Today lets talk about Arches National Park, in Utah, on the Colorado Plateau and relatively close to the Colorado state border.
Arches National Park is beautiful in a stark and formidable sort of way. It is a land filled with sweeping vistas built of solid red rock. It seems you can look in any direction and find stunning natural stone formations in the shapes of arches, pinnacles, standing columns, precariously balanced boulders and more.
The park is best known for Delicate Arch, a 65 foot tall naturally formed sandstone arch. But there is plenty more to see and explore in Arches National Park.
The park road entrance is just outside of Moab, the tiny outdoorsy little town I talked about last week. Just past the entrance the road climbs steeply with a number of sharp switchbacks marking the rapid rise in elevation. Though the park is filled with hiking trails and perfect spots for rock climbing of all sorts, if you only have a couple hours to spend then just taking a long and winding drive through the park. The views available along the main road are sure to satisfy.
The first sights on your way in are a group of incredibly tall, long narrow columns called the Courthouse Towers. Just past these monoliths find the Petrified Dunes. These dunes formed 200 million years ago. Back then they were part of a massive sandy desert area. Over time other stones and sand settled on top of the dunes, compressing and hardening them. Only after the other stones were again carried away by erosion were the original sand dunes, now petrified, revealed once again. With stones and stone formations I think we often have this sense of timeless beauty, but even stones are constantly changing with the passage of time.
Past the Petrified Dunes are many stunning formations including a grouping of rock pinnacles, and a collection of smaller stone arches in The Window Section of the park. These arches include Pothole Arch, Double Arch, North Window and South Window. Don’t overlook the balanced rock, a massive boulder perched on top the point of an unbelievably narrow pinnacle.
Continue on and take in the sweeping panoramas and stunning sandstone cliffs that make up the bulk of the park. If you only have time for one hike, I recommend taking one of the three trails to check out Delicate Arch. The first trail is a short ten-minute hike up to the Lower Delicate Arch View Point. This hike is good for all athletic abilities and is wheelchair accessible. The second option is a hike to the Upper Delicate Arch View Point. This is an easy to moderate hike of about 30-minutes (.5 miles). From the this view point the arch is plainly visible across a canyon. The third option is to hike directly out to Delicate Arch. This is a difficult three-hour (3 mile) hike over open slick rock in full sun. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for a narrow rock ledge crossing before reaching Delicate Arch.
I opted for hike number two, out of respect for my short time frame and hopes to be back on the highway before too late in the day. You can see from my picture of Delicate Arch what kind of view you can expect from the Upper Delicate Arch View Point. It is a nice view, but if I’m ever near Arches National Park again I definitely want to do the more difficult Delicate Arch hike. I also hope to spend more time exploring the Devil’s Garden. This area of the park is at the most northern tip of the park and includes a campground and an extensive collection of trails and dozens of arches.
But unfortunately the sun was working its way lower in the sky and I knew it was time to hit the road again. So with a last appreciative sigh at the beautiful vistas before me, I climbed back into my Jeep and made the slow trek back out of Arches National Park.
Next up on my journey? A few days and nights visiting friends along the way towards my final destination, the fine state of Virginia and the beautiful Lake Anna. Check in next week for some exciting East-Coast adventures!
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Have you ever had the urge to just drop what you were doing, pack a bag, and set out on an adventure? Seven years and over two dozen countries later, Aeri Rose is proof that excitement, independence, and discovery await those who are bold enough to say “yes” to life’s craziest choices. When not exploring the world with her little grey backpack, Aeri Rose an be found living a nomadic lifestyle traveling the United States as a writer and entrepreneur. To follow Aeri on all her adventures, check her out online at travelingwithaeri.com; or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aerirose.