It is Christmas break between Christmas and New Year’s Day when most of the tech companies shut down. Since Utah still hasn’t had winter weather yet, it is a perfect time to spend a few days arch hunting and exploring southern Utah. David and I leave town on Thursday and get a motel room in Blanding Utah for the first night. The next morning after breakfast, we drive south to Bluff Utah and spend part of the day visiting the natural arches around the town.

Just before entering Cow Canyon, where the highway drops down into Bluff, we take the side road to the east and then south so that we end up in the cliffs above the town. Across the canyon the west we can see Bluff Arch, a class ‘C’ sized arch.

Bluff Arch

To the south, also on the opposite east canyon side is Minor Arch, a class ‘C’ sized arch.

Minor Arch

Almost to the end of the east dirt trail, a look down the cliffs into a hanging basin reveals Arena North Arch, Arena Middle Arch and Arena South Arch. The middle arch is a class ‘B’ arch but the other two are class ‘C’ size.

Three Arena Arches

Next on our list is Tank Mesa Arch. To visit this arch, we drive into Bluff until we cross Cottonwood Wash. We then head north on a road that soon turns to dirt and stop at the fence across the road. From here we can see Tank Mesa Arch in the high cliffs to the northwest and on the west side of the wash. This arch looks to be either a large ‘C’ size or a small ‘B’ size arch.

Tank Mesa Arch

Back on the highway we turned west for a quick visit to the Goosenecks State Park.

When then hurried back down the highway through Mexican Hat and onto the Monument Valley Tribal Park on the Utah/Arizona border.

Here we visited the little community of Goulding Utah, hidden in the sandstone cliffs off of Oljeto Mesa. Hidden in the cliffs on the north side of the community, is a large class ‘B’ arch called Goulding Arch.

Goulding Arch

We then drove back to Bluff to spend the night at a motel.

The next morning, David and I decide it was time to start exploring the Grand Gulch Primitive Area a number of miles northwest of Bluff, Utah.

We hiked into the middle of the gulch from the east to see if we can see several natural arches in the canyon. However, I left the map in our vehicle so we end up just exploring the top of the canyon hoping we stumble across the arches.

In one area at the top of the canyon, we found a natural structure created by erosion in the sandstone. Water erosion has cut through the top sandstone in large blocks. Underneath, the stone is much softer and has eroded away tunnels large enough that a vehicle could drive through them. The tunnel walls are worn away in honeycomb patterns. These tunnels crisscross creating a labyrinth of many rooms, tunnels and passages. However, there is a thin crack in the ceiling of each room and tunnel so they do not qualify as natural arches.

We definitely need to do a better job of exploring this region of Utah.

After a day of hiking above Grand Gulch, we headed for home.