It’s believed that there are over 2,000 arches at Utah’s Arches National Park. Now obviously no one save for a couple of eccentric individuals would have the time to seek out all 2,000, not to mention, the majority of the arches you actually have to hike to (they’re not just an arm’s length from the paved road your car will be traveling on). With only a day at our disposal, it was hard having to pick and choose which arches (and areas) to visit since there are so many great sounding hikes. However, I thought I would provide brief summaries on the ones we did.
While there are arches bigger than Delicate Arch, it is still the most photographed, the most recognizable, and the most sought out arch in Arches National Park. It’s been featured on Utah license plates, special commemorative quarters (a type of US coin currency, .25), and the Olympic Torch even passed through it for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Needless to say this 65-foot free standing arch was one of the things I most wanted to see at Arches and it did not disappoint. It’s a three mile round-trip hike although there is an elevation gain of almost 500 feet and so if you’re not an active hiker or used to higher altitudes (Arches sits at roughly 5600 feet), you will definitely see and feel why it’s dubbed a strenuous hike. But the entire time you’re passing through spectacular scenery and so you will have lots of keep you busy from a visual standpoint. And nothing compares to the moment when you round the final cliff bend and see that arch in all its glory. Another plus for Arches is that the trail begins by taking you past Wolfe Ranch. A Civil War veteran from Ohio journeyed west in the late 19th century in order to seek out the restorative effects of warmer and drier climates. He lived in this harsh and barren land for well over a decade until he ultimately returned to Ohio in his old age. It was fascinating to see a bit of history in the midst of the desert.
Final thoughts-I would only take children who are physically up for doing the hike on their own (i.e. not in a stroller or being carried). Good footwear is a must.
The Windows & Turret Arch
We did the Windows and Turret Arch after Delicate and so, with these two being described as an easy hike, it was the perfect choice to do next for our physically weary bodies. Another nice thing about it was that unlike at Delicate, you could actually see the two arches that comprise Windows from the parking lot. Basically, a short and easy climb up a gentle loop trail leads to these three massive arches (North and South Windows and Turret Arch). Depending on time and energy, there is also an alternate return which is slightly longer via the primitive loop around the back of the two Windows. I found the North window to be more striking than the South, although when you’re back on the trail and heading away from them, it was magnificent to see the Windows “together.” I really enjoyed Turret Arch as it allowed me to do some climbing, since climbing from the Windows, you need to climb up and into it to see what’s on the other side. And compared to Delicate Arch, the area on the other side of Turret was quite deserted and very peaceful.
Final thoughts: The Loop trail is perfect for families with small children as it allows you to stay on the path and still see three arches. In terms of doing more climbing, I’d recommend leaving the strollers in the car and either wearing young children in baby carriers or making sure they’re physically adept enough to do some climbing.
The Landscape Arch is one of many that can be found in the area known as Devil’s Garden. The trailhead to the Landscape, the Navajo, and the Partition Arches is at the end of the main road in the park, meaning that that’s where you park regardless of which arches you’re going to. Landscape Arch is the longest one in the park measuring 306 feet from base to base. It unintentionally achieved some notoriety in 1991 when a massive slab of rock fell from its underside which resulted in an even thinner ribbon of rock. As a result of this, visitors can no longer hike under the arch. It’s slightly disappointing not to be able to do this since with many of the other arches you can literally journey right under them, but the hike itself from the Devil’s Garden parking lot area is quite pretty, especially passing by the plethora of rock fins that have broken out due to erosion and produced many spectacular views.
Final thoughts: We only had time to hike to Landscape (well, I was just about physically spent by this point too), but this overall area is great in the sense that you can technically hit multiple arches with one stop.
While not an arch, this is a spot I’d heartily recommend stopping at for at least picture taking, which is what we did; you can take the loop trail around the base of this striking rock formation as it’s a quick 20 minutes. I’ve always wanted to see the famous Golden Rock in Burma (a religious site of extreme significance) so in a sense I felt that the Balanced Rock in Arches gave me a great sneak peek.
Final thoughts: This is one not to miss.
Arches National Park was spectacular in every sense of the word. As I mentioned in my previous Do’s and Don’ts, plan your time wisely but otherwise just enjoy yourself. This was my first visit to a Western national park but needless to say I’m hooked.