The Insider’s Guide to Angel Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Located deep off the beaten track, Angel Arch is a phenomenal rock arch located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Sweeping sandstone canyons and a unique heart-shaped rock pinnacle make this intrepid trip a worthwhile objective. As one of the most difficult hikes in Canyonlands, you’ll want to be experienced with desert hiking.

Where is Angel Arch?

Angel Arch is located nearly 15 miles off of the main road of the Needles District. The trail starts at the Needles Campground (past the visitor’s center, then turn right on Elephant Hill Road) and wanders through several magnificent canyon systems before stopping at Angle Arch.

Although you can also access Angel Arch from the Cave Spring Trail, we recommend heading in through the Needles Campground since the route is more scenic this way. However, to access Angel Arch from Cave Spring, you’ll want to turn left from the main road through the Needles on Cave Spring Road. Park at the Cave Spring Trailhead, then backtrack a bit until you reach a cutoff on the left side of the road heading south. This used to be a 4x4 road but is now only accessible to hikers.

Notably, one of the toughest hikes in the Needles District, Angel Arch crosses through canyons, roams over slick rock, and requires the use of two ladders to complete. However, this unbelievable structure is a worthy objective and you’ll be rewarded with awesome views of the Needles as well as Angel Arch.

Practical Information for Angel Arch

There are two distinct ways to reach Angel Arch, so choose the route that makes the most sense to you. Both are about the same length, however, The Squaw Flats Route crosses multiple canyon systems and is more scenic.

Alternatively, the Cave Spring approach bypasses much of the strenuous elevation gain and loss, but it’s less scenic. Here’s a look at what you need to know about each route.

Angel Arch Via Cave Spring

  • Distance: 25.9 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,364 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Estimated time: 13 hours for hikers, less for runners. Overnight recommended
  • Water?: Seasonal. Check with the ranger station prior to heading out.
  • Permits Required?: No for a day hike, yes for overnight.

Angel Arch Via Squaw Flats

  • Distance: 26.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,312 feet
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Estimated time: 13 to 15 hours for hikers, less for runners. Overnight recommended
  • Water?: Seasonal. Check with the ranger station prior to heading out.
  • Permits Required?: No for a day hike, yes for overnight.

Pro Tip: Both routes join together at the Peekaboo Campground. This primitive campground features a seasonal spring and is an ideal place to drop your packs and spend the night. You can opt to set up camp then continue with a day back to Angel Arch, then back to the Peekaboo campground for a full day of hiking. Keep in mind, you’ll need advanced reservations for Peekaboo Campground. Expect to haul out all of your waste (including your bathroom waste) in designated bags.

Hiking to Angel Arch Via Cave Spring

For the Cave Spring approach, park the car at the Cave Spring Trailhead (a well-maintained dirt road). Hike back along the road until you reach a left-hand turn that heads south. This is Salt Creek Road. Once a 4x4 trail, today the road is only accessible to hikers and runners.

Take the road for 3.5 miles. Overall the terrain is sandy as it skirts the nearby canyon systems. At a junction, you’ll spot the famous Skull Arch veer right at the fork, following signs to Peekaboo Campground and heading southwest. Heading left will take you to Paul Bunyan’s Potty Arch (an interesting name for a rock feature).

You can opt to camp here or refill your water in the spring (seasonal). The trail tightens as the canyon walls begin to squeeze. Wind your way southwest up and over obstacles, across slick rock, and through sandy canyon bottoms. You’ll reach another junction. Head left, trending mostly south on Abbey’s Triple Arch Trail. The trail continues along scrambling terrain before terminating at a view of Angel Arch. To return, simply head back the way you came.

Hiking Angel Arch Via Squaw Flats

For the Squaw Flats approach, start your hike at the Needles District Campground. Make your way south along the Squaw Canyon Trail. Once you reach a junction with Lost Canyon, keep trending southeast. The trail changes names to the Peekaboo Trail.

The challenging, scrambly terrain, steep slopes, and cliff edges make this a real challenge for the seasoned desert hiker. You’ll drop into the canyon and reach Peekaboo Camp. Here you can find an awesome prehistoric rock art panel, a seasonal spring, and a few permit-required backcountry campsites.

Afterward, follow the same description from the Cave Spring approach to reach Angel Arch.

Pro Tip: Remember, water is scarce in the desert. Try this route in spring for the best time to have access to water. Call ahead of your hike to make sure that springs are flowing and you’re allowed to draw from them. You’ll need to bring a filtration device.

Hiking to Angel Arch is a challenging undertaking. Despite its difficulty, the rugged terrain, epic red-rock scenery, and rewarding views make Angel Arch one of the best hikes in Canyonlands National Park. So strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail this spring.