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Courthouse Towers/Park Ave.

Arches National Park

April 14th, 2009

1.6 miles
340 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:44

Starting elevation
4196 feet
Max elevation
4541 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Moab, take Highway 191 North, then turn right into Arches National Park. Follow the park road past the Park Ave. trailhead and park at the Courthouse Towers trailhead parking lot on the right.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

There were only a couple other cars in the Courthouse Towers parking lot as we prepped for our hike under completely gray skies. I think that most people start at the Park Avenue trailhead and hike downhill to the Courthouse Towers trailhead, arranging for a car shuttle to pick them up. We didn't have that luxury, so we decided to start at the bottom. I always prefer to hike up then down, rather than down then up.

Prepping at the Courthouse Towers trailhead

We crossed the park road then picked up the trail on the other side. Stones mark the way down onto the vast slickrock, where most of the trail resides. Towering above us were 100-foot high rock formations. Many of them looked like ships sailing on the ocean to me, but the reason the trail is called Park Ave. is that it's supposed to look like skyscrapers on a city block. Use your imagination.

Heading up the slickrock

Rock formation

The trail climbs ever so gently up the slickrock. Along the way are a few small potholes filled with water. I saw several kids splashing water from one pothole to another. If I had known better, I would have told them not to do that. I read later that, since water is so precious in the desert, potholes are vital for sustaining some forms of life, and certainly splashing them around is not advised. Since this is such a heavily trafficked area it's doubtful that the water held much life, but it wouldn't hurt to give it a chance. Advise your kids to leave the water alone!

Looks like a majestic ship to me

Looking back at Courthouse Towers

Walking up the trail feels like walking up a dried riverbed. Beneath the towering rocks we saw birds soaring in the area, and a few lizards on the ground. Scattered here and there were flowers, some bright red.

Looks like people looking out to me

Patterns in the rock

Rock tower

As you walk on the trail and admire the views above, don't forget to look down. There are some beautiful patterns in the rock at your feet. Also, when the trail returns to the dirt, make sure to stay on the trail to avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil. This is evidenced by small black dots on the ground, and can sometimes be right next to the trail. This living soil takes years to form and is easily killed by people stepping on it.

More patterns in the rock

Layers of rock

Looking back from near the Park Ave. trailhead

The trail leading up to the Park Ave. trailhead starts to climb steeply, with steps in place near the top. We climbed up, intending to eat lunch at the top. Unfortunately, it was very windy at the top and there were no good places to stop to eat there. We retraced our steps back down a bit and had lunch by the trail, being careful not to disrupt any cryptobiotic soil.

Cryptobiotic soil

Cryptobiotic soil

Cryptobiotic soil

Cryptobiotic soil

After lunch, we returned back to the Courthouse Towers trailhead the way we came.

Desert flower

Desert flowers

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