Who could resist a jaunt to Corona Arch while the coronavirus pandemic is underway?
The arch, along with neighboring Bowtie Arch, is easily accessed from the Potash Road, and offers moderate though warm hikes this time of year. There is no water along the route, save for the Colorado River across the highway. The round trip is about three miles in length. The parking lot is ample and the Bureau of Land Management maintains outhouses there.
This is one of the best short hikes near town, and is ideal for people on a tight schedule and families with small children who can scramble across the slick rock. Hikers may gasp a little about hanging onto a cable handrail on a sidling section of trail, and climbing a short iron ladder that is bolted to a steep slickrock ridge.
If you’re hiking with a dog, the canine may or may not be able to negotiate the ladder or the slick rock on the side.
The trailhead is along the Potash Road, which follows the north side of the Colorado River west from Highway 191. The turnoff is about four miles north of town. The trailhead is signed and is about 10 miles down the Potash Road (Highway 279).
The entire trail is clearly marked. From the trailhead, you climb east and cross the railroad tracks, then continue along an old road that climbs to a gap putting you on top of a rock bench. From there you hike on slickrock, following cairns (small piles of rocks). There is even one place where hikers have built hundreds of small cairns just for fun, many of which get knocked down by passersby or land managers.
The technical part of the trail to the first arch, Bowtie, is called the Moki steps. The trail puts hikers on top of a large bench; hikers then skirt dropoffs and can go under Bowtie Arch. Bowtie is a pothole-type arch, perhaps more of a bridge because it was created by water, and is located high on the cliff above the trail.
“From Bowtie, the trail continues on to the base of Corona Arch, which resembles the famous Rainbow Bridge, with smooth lines curving down from a massive stone mountain. You can easily hike right under it. The feeling is incredible, as you tilt your head back and gaze up at a ribbon of rock towering above you, only clear blue sky in the background,” said an online account by alltrails.com. Hikers return the way they came up.
The definition of the word “corona” has two meanings: Anatomically, and in reference to the coronavirus germ, its shape is likened to a crown. That is likely how the arch got its name.
However, there is an astronomical term that is fun to consider amid this pandemic: In space terms, corona is “the rarefied gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars. The sun’s corona is normally visible only during a total solar eclipse, when it is seen as an irregularly shaped pearly glow surrounding the darkened disk of the moon,” according to the Oxford Language Dictionary.