Skip to content

Sunrise at Mesa Arch

Sunrise at Mesa Arch

While looking for things to do around Moab I heard about how special the sunrise at Mesa Arch was at Canyonlands. I didn’t really know why but I like the sunrise so I figured I would give it a shot and it turned out to be pretty magical.

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch is an arch at Canyonlands National Park. It is about 6 miles from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center and it is a short and pretty easy hike. I think it might have been a half mile round trip. The first thing that shocked when I pulled up around six in the morning is that I got the last spot in the parking lot.

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who heard this was a magical experience. When I walked up I noticed the mass of people huddled inside the arch waiting for the sun to peak out from behind the La Sal Mountains.

The large group of photographers waiting for the Sunrise at Mesa Arch.  They are huddled together next to each other by the arch.

I decided to keep my distance a bit and thought I had an even better angle from the other side of the Arch. I was surprised to see such an expansive canyon laid out in front of me. This was my first time to Canyonlands and while I expected canyons, I did not expect anything this large.

As the sun started to peak up I thought I had a shot that would make all of those surrounding the arch jealous.

While waiting for sunrise at Mesa Arch the sun is still below the mountains but a series of rays are visible as streaks coming off a cloud that sits just above the mountains.

The Glow

As I sat in my spot all cocky that I was in the best spot I looked over at the arch and saw something I had never seen before. The sun’s morning light had actually started to make the inside of Mesa Arch glow orange. I finally understood why everyone else was standing in that spot.

During Sunrise at Mesa Arch the sun hits the arch in such a way that the entire inside glows a pumpkin orange color.

Well I couldn’t immediately get through the scrum to get to the perfect spot but what I was seeing from the side was pretty special as well.

While watching sunrise at Mesa Arch the view from the side of the arch shows the large bulb of the sun just over the mountains illuminating the pillars and spires in the lower canyon below.

The Shot

Finally as the sun continued to rise, I found a clearing and was able to see the views that had drawn all of us predawn creatures to this arch. I do have to say I was wrong in my original assesment and all these fools standing in the same spot were absolutely right. This was a special moment.

The Sunrise at Mesa Arch from inside the arch. The sun has cleared the mountains silhouetted in the distance but under the top of the arch.  The arch still glows orange.

The way that the sun rises over the mountains but under the arch is mesmerizing. Even in a sea of people it was like the sun was only rising for one. Mesa Arch perfectly frames the sunrise. I sat here for about an hour, from before it rose till it cleared the narrow passage between the rocks.

All The Feels

The Sunrise at Mesa reminded me a bit of the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Both had the slow reveal of the canyon below as the morning rays reached across the great mass of rock. Mesa only had about 40 or 50 people there. While jammed into a smaller space it was quieter and simpler than the Grand Canyon. It was like an exclusive club of people. The sun seemed to rise and bless us all individual with its warm glow. Almost like a single ray reached through the arch to each person and send us on with our day. The darkness gone and now full of light.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: