Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Willow Springs Trail and Leaping Arch

The Willow Springs 4WD road begins on the west side of the Arches National Park main road across from the parking area for Balanced Rock. 

The first 0.8 miles passes a small picnic area and is easily drivable. Beyond the picnic area there is a junction with the 4WD road that leads to Klondike Bluffs and both roads become much rougher.

I started my hike at the junction and continued hiking west toward the Willow Springs area. The wide views straight ahead are toward the spectacular Moab Rim.

The views back toward the jumbled Balanced Rock area are also eye popping. To the north, there is a view of the south side of the Eye of the Whale Arch. The desert terrain here is mostly treeless with Mormon Tea, Blackbrush, Rabbitbrush, and grasses. The walking is easy on the dirt road. In mid February, there are small patches of snow.

It took me 1:15 hours to reach the park boundary sign. The sign where I started hiking said it was 4 miles to the boundary but it felt more like 3 miles. There is a large drainage near the park boundary that runs back to the northeast. I didn’t notice any flowing water or willows along the road, or any sign that identified the Willow Springs.
I turned and followed the drainage northeast back toward the large sandstone outcrops that include Eye of the Whale Arch and Leaping Arch. The hiking in the drainage was mostly easy on a wide swath of sand. There are a few pour over points that are easy to walk around. At the northwest corner of the rock formations I found a side drainage to follow east along the north of the rocks. There is a series of fins along here with Leaping Arch appearing in one of the fins.

It took me another 1:25 hours to find Leaping Arch, about 2 miles from the park boundary following the wide sandy drainage. Approaching from the west, Leaping Arch isn’t visible until you are nearly alongside it. It is possible to climb up closer and get a blue sky view from below.
Leaping Arch is only 0:15 minutes of hiking west of the Eye of the Whale Arch Trail, but it is not mentioned on the park map and there aren’t any signs pointing it out. Once you know to look for it, both arches are visible at the same time along the Klondike Bluffs 4WD road.
From Leaping Arch, it is about 2 miles along the Klondike Bluffs Road back to the junction. Near Leaping Arch, there are very good views of the snowy LaSal Mountains with the sandstone of Arches National Park in the foreground. My total hike following the loop route took 4:00 hours for about 7 miles. It was 38 F degrees when I started at about 11:00 AM and about 50 F at 3:00 when I finished on a mild mid February day.