Hiking Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers

Hiking Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers is one of Moab’s best hikes, you’ll be amazed at the natural beauty you'll find here. This iconic, 1.8-mile out-and-back trail lets you get up close and personal with some of the most amazing sandstone features in Arches National Park.

With just a small amount of elevation gain and plenty of paved walking paths, this is one of the easiest, most accessible hikes in the Moab area.

How to Get to the Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue

Take the main road into Arches National Park. You’ll see a sign for the Park Avenue Overlook as one of the first pullouts in the park. Simply hike from Park Avenue to the Courthouse Towers Lookout then back again.

Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue Trail Facts

Distance: 1.8 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain: 286 feet. There are about 60 steps to navigate to get to the bottom
Accessibility: Both ends of the trail have paved sections to both the Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue Viewpoints. The trail between the two overlooks is well maintained over slick rock.
Dog friendly?: No

How Were These Rock Formations Made?

Did you know that Arches National Park used to be an underwater landscape? Once the seas moved on, the area was left with stunning sandstone cliffs. Wind, rain, and snow gradually wore away at the sandstone, creating fantastic rock features that seem to defy physics.

Arches are carved from small pebbles and wind, while the towering rock formations along Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers were formed from water eroding the fragile sandstone. The result is stunning rock formations that tower over the valley below.

This area gets its namesake from the famous Park Avenue in New York City. Except substitute man-made skyscrapers with towering desert cliffs - a true city of rocks.

Hiking the Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue

The hike through Park Avenue to the Courthouse Towers offers a mellow jaunt through this jaw-dropping landscape. Along the way, you’ll spot several world-famous rock formations.

Courthouse Towers is actually the name given to several different formations of rock found throughout the hike.

Make your way down to the bottom to fully grasp the scale of these monoliths. One of the most exciting parts about this landscape is feeling so small against giant slabs of rock. See if you can spot these named formations:

  • Three Gossips: A set of hoodoos or pinnacle-like rock formations standing tall against the bright blue desert sky.
  • Sheep Rock: Can you spot the standing sheep? It’s head juts out against its square-like body.
  • The Tower of Babel: This immense expanse of Wingate sandstone juts out dramatically into the desert landscape with a towering prow and a couple of tiny hoodoos dotting the razor edge.
  • The Organ: Living up to its namesake this formation has a fat base with closely clustered spires that resemble organ pipes.

The Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers hike is a must-do on any Moab itinerary. The hike makes for a perfect early-morning warm-up or a great way to close out a day in Arches National Park.

What to Bring on A Desert Hike

Don’t expect much shade along the Courthouse Towers Trail. Hiking in the desert requires a few key pieces of gear. Remember: stay on the trail, don’t bust the cryptobiotic crust (black, soil that juts above the ground), and pack these essentials:

  • Plenty of water. Consider taking a refill bottle in your vehicle for post-hike hydration.
  • Sunscreen, sunhat, and sunglasses. A Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF) shirt is an excellent idea too.
  • A first aid kit with tweezers. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to remove cactus spines with your fingers!
  • Salty snacks to replenish your salt levels as you hike.
  • A GPS. Sometimes trails disappear over rocky terrain. Know where you’re going and how to get there.
  • WAG Bags. It’s never okay to go number 2 in the desert. Use a special bag for your business and pack it out.
  • A small bag for trash. This includes fruit peels, food waste, and toilet paper.
  • Sturdy hiking shoes that breathe.
  • Non-cotton socks to avoid blisters.
  • An extra layer and headlamp in case you’re caught out at night. The desert gets just as cold as it does hot.