Sand Dune, Broken, and Tapestry Arches Loop Trail

Sand Dune, Broken, and Tapestry Arches Loop Trail

Arches National Park

Type: Lollipop loop day hike
Distance: 2.8 mi (4.5 km) round trip
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss: 427 feet (130 m)
Date Visited: Sunday, March 25, 2018
Sand Dune, Broken, and Tapestry Arches Loop Trail Map (KTNP)

One of the main reasons we wanted to stay in Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park was its proximity to hiking trails. One hike, called Broken Arch Trail, goes directly through the campground. We decided to hike a 2.8 mile loop to see Broken Arch, Sand Dune Arch, and Tapestry Arch. Aside from the Sand Dune Arch portion (which has a side trail leading to the main road), this route isn’t too crowded.

Broken Arch Trail

By early afternoon, we had finished our hike at Tower Arch Trail. Back at Devils Garden Campground, we walked as far south as we could, and started Broken Arch Trail in the campground near site 51. You could also begin at Sand Dune Arch Trailhead along Arches Scenic Drive (the main road). Unless you’re staying in the campground, that’s what we recommend.

The trail we took is a reverse lollipop loop that re-enters the campground at campsite 39. The loop can be done in either direction, and we chose counter-clockwise. The trail is sandy at the start, but transitions to slickrock. Cairns made it easy for us to navigate our way through. One way you can practice Leave No Trace is by avoiding stepping on the living cryptobiotic soil which is prevalent in Arches NP.

Looking east (our left), we had panoramic views of the surrounding area. In the distance, we saw what we thought were partially formed arches. Later in the hike, we realized this was actually Tapestry Arch. We scrambled downhill through narrow sandstone fins. It was chilly that day, but on a hot day the shade here would offer some respite from the heat.

Beyond the fins, we entered a wide open prairie, dominated by blackbrush, sagebrush, and other grasses. We were glad it was a cooler day, because there is no shade in this section. Looking to our left, we spotted Broken Arch in the distance. At a fork in the trail, we turned right to head toward Sand Dune Arch.

Arches: Broken Arch Trail Near Site 51 in Devils Garden Campground
We started Broken Arch Trail in Devils Garden Campground near site 51
Arches: On Broken Arch Trail Looking East Toward Tapestry Arch
Looking east toward Tapestry Arch
Arches: Through Fins on Broken Arch Trail
Looking through the fins on Broken Arch Trail
Arches: Exiting Fins on Broken Arch Trail Heading Toward Prairie
Exiting the fins, with the prairie in sight
Arches: Trail Through Prairie
Hiking through the prairie, with blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) on both sides of the trail

Sand Dune Arch

After about thirty minutes, we came to another intersection and turned left onto Sand Dune Arch Trail (continuing straight will take you to a parking lot along the park’s main road). The trail immediately ducks into a cluster of sandstone fins, and the dirt trail turns to sand. The wind whipped the sand all around us, and we put our buffs over our mouths so we wouldn’t breathe it in. Back here, the trail is more crowded since it’s so close to the road.

From here, it’s a short hike to Sand Dune Arch, and soon we were standing in front of it. Amongst the fins, the arch feels secluded, even with all the people around. Since lighting is limited, the arch almost glows red. A steady stream of people posed for photos with the arch as we waited for our turn (it took some time to get a photo without people in it). Afterward, we explored some narrow canyons further down the path, until we couldn’t go any further due to the large rock formations. We turned around and headed back to the intersection with Broken Arch Trail.

Arches: Intersection of Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch Trails
Intersection of Broken Arch and Sand Dune Trails
Arches: Amongst the Fins Hiking Toward Sand Dune Arch
Walking among the fins, almost to Sand Dune Arch
Arches: Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch was crowded, but we finally got a shot without people in it

Broken Arch

The trail headed directly for the arch we had spotted in the prairie area. Larger and more prominent than Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch loomed in front of us. This formation is unique because the trail goes through the opening of the arch. We walked on slickrock up to it, under it, and out the other side. The arch appears to have a crack running through it, but isn’t truly broken (so does Sand Dune Arch, interestingly).

On the other side of Broken Arch, there were several other hikers. Someone offered to take a photo of us in front of the arch and we happily accepted. In the background were the ever-present snow capped La Sal mountains. From this direction the arch is more photogenic in the afternoon, as sun shines on it in the morning. We continued following the cairns, and soon Tapestry Arch returned to view in the distance.

Arches: View of Broken Arch in Distance
Can you spot part of Broken Arch in the distance?
Arches: Broken Arch
Broken Arch
Arches: Heading Through Broken Arch
The trail leads through the opening in Broken Arch
Arches: View of Broken Arch with La Sals
On the other side of Broken Arch with the La Sal Mountains in the distance. The group of hikers under the arch gives a sense of its size.

Tapestry Arch

Turning onto Tapestry Arch Trail, we followed cairns over sand and slickrock, while climbing over a few large downed tree branches (we wondered if they had been carried in by a flood). The arch was directly in front of us the whole time, and the side trail only took five to ten minutes to get there. It looks like there are triple arches there, but there’s only one true arch. The others may form arches someday when the sandstone weathers more. We think it’s called Tapestry Arch because it looks like the surrounding rock is woven together.

It was pretty windy as we admired the arch in silence – we were the only ones there! Compared to other arches on the loop, this was the most secluded and private. Tapestry Arch’s location isn’t on every map, nor is there any mention of it at any of the trailheads, so this one is off the beaten path. Luckily there’s is a sign for the arch at the intersection. As we headed back the way we came, we passed one other couple on the way to the arch.

After Tapestry Arch, it’s a short distance back to the campground. The trail ends by campsite 39, near some dumpsters and a restroom (a very scenic way to end your hike). This hike is enjoyable, relatively easy, and you get to see three arches along with other interesting rock formations. Sand Dune Arch tends to be fairly crowded, while Tapestry Arch gets few visitors. Overall this hike is less crowded than many in the park, and we really appreciated that we could hike it directly from the campground.

Arches: Across Slickrock Toward Tapestry Arch
Heading to Tapestry Arch across slickrock
Arches: Tapestry Arch
Tapestry Arch
Arches: Looking Out From Behind Tapestry Arch
Looking out from behind Tapestry Arch
Arches: Broken Arch Trail Near Site 39 in Devils Garden Campground
Looping back around on Broken Arch Trail near site 39

Sand Dune, Broken, and Tapestry Arches Loop Trail

Date: Sunday, March 25, 2018
Type:
Lollipop loop day hike
Total Distance:
2.8 mi (4.5 km) round trip
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss:
427 feet (130 m)
Time: Two hours, including breaks
Trail Markings: Wayfinding Cairns
Difficulty: Easy
Crowds: Low, except in Sand Dune Arch area
Water: None
Highlights: Geological Features, Views
Directions to Sand Dune Arch Trailhead: Google Maps Directions
Notes: This trail can be started either inside Devils Garden Campground or at Sand Dune Arch Parking Lot. The map and trail directions assume the latter, which is easiest unless you’re staying in the campground.

Trail Directions

  • 0.0 mi – Park at Sand Dune Arch Parking Lot, and take the trail to the east.
  • 0.1 mi – At the intersection turn right, following the sign for Sand Dune Arch. The trail will get very sandy and go between sandstone fins.
  • 0.2 mi – You’ll arrive at Sand Dune Arch. Check it out, then return to the last intersection.
  • 0.3 mi – Turn right at the intersection, and follow the signs to Broken Arch.
  • 0.6 mi – At the intersection, go right. You’ll see Broken Arch in the distance.
  • 0.8 mi – The trail goes through Broken Arch.
  • 1.3 mi – Turn right at the intersection with Tapestry Arch Trail.
  • 1.5 mi – Arrive at Tapestry Arch. Enjoy the peace and quiet, then head back the way you came.
  • 1.7 mi – Turn right at the intersection with Broken Arch Trail.
  • 1.9 mi – The trail ends at Devils Garden Campground, near campsite 39. Turn left and follow the road. After 200 feet, keep left at the fork. Look for site 51, where Broken Arch Trail continues.
  • 2.4 mi – This is the end of Broken Arch Loop. Turn right at the intersection, toward Sand Dune Arch.
  • 2.7 mi – At the intersection with Sand Dune Arch Trail, continue straight to the parking lot.
  • 2.8 mi – Back at the parking lot

Places

Maps

Elevation Graph

Interactive Map

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