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Eye of the Whale Arch – Arches National Park Utah
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Overview
Location

Arches National Park, Utah

Sights

Eye of the Whale Arch

Distance

The off-road trail is about 2.7 miles one way.
The hiking trail is about 1,000 feet to the arch.

Parking Lot Elevation

5037 ft at the Balanced Rock turnoff

Summit Elevation

4950 ft at the arch

Elevation Gain/Loss

Varies

Time Required

2 hours

Pets

Allowed in vehicles only

Fees

There are entrance fees for Arches National Park

Water Info

Bring your own water.

Best Season

Spring, Summer, Fall

Hours

The park is open year round

Sun Exposure

Very little shade on this Trek

Trail Condition

Off-road trail. You will need a high clearance vehicle. 4X4 recommended.

Restrooms

Yes. Right when you make the turn from Balanced Rock

Visitor Center

Yes. At the entrance to the park.

Camping

Only in designated spots only and with proper permits

Food

Bring snacks if needed

Equipment

Bring a spare tire, jack, enough fuel to get there and back. Bring food and water.

Family Friendly?

Yes

GPS Coordinates:

Off-road Portion Begins: 38.70172, -109.56687
Picnic area and outhouse: 38.7026, -109.56898
High Clearance Vehicle Portion needed: 38.70147, -109.58026
Eye of the Whale Arch Trailhead: 38.71527, -109.60171
Eye of the Whale Arch: 38.71303, -109.6038

Trail Map


Driving Directions

The driving directions get you to the picnic area. Then use the Trek guide below for the details on how to get out to Eye of the Whale Arch.

The Trail:

This Trek is separated into two sections: The off-road portion and the hiking portion.

Off-Road Portion

Since ATVs are not allowed in Arches National Park you will need a high clearance vehicle to successfully make the trip out to the arch.  Or if you wanted, you could simply just park your vehicle and hike the rest of the way.

The off-road portion was pretty easy.  If you just go slow over all the small and medium sized rocks you will be fine.  But since this is mostly a sand road, I would highly recommend you use a vehicle with 4×4 capability.  If this road gets wet, it will be harder of course to traverse.

Also, make sure you have enough fuel and supplies before you head out.  This includes a jack, spare tire and food and enough water.

Picnic area

“secret” outhouse

The off-road part begins right at the turn off near Balanced Rock.  Just make the turn on the dirt road and you will quickly come to the “secret” pit-style outhouse and also a picnic area.  Keep travelling down the dirt road called Willow Springs Road, and you will pass a maintenance area for the park, the 4×4 boundary fence, and then you will come to a signpost.

Once you see the signpost (below) make a right to continue to the arch.  The road you are on now is called the Salt Valley Road.  You will travel a few more miles until you come to Eye of the Whale Arch trailhead.

It is here that you will need a vehicle with high clearance.  If not, you will high center many times and get stuck.  There aren’t any tricky 4×4 spots that require lots of off-roading skill but I can imagine it would be exciting if this road is wet or snowy.  Overall, it was a piece of cake to traverse and I quite enjoyed being the only person out on this trail!

You have arrived at the Eye of the Whale trailhead when you see the parking area with a sign.  Park here and begin your 1,000 ft hike to the arch.

Hiking Portion

The hiking portion is also pretty easy.  You can see the backside of the arch from where you park.  The trail is also dirt and sand and doesn’t gain much in elevation.

Backside of the arch

The trail leads right up into the arch.  Once on the other side you can see why it’s called Eye of the Whale.  It literally looks like a giant eyelid.  It is really cool to see!

The area right in front of the arch

Looking back towards my Jeep

If you take a look to the east you will see Balanced Rock, Elephant Butte and even the La Sal Mountains.  This really is a beautiful area!

The Return:

You can continue down the dirt road to Tower Arch or you can turn back and find another adventure.

Personal Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this short drive and hike to Eye of the Whale Arch.  When I come to Arches National Park I usually just hike Devils Garden and Delicate Arch but I would like to start adding these off-road adventures to my list as well.

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Difficulty
3.0
Technicality
3.0
Enjoyment
5.5
The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek. If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

5.0
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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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