Arch Canyon Trail

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Eastern Sonoran + Colorado Desert, Arizona

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Arch Canyon Trail

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  • Ajo Mountains from the start of the scenic loop road.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • The one-way gravel access road is relatively smooth, though narrow. - Arch Canyon Trail
  • The saguaro cacti are impressively large (up to 40 feet tall) and infinitely varied in form. The local Native American word for "human"  and "saguaro" is the same.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • Diablo Canyon picnic area.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • The view back to the south and east along the scenic drive.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • Trailhead parking and informational exhibits.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • The arch as seen from the trailhead.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • The trail up Arch Canyon is well-marked and a gentle grade.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • The desert reveals little gems if one looks hard enough.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • On the return leg of the hike, the view down the canyon to the mountains beyond is lovely.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • The access road is especially beautiful late in the afternoon when the setting sun lights up the mountains.- Arch Canyon Trail
  • - Arch Canyon Trail
  • Cholla cactus and the sunset light on the mountains.- Arch Canyon Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Easy and short hike. Great views. Scenic access road.
Cons: 
Difficult to actually reach arch from trail.
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Region:
Eastern Sonoran + Colorado Desert, AZ
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
200.00 ft (60.96 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.50 mi (2.41 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,560.00 ft (780.29 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Arch Canyon Trail is a great short hike combined with a scenic loop drive that ventures far back into remote canyons of the Ajo Mountains on the eastern edge of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. While the access road is gravel, it is well-maintained and even paved on the steepest parts, so it is accessible by nearly any vehicle. It is also one-way for most of the loop, so driving it is no so stressful.

Mount Ajo rises nearly 4,000 feet over the desert floor. This small range exhibits a variety of plant zones, from the pure Sonoran Desert at the lowest elevations to a more oak-juniper scrub environment a little higher. The road winds around bluffs and smaller mountains and is constantly flanked by saguaro and organ pipe cactus in all of their interesting forms. There is a small picnic area with shade at milepost 7. At the trailhead just past milepost 10, there is no shade, but there are a number of informational displays describing the geology of the area and how the arch was formed.

The arch itself is best viewed a short way up the trail, and the easy part of the trail is 0.75 miles one-way. For the hardy, it is possible to scramble up loose rocks and switchbacks to a view of the arch about 1.25 miles in. The arch is about a half-mile away from the trailhead so it looks small, but it actually measures over 700-feet long and 36-feet high. It was formed by the successive freezing and thawing of water amid cracks in the rocks, and it is actually a double arch with a small opening above the main arch.

Bird life is abundant in the canyon, with cactus wren, quail and owls sometimes visible. The view of the surrounding canyon walls is impressive, as is the extreme quiet that is evident everywhere in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This area is far from any air corridors or military bases, so planes are rare.

Back at the trailhead, the scenic loop drive continues for another 12 miles and offers more spectacular views, particularly at sunset. There is another strenuous 6-mile loop hiking trail that goes to Bull Pasture and Estes Canyon, and the trailhead parking is just a few miles past the Arch Canyon parking area.

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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