Balanced Rock, Balanced Rock Trailhead, Arches National Park, Utah

Balanced Rock - .3 miles

Balanced Rock Trailhead

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

Round-Trip Length: .3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,029' - 5,072'
Elevation Change: +43' net elevation gain
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Balanced Rock - .3 Miles Round-Trip

Balanced Rock stands 128' tall and is comprised of two distinct rock types: a 55' tall cap rock of the hard Slick Rock Member and a 73' base of soft Dewey Bridge Member from the Carmel Formation. The soft Dewey Bridge erodes faster than the Slick Rock Entrada Member, resulting in the 'balancing rock' we see today. 

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The base will eventually give way and the entire structure will collapse. This happened to a nearby formation known as 'Chip Off The Old Block', which collapsed in the winter of 1975-76. 

The Balanced Rock Trailhead is located 8.8 miles from the Visitor Center. A short trail leads around the formation with terrific views across the Garden of Eden and La Sal Mountains.

Arches National Park lies atop an underground salt bed called the “Paradox Formation” which is responsible for the arches, spires, balanced rocks, fins and eroded monoliths common throughout the park. Thousands of feet thick in places, the Paradox Formation was deposited over 300 million years ago when seas flowed into the region and eventually evaporated.

Over millions of years, the salt bed was covered with the residue of floods and winds as the oceans returned and evaporated again and again. Much of this debris was cemented into rock. At one time this overlying layer of rock may have been more than a mile thick. 

Salt under pressure is unstable, and the salt bed below Arches began to flow under the weight of the overlying sandstones. This movement caused the surface rock to buckle and shift, thrusting some sections upward into domes, dropping others into surrounding cavities, and causing vertical cracks which would later contribute to the development of arches. 

As the subsurface movement of salt shaped the surface, erosion stripped away the younger rock layers. Water seeped into cracks and joints, washing away loose debris and eroding the "cement" that held the sandstone together, leaving a series of free-standing fins.

Ice formed during cold periods and its expansion placed pressure on the rock, breaking off bits and pieces, and sometimes creating openings. Many damaged fins collapsed. Others, with the right degree of hardness and balance, have survived as the arches we see today. 

Faults deep in the Earth also contributed to the instability on the surface. The result of one such 2,500' displacement is called the Moab Fault and is visible from the Arches Visitor Center.

Salt Valley was also formed by such a displacement. Except for isolated remnants, the major rock formations visible in the park today are the salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone, in which most of the arches form, and the tan-colored Navajo Sandstone.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N38 42.103 W109 33.958 — Balanced Rock Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Arches received 8-10" of rain per year.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $25 entrance fee for vehicles to Arches National Park.

Directions to Trailhead

The Balanced Rock Trailhead is located 8.8 miles from the Visitor Center along the main park road.

Contact Information

Arches National Park
PO Box 907
Moab, Utah 84532-0907
Headquarters Phone: 435-719-2100
Fax: 435.719.2305
Phone: 435.719.2299 (recorded information)
Camping Reservation Line: 877.444.6777

Trip Reports

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