are bearable.

Winter (December-February)

Mesa Arch with snow in winter at sunrise

Due to the high elevation of the Canyonlands of 5000-7000 feet, the winter is pretty cold, around 18°F/-8°C. Day temps climb up, ranging from freezing to 41°F/5°C. However, with crisp blue skies, this spectacular landscape with only a handful of people is a pro for a winter visit.

The Complete Guide to the Grand Circle National Parks is everything you need! This book has something for everyone, whether travelling in style or camping like we do, hiking in the rugged backcountry or sightseeing. The seven most impressive national parks within the Southwest United States are covered, from what to do, where to stay, and dining options inside and nearby. All surrounding national monuments and state parks are described in detail. With maps of Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Arches, Mesa Verde, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and many more national monuments, state parks and recreation areas.

Best Months to Visit

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Location and Tips

Moab, Utah, Canyonlands National Park
United States
United States

Mesa Arch is a 10 minutes drive from the Island in the Skye Visitor Centre. There is also a small airport nearby where short flights are offered. The Canyonlands are pretty huge, and a 4x4 and experience are essential for driving on these paths. We did an impressive flight in a small aircraft to get an idea of the area. Although we explored Utah and Arizona in a 4WD, we were too scared about these bumpy roads.

Mesa Arch with snow in winter at sunrise

Getting to Mesa Arch is just a short and easy 10 minutes hike from the car park. The gravel sandy loop trail is 0,7 miles /1.1 km long and well-marked on either side. The arch is 88 feet / 27 m long. The arch was created by erosion and the weather. 

From Mesa Arch, you can see the famous rock formation, Moses and Zeus. These 500-foot tall sandstone rock formations are famous for climbing; the first ascent for both was in the early '70s. Canyonlands is separated into three parts; The Needles, the Maze, and Island in the Sky district, where Mesa Arch is located. There are different viewpoints where you can go by car. I recommend a scenic flight to get a real impression of the Canyonlands' vast beauty and size.

Parking

Limited parking fills up soon before sunrise and during the day in the peak season in summer. Nowadays, the sunrise is overrun, and the parking is already full half an hour before.

Photos

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