Summer Road Trip – Arches National Park
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The next stop on our Utah road trip was Arches National Park. After eating an excellent breakfast and filling our water bottles at our B&B (Cali Cochita Bed and and Breakfast), we headed out early in the morning to try and beat the heat and traffic. We had a full day of looking at awesome rocks ahead of us.
There is no accommodation and there are no restaurants in Arches National Park itself. Because of this, we’ve covered the logistics about where to stay and eat in nearby Moab in a previous post. This post will focus on what to do in a full day’s visit to the park. Like Zion, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks, we definitely could have spent longer here. However, as we were on a “sampler” tour of the Utah national parks, we had one full day to see what we could. This was enough to see a good selection of Arches highlights. We also managed to do a few very short hikes, although it was brutally hot, so we didn’t get too ambitious with these.
Here’s what we saw:
We first headed to The Windows area, starting with North and South Windows.
As you can see, we had a perfectly clear blue sky for our visit to Arches National Park. This was great for photography, this is scenery that doesn’t need any help from interesting clouds.
There is an easy one mile loop trail around North and South Windows that is great for even small kids. It gives you a feel for the landscape around all the spectacular rock formations. You can also check out the flora and fauna in the park. We were lucky enough to see a kangaroo rat (right after I told Lachlan not to get his hopes up because they are mostly nocturnal). We also got a very close up view of a desert cottontail rabbit. Lachlan pronounced this “very cute” (not sure if that’s an accurate zoological description).
The next formation we visited was probably the most impressive formation we visited all day – Double Arch. Check out the people in the picture below for scale.
You can climb up to stand underneath and between the two mighty arches. This allows the avid photographer to take artsy, semi-abstract photographs.
Sand Dune Arch
Next we headed north to check out a lesser-known but potentially interesting arch. On the way we stopped at the Salt Valley Overlook to check out a nice view and learn about how all these amazing formations came into being. Spoiler alert – you can check out this video if you want to find out about the park geology before you visit.
Getting to Sand Dune Arch involves a short (one third of a mile) but very cool hike from the parking area. It’s a fun walk, as you enter between a narrow passage two “fins” to get to the arch itself.
Although not the largest geological feature of Arches National Park, Sandstone Arch is unique because of where it has formed. It’s also interesting because you can see how the arch will eventually break down.
After Sand Dune Arch we were ready for lunch, and a break from the sun. We left the park and headed to The Atomic for some lunch and air conditioning. You can check out this post for our review.
Coming back into the park, our first stop was Park Avenue, an impressive structure that shows that Arches National Park is not just all about arches.
The La Sal Mountains Viewpoint is nearby, with sweeping views to the landscape surrounding the park.
The next stop was one of the most famous landmarks in the park, Balanced Rock.
The statistics on this hunk of rock are impressive – 128 feet (or 39 meters) tall and weighing 3,600 tons (more than 4 million kilograms). It also provides the opportunity for cheesy novelty photos.
Delicate Arch – The Icon of Arches National Park
Probably the most famous feature of Arches National Park (it’s on a lot of the tee shirts and stickers) is Delicate Arch. There’s a three mile hike to get close up to it, but it involves scrambling over open slickrock with no shade, so we weren’t up for it on this occasion. Next time, for sure.
Instead, we took the much shorter hike to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. This gave a good view of the arch and surrounding area, although in the late afternoon we were on the shady side of the arch. Early in the morning would provide better light for photos from this viewpoint.
Our last stop was to see the late afternoon sun lighting up the Fiery Furnace area.
This is a challenging area to hike, you can easily get lost in the maze of rocks. In fact, you are only allowed to enter the area with a permit (after watching an orientation video) or on a ranger-guided hike. We were content to check it out from the viewpoint above, and this was a memorable final stop in our one day self-guided tour of Arches National Park.
Summing Up Arches National Park
This is one of my favorite national parks. I had been here before several years earlier, and I enjoyed introducing Heide and Lachlan to such a special place. As you can see from this post it’s possible to see a lot in one day here. However, if you have more time, you can do some of the longer hikes to see some of the more remote features. This would also allow you to get away from the crowds – Arches is not a place of solitude in the summer vacation season.
Arches National Park – we will be back again some some day …