Zion: Jug Handle Arch
There are numerous natural arches in Zion National Park including Hepworth, Bridge Mountain, Two Pines, Hidden Canyon, Hidden Arch, Checkerboard, Hammerhead, Elephant, Pico Rosado and one of the longest arches in the world, Kolob Arch. In addition to these is Jug handle Arch, a propped arch that can be seen from the main highway in Zion National Park, but it's hard to spot unless you know right where to look, therefore, few have ever seen it. Although it can be viewed from the road, you can hike a half-mile, round-trip, to a much better view point and snap some photographs or you can do the strenuous 3 mile, round-trip, hike and scramble up to the arch itself. The structure is nestled amongst the beautiful slickrock that is so prevalent on the east side of the park. During the summer these mounds of rock east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel can be a forbidding furnace where pillars of fairyland-like rock outcroppings and sparse trees offer only isolated pockets of shade. Winter is an ideal time to hike in such a parched environment and by adding the right clothing you can be very comfortable. Dress in layers, beginning with a wicking base, then a light insulating fleece, add a light wind stopper and top all this with a waterproof shell and your body temperature, based on physical exertion, can be regulated by removing or adding one item at a time.
At a Glance
Water: No reliable water source.
Note: When hiking in Zion National Park stay on established trails to protect yourself and the delicate desert environment. Avoid cliff edges. Sandstone can be slippery and unstable. Whenever hiking off trail be sure to wear sticky rubbered hiking shoes.
Parking - The parking area and viewpoint for Jug handle Arch is on the south side of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, 2 miles west of the east entrance or 1.9 miles east of the small tunnel. If needed, there is a small pullout just east of the usual parking area. From the parking area, look north to the skyline and try to locate the arch on the right side of the large peninsula. It's a little more than a half-mile away as the crow flies.
Trailhead - Begin hiking, heading east on the highway, passing the drainage on the left side of the road. There is a sweeping left curve around a blind corner, so use caution and stay off the road to avoid traffic. Soon another drainage is noticeable on the left and is identifiable by a large slickrock bowl and dome shaped hoodoo located at the top of the wash. This drainage is 200 yards from the parking area or 100 yards from the small pullout.
Viewpoint - Walk down into the wash and then hike up toward the hoodoo ahead of you. Soon the sand yields to a steep slickrock scramble. After a 150 yard ascent up the sandstone, you will arrive at a saddle. Look north, to see an unobstructed view of Jug handle Arch and the terrain to be covered on the way to the structure. This is where you would stop and take photos then turn around if you are not doing the entire hike.
Keyhole Canyon - If you wish to continue past the half-mile, round-trip viewpoint, then drop down the steep slope into Keyhole Canyon 150 feet below. This is your chance to peek at one of Zion's most popular canyoneering routes. To enter the slot would require you to have canyoneering skills, equipment, a wet/drysuit and a permit from the park.
Jug handle Arch Route - From the bottom of the slope that you just descended, look upstream about 75 feet to the steep vegetated ramp that exits on the left, just before the canyon constricts to a narrow slot. Work up the ramp about 200 feet, until you make it to the top of the ridge which bears north toward the arch. Keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep which are often spotted in this area.
Optional Scramble - As the route continues toward the arch along the relatively level ridge, you will see a steep buttress of white sandstone. It is possible to go slightly to the left and work up this 3 rd class slope to an ideal viewpoint for taking photos of the arch. Never scramble past where you are comfortable and keep in mind that if the rock is wet or moss on the rock is moist or frozen it can be as slippery as ice.
Route to the Arch - This second option will head north and eventually follow another ridge to the right, going up a steep chute on the western side of the peninsula that the arch sits upon. Instead of scrambling up the steep buttress toward the arch, drop left and down into the wide open wash below. Walk up the drainage a short distance and scramble up the slickrock watercourse. At the top of the slickrock, steer right through some pines and other vegetation then up another steep sandstone scramble. Soon the rock yields to talus and bushes. Look for a beaten path that bears left and up towards a chute. There is one steep 3 rd class section partway up the loose ramp that requires the use of hands to negotiate. Once at the top of the chute, double back on the sparsely vegetated plateau and steer toward the eastern side. The rocky outcropping is Jug handle Arch. The best place to stand to photograph the arch is 50 feet north of the outcropping. Don't get too close to the edge because the rock there is fractured and could crumble. Keep in mind that sandstone is more hazardous when it's wet.
GPS Coordinates WGS84 Datum
Parking for Jug handle Arch
Jug handle Arch
GPS coordinates are only references and may or may not be accurate. Do not rely on GPS coordinates as the sole method of navigation. Always have an accurate, detailed map at hand and have the proper map reading and navigation skills before setting out on any hike. Many of the hikes listed in this guide travel into canyons where a GPS has limited capabilities. Always check your position with a detailed map before dropping into a canyon.
Zion National Park Trails with Natural Arches along the path:
To post trip reports, offer corrections, updates, or for more information please visit the Zion National Park Forum
Suggested Gear: A sturdy pair of shoes are recommend to hike the trails in Zion National Park. Many quality shoes will help grip the rocks and prevent injury.
Zion National Park, Utah
History of the Thunderbird
This is my new favorite quote:
"I don't know who Tanya Milligan is, but I mean www.zionnational-park.com
It's a better site than the NPS's anyway."
Written by the authors of the book: Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park