Press "Enter" to skip to content

Lower Courthouse Wash Loop

Arches National Park | Friday & Saturday, February 19-20, 2021

This weekend I wanted to take it a little easier and to be home on Sunday since I’ve been out in the backcountry every weekend this year, and there were a few things I needed to get done around the house. Since I needed to stay closer to home I thought that this would be a good opportunity to finally hike through Lower Courthouse Wash in Arches National Park before the park really starts to get busy in a couple of weeks. Although I’ve hiked into Upper Courthouse Wash a couple of times before, the lower stretch of the canyon had eluded me on two occasions I tried to hike it in the past, which were both about ten years ago now! Both of those times I was turned back by deep water crossings when I was not prepared to get my feet wet, so this time I made sure I came prepared to get wet if I needed to. Instead of hiking up and down the canyon in both directions, I decided to start at the bottom near Moab and make a loop by riding my bike back on the road through the park and then on the Moab Canyon Bike Trail. I left from work on Friday evening so I could camp outside the park and get an early start on Saturday morning.

There were some nice clouds in the sky as I drove through Salt Valley on Friday evening.

Friday Evening Clouds

I watched an amazing sunset from just outside the boundary of Arches National Park with the La Sal Mountains in the distance.

Salt Valley Sunset

I woke up early on Saturday and finished the drive through Salt Valley in the dark. When I reached the main road in Arches, I followed it to the Courthouse Wash Trailhead and locked my bike up to the bridge over the wash. Then I left the park and headed over to the parking area near the mouth of Courthouse Wash.

Before I started hiking up the canyon I stopped to visit the pictographs at the mouth of Courthouse Wash since they were nearby and I hadn’t stopped to see them in quite some time.

Courthouse Wash Panel

A closer look at part of the Courthouse Wash Panel.

Courthouse Wash Panel Detail

As I started hiking up the canyon I passed this shallow doorway that was blasted out of the canyon wall.

Doorway To Nowhere

After following a well-worn hiking trail along the wash for a ways, I passed a small pool and waterfall and then was stopped by a couple of deeper water crossings. This time I was able to backtrack a bit to find ways around them without having to get wet. Although I was prepared to get wet, it was still early and cold enough out that I really didn’t want to.

Looking down on a couple of larger beaver dams as I bypassed this section on a bench above. These dams are the reason for the deeper water crossings in the canyon.

Beaver Dams

As you can see, the beavers have been hard at work in this canyon…

Cut Down

A nice morning in Courthouse Wash.

Courthouse Wash Morning

Soon the canyon dried up and the hiking was much easier in the sandy wash.

Pictograph Alcove

I spotted this large shield pictograph painted high up on the wall of an alcove.

Big Round Pictograph
* I digitally repaired a few bullet holes found on this pictograph.

I hiked up a few side canyons along the way and found some great alcoves to explore.

Canyon Exploring

I even came across a few small pictograph panels.

White Pictograph Panel

White Pictograph

Small White Pictographs

Alcove of Stripes

Alcove of Stripes

A small panel of red pictographs near the back of a large alcove.

Red Lines & Dots

Big Cave

I really liked this long dark stripe down the lighter-colored wall.

Dark Stripe

More side-canyon exploring…

Side Canyon

Canyon Wall

Desert Palette

Desert Palette

I spotted this nice small panel of petroglyphs.

Petroglyph Panel

The Cutouts Panel

The Cutouts Panel

As I neared the end of the hike water started to appear in the canyon again.

Striped Wall

Courthouse Wash

There were more beaver dams and pools in this part of the canyon, but I was able to find a way around all of them without having to get wet, so I guess I brought along my sandals and neoprene socks for nothing!

Beaver Pond Reflection

Beaver Pond

I arrived back to the road and sat down for a short rest and then got my bike ready for the ride back.

Ready To Ride

Stopped below The Organ during my ride out of the park.

The Organ

The first two miles or so were a little slow for me as the road climbed a couple hundred feet, but once I passed the upper Park Avenue Trailhead it was pretty much all downhill back to my Jeep and went pretty fast. I was back at my Jeep in about an hour and home by lunchtime. It was a nice way to spend Saturday morning while still having time to get things done at home!

>> Lower Courthouse Wash Photo Gallery

3 Comments

  1. Dianne
    Dianne March 1, 2021

    Beautiful place. Good for solitude!

  2. Dave Lambert
    Dave Lambert March 1, 2021

    Nice pics! How do you get your pictures to have such great colors, detail and contrast? What camera do you use? What software do you use?

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat March 1, 2021

      Thanks Dave! The photos in this Trip Report were all taken with my Canon G7X mkII point & shoot camera since I didn’t want to carry a larger camera on the bike ride back. I shoot all my photos in RAW and process them in Adobe CameraRAW/Photoshop.

Leave a Reply to Randy Langstraat Cancel reply