Arch Canyon Trail

Arch Canyon Trail Guide

Arch Canyon Trail is a mellow 1.2-mile out-and-back hike in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that features views of a large stone arch and brings you into a steep desert canyon. If you are feeling adventurous, you can follow the trail higher into the canyon walls.

Trail Details

Trail TypeOut-and-Back
Trail Length1.2 miles
Elevation gain/loss100 feet, -100 feet
Trailhead Coordinates32.038335, -112.716262
LocationOrgan Pipe Cactus National Monument
Ideal SeasonOctober – May

Getting to Arch Canyon Trail

Arch Canyon Trail is located on the Ajo Mountain Drive, a dirt and gravel loop in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The park encompasses a relatively pristine stretch of the Sonoran Desert along the US-Mexican border and is named for the Organ Pipe Cactus which grows in few places north of the border.

The one-way loop starts just across from North Ajo Sonoita Highway (HWY 85) from the parks Kris Eggle Visitors Center. Follow Ajo Mountain Drive for about 2 miles, then continue on the left fork.

Follow the road for around 7 miles and look for the trailhead parking lot on the left, which is marked by a kiosk. From the parking lot, you can see the mountaintop arch in the distance.

The Trail

Arch Canyon Trail is one of the more popular hikes in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It’s a mellow trail through a stunning patch of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.

Arch Canyon Trail topo map
Arch Canyon Trail topo map.

It’s also a trail that you can flex on a bit, as beyond the official turnaround spot at 1.2-miles, it’s possible to scramble up the canyon’s rocky wall and pick up a section of trail that brings you high into the mountains.

Picnic table and information kiosks at the Arch Canyon Trailhead.

The trail begins at a small gravel lot and heads east toward Arch Canyon, climbing slightly as it crosses a patch of desert covered by low shrubs and boulders.

Right off the bat, the large rock arch for which the trail is named is visible in the distance, perched on top of cliffs several hundred feet above the valley.

Arch Canyon Trail Cactus
Saguaro cactus along Arch Canyon Trail

With close inspection, you can see that the arch is actually a double arch, with a small arch resting on top of a larger arch. The arches, like the rest of the reddish-brown rock that forms the Ajo Range, are made of a volcanic rock called rhyolite.

Arch Canyon Arches
The arches for which Arch Canyon is named. Photo: National Park Service.

The best view of the arches is seen on the approach to the canyon. As the trail approaches the canyon, the path undulates along stone stairs cut into the path.

Stone stairs along the trail.

About a third of a mile from the trailhead, the trail begins to bend west around the base of the cliffs. The trail winds above a stream as it enters into a deep red-rock canyon and comes to a fork in another 600 feet or so.

Arch Canyon Trail
The trail bends west a bit as it enters the canyon.

At the fork is a sign warning that the area is known to be a smuggling route and urging caution. If you bear right at the fork and proceed another hundred feet or so, the trail ends at the bottom of a sloped rock wall.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can follow the path up the rock slope to climb the canyon walls. The trail winds up the mountain and will bring you high above the canyon floor in a quarter-mile of steep ascent.

It may be possible to reach the double arch by following the trail, but we were unsuccessful and no one else that we talked to was able to find them either.

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