I can imagine an arch being a tough structure to construct for humans even with all the tools and technology at disposal, but imagine nature sculpting and constructing few of the most magnificent arches ever! Let me take you to Arches National Park in southeast Utah, the park that is home to over 1000 natural sandstone arches formed due to erosion and other natural forces in action over some hundreds/thousands and millions of years. Although it has been a couple of years since I visited the park, Arches currently ranks as the 2nd best national park that I have visited so far!
We flew from San Francisco to Salt Lake City and drove to Moab from there. The town of Moab is about 5 miles from the entrance of the Arches and would be your best option of finding lodging if you are visiting Arches. The plan was to visit Canyonlands National Park one day and Arches National park on the other. However; since Arches is more close to my heart, this blog entry is completely dedicated to Arches. A blog post on Canyonlands NP will follow later and hopefully soon!
Since there is a lot of geological history behind Arches, we purchased a self-guided tour CD from the visitor center and had decided to follow it along as we drove through the 18 mile scenic route. We listened to the CD while driving and paused it when we stopped at any overlooks or trail heads. It turned out to be a pretty good idea. Arches rests on a huge salt bed that is responsible for the formation found in Arches NP. Our first stop was at the Moab fault line vista, which runs parallel to highway 191.
Our second stop was at Park Avenue. The Park Avenue trail is an easy trail offering spectacular views of “Three gossips”, “Sheep Rock” and the “Tower of Babel”. Since this was a pretty much flat canyon land, we could get glimpses of the “Balanced Rock” and the Colarado river canyons from this stop. Our next stop was to view the petrified sand dunes or the “Ancient sand dunes”. The journey to the first 3 vistas was good, but not exceptional. The landscape seemed similar to that of Grand Canyon’s, so I had not seen anything which I had not previously seen.
Stop number 4 was at the “Balanced Rock” and from there on, everything started to fall in my category of Exceptional! It feels as if the rock truly defies gravity from one angle, but you move to the other side, and it appears to be of a different size and looks much more BALANCED. Take a walk close to the rock to get an idea of its true size. Moving on, we headed to the “Double Arch” Trail. Our first mini hike was to the top of the double arches. I think it is sort of impossible to photograph both the arches if you go too close. The grandeur of these sandstone formations definitely leaves the viewer in awe. After getting down from the top of double arches, we proceeded to the North and South Windows. Hikes to the North and South windows are easy to do and can be covered in an hour’s time.
Our next stop was at the Sand Dune Arch trail head. Arches is a desert region and afternoons can get extremely hot. The Sand Dune arch area is a good picnic/rest stop. After some cooling off and lazing around in the sand, we headed to view the Skyline Arch. This arch is visible from a lot of areas in the park. If you want to stay inside the park, the Devil’s Garden Campground would be a great option.
After a brief stop at the Skyline arch, we were off to the Devil’s Garden Trail. This trail is the longest maintained trail in the park. It takes you near the Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch with an option to return to the parking lot from there. We continued on to view the Landscape Arch, which is the longest arch in the park. A thin slab cracked from this arch in 1990’s and going under the arch is no longer allowed. Since it takes more time to cover the Devil’s Garden primitive loop, we decided to return from the Landscape Arch.
If you have more time in the park, definitely continue on to view the “Double-O-Arch” that is just a mile further from Landscape Arch. The primitive loop at Arches is home to few of the most magnificent natural sandstone arches in this park and should definitely be done if you have time. Also, my blog entry would be incomplete without the mention of the Fiery Furnace trail. It’s a labyrinth of sandstone canyons and fins. Only guided trips are offered and unfortunately, we could not get reservations for the tour since we had not made them in advance. I believe these days reservations can be done up to 7 days in advance. It is a 2-3 hour tour and the mazes within are so confusing that you have to be accompanied by a park ranger so that you don’t get lost. No tour for us, but we obviously stopped at the Fiery Furnace vista to get a quick glance.
It was almost time for sunset and so we headed to THE DELICATE ARCH to view sunset!!! Back in those days, a 3 mile round trip hike was a big deal for me :)! The hike is on an incline terrain and steep rocks and there is absolutely no shade along the trail, so it can drain you out on a hot summer day. I don’t remember how much time we took to reach the top, but it seemed never-ending. Though, once we were there, it was surreal. Absolutely divine! Delicate Arch is an absolute treat for your eyes and well worth the hike. If you can only do one hike when you are at Arches, I suggest you do this one! It will not disappoint you! The extra ordinary formations at Arches truly exemplify geological history. Natural forces at their very best!!! We enjoyed sunset at Delicate Arch and headed back with happy memories 🙂 🙂 🙂