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Weird place Wednesday: Sunset Arch.

Sunset Arch near Escalante, UT and part of the Grand staircase of the Escalante.

Although this arch is named Sunset Arch near Hole in the rock road near Escalante, UT, I believe it could just as easily be called Dragon arch as it looks from this angle. Sunset Arch is somewhat difficult to find but absolutely worth it.

This week’s Weird place Wednesday takes us back to Utah and one of the most interesting arches I have seen. Sitting in an area rich with adventure opportunities, Sunset Arch is a hidden jewel within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Traveling to this remote and “hidden in plain site” arch requires some patience, good eyes, and a drive on a very long washboard dirt road.

So many arches are found within rock fins, buried and difficult to see, such as in Arches National Park. Sunset Arch is very different, not only is it sitting on a rise unimpeded out in the open, but the rock itself is very raw and rough, nothing like many of the smooth and elegant looking sandstone arches. To me, Sunset Arch could easily be called “Dragon Arch” as it truly resembles a sleeping dragon from this angle. But it is named Sunset arch for good reason. It lies out in the open, running linearly north and south, so the warm light of a setting sun strikes this arch dramatically, and an already red tinted rock arch becomes a nuclear red rock arch.

Sunset Arch is located in southern Utah, southeast from the town of Escalante off of Hole in the Rock road. Hole in the Rock road runs for 62 miles one direction all the way to Lake Powell, and unless you are driving an off road racing truck, you will have to take this road slower than you’d like. 62 miles at around 20 mph means it can easily become an all day adventure just driving out and back. Sunset Arch is really just icing on the cake of a myriad of fun formations along the same road: Zebra Gulch, Devil’s Garden, Coyote Gulch, Peek-a-Boo Bridges and Cedar Wash Arch just to name a few! The turn off is about 36 miles down Hole in the Rock road to BLM road 270 or “Forty Mile Ridge Rd.”, which is the same road that goes to the trailhead of Coyote Gulch. Once you turn left or NE on BLM 270, how far you drive is up to you, but I would recommend about 3.5-4 miles. Sunset Arch is roughly a mile SE from BLM 270, and it is difficult to spot from the road with all the scrub brush and hills in between. There are no trails to the arch; you will have to pick your path through the brush and a deep wash or two (watch out for those), and even if you see it from the road, you will lose sight of it on your way due to a few hills in between the mile long hike. I did not have GPS coordinates for the arch, which would have saved a lot of time and would have re-assured me I was headed in the right direction. I highly recommend not only having a GPS point for the arch but also your vehicle before you start your hike. If you end up hiking back in some darkness as we did, you will appreciate knowing exactly where you parked. Without a trail or any GPS points in low light, it is your best guess or if you are lucky to be the only people out there, you can follow your tracks back to the road with a flashlight as we did. There is not much water around out there except for a water tank here and there (basically large cow troughs), so make sure to take plenty of your own.

Sunset Arch GPS coordinates: 37 22 32.86 -111 2 54.30

Map of route from Escalante, UT to convenient pull off area on BLM 270.

Satellite map of Sunset Arch location with surrounding area. BLM 270 is to the NW.

As a little bonus, you can find another arch called Moonrise Arch just a few hundred yards to the SE of Sunset Arch. It’s pretty easy to find. Have fun out there and if you have any questions feel free to email me or comment below.

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