“This challenging, out of the way trail sees far less traffic than the rest of Arches NP.”
— Megan W
River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
Deep sand and water crossings make this an adventurous and possibly frustrating run.
Running the Lower Courthouse Wash Trail is a remote wilderness excursion. The preferred mode of attack is to run north to south and arrange for someone to pick you up at the end of this trail; doing it as an out-and-back is for the masochistic. This braided, barely maintained trail travels though a wide canyon formed by a creek. Some users ignore the trail and wade through the water simply to stay cool and because in many places the creek bed is more firm than the sandy trail. Water shoes, sandals or old mesh sneakers make this option most pleasant.
The beginning of this trail starts on the east side of the main park road, just to the north of the Courthouse Wash Bridge (4.5 miles from the Park Entrance). There is a parking pullout on the west side of the road across from the trail. Many folks opt for a mellow 1/4 mile amble down into the wash to visit the first of many swimming holes, then turn around for a 1/2 mile total trip.
To explore more, keep descending and after a mile consider a visit the first of four eastern side canyons that drain the Petrified Dunes (the first sidecanyon is the shortest, the second sidecanyon is the longest). If you're pressed for time, it is OK to skip the sidecanyons, just getting to the end of the Upper Courthouse Wash trail is workout enough for most people. Keep going south down the wash and eventually reach the junction with Courthouse Wash Rock Art Trail
. This detour visits some impressive petroglyphs but adds another mile to your day. Immediately after this junction, you are returned to reality in the form of rushing traffic on Highway 191. The best parking for the southern end of this trail is the large lot just to the east of the trail's end off Highway 191.
Some words to the wise: take at least 2 quarts (2 liters) of water per person, wear a hat, use sunscreen, take breaks. This trail has deep sand, multiple creek crossings and no shortcuts. Be prepared for a strenuous, self-sufficient outing.