Fortress Arch

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Canyonlands National Park Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails
pages 187-188

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Fortress Arch, Canyonlands National Park     Fortress Arch is about as different from the nearby Castle Arch (page 185) as two arches can be. There is nothing graceful about this span. It is big and bulky, the way you would expect a fortress to be, with at least 150 feet of stone suspended above the opening. In comparing the two you can see that Fortress Arch is young and brawny, while Castle Arch is very old and fragile. Fortress Arch will continue to stand tall on the top of its ridge for many thousands of years after its neighbor has collapsed into a heap of rubble.

    The trail begins by heading west out of Horse Canyon up the bottom of a minor side canyon. After five minutes the canyon forks and the Fortress Arch trail turns left to follow the southern branch. You canít to see it yet, but Fortress Arch is situated at the top of the ridge that separates these two short canyons. The trail continues to climb up into the short, rocky canyon for another 15 minutes before arriving at a good viewpoint south of the arch. Be patient-the arch is hidden for most of the distance; it only comes into view near the end of the trail.
    Actually the trail doesnít really end at the viewpoint. You can follow a route marked by cairns beyond the apparent end of the trail for another 15 minutes, but the crude trail eventually ends at the base of a cliff below the arch. An experienced rock climber could probably scale this 15-foot obstacle without too much difficulty and then scramble up the last 100 yards into the Fortress arch's opening, but there is considerable exposure below the pitch. It isnít something most hikers would want to attempt.

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