Trail difficulty
Green
Elevation Gain
490.00 ft (149.35 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.50 mi (16.90 km)
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If you head east from the dozens of dispersed camping sites along Willow Springs Road, you will eventually reach a backdoor entrance to Arches National Park. One of the great ways to explore this area is on a mountain bike, and this ride takes you all the way down to Balanced Rock deep within the park. The views along the way make the sometimes-awkward ride worth the effort. While there are several sections of very deep sand you will most likely need to get off your bike, the tour is a great ride for people new to mountain biking in the desert.

There are a few nice sections of Navajo sandstone at the start of the ride, but cattle fencing does restrict some of the longest lines. This was also a perfect place for our friends, who hadn't ridden in the desert before, to practice. Much of the road is hard, flat rock, but there are sections of deep sand and packed dirt that will be impassable after heavier rains. This is mainly a sightseeing tour and a cool way to see the park without having to pay an entrance fee. Simply follow Willow Springs Road (normally meant for high clearence vehicles) until it connects with the main road through Arches.

At the top of the largest hill is a big courtyard of large stones sitting above Willow Flats. Balanced Rock sits in the valley below near the large grouping of rocks on the far side of the open meadow. Near the beginning of the ride at the white Navajo sandstone section, keep an eye out for the interpretive sign that shows you where the dinosaur tracks are located. There is no set parking area, but you may just pull off onto the slickrock to the side of the road. For more experienced riders, find the green and blue trails just to the west of this launch, including The Edge, Reddhot, and Hotdog trails. This is a very exposed ride with no shade whatsoever, so bring lots of water and cover up. This is a perfect trail for "fat bikes" or any other wide frame and tire combo.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Spring

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Sections of nice slickrock. Dinosaur tracks. Amazing views. Free access to Arches.

Cons

Sections of deep sand. Dusty. Very exposed.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

4,542.00 ft (1,384.40 m)

Highest point

5,032.00 ft (1,533.75 m)

Net Elevation Gain

490.00 ft (149.35 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildflowers
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Motorized vehicles
Hiking

Route Characteristics

Trail

Location

Field Guide

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