Our Return To Arches National Park
It’s hard to find a desert more beautiful and majestic, than Arches National Park located on the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah’s Moab. The park’s 76,679 acres has wide expanses of open red desert dotted with scrub brush and cacti which are occasionally interrupted with spectacular sandstone arches formed by millions of years of erosion. Hiking trails marked with cairns take visitors off the road to explore some of Arches most prized features in the high desert.
It had been almost 37 years since Bill and I had hiked in Arches National Park and we were very happy to finally return. We had a general vacation itinerary, but had not planned out the specifics of when we would hit each of the parks or how long we’d stay. We had definite sights we wanted to take in, but neither of us likes having a packed schedule while on vacation so we’d opted to pick and choose our way through the parks.
Pulling into the entrance at Arches National Park we watched as cars and RV’s snaked their way up the steep switchbacks; all the while trying to remember the scene from many years ago. A very nice park ranger suggested he give us a refund for our Grand Teton National Park fee, explaining that it would be much more economical for us to buy a one-year National Park pass.
Stopping To See Sheep Rock And Balanced Rock
Once in the park, we eagerly watched for our first familiar sighting, Sheep Rock. We remembered it well from our 1981 visit, probably because it’s one of the pictures in our honeymoon photo album. Sheep Rock has withstood the weather and has aged better than I have! 😉
Next up was Balanced Rock, another formation aptly named. Both Sheep Rock and Balanced Rock can easily be seen from the comfort of an automobile so they’re accessible to everyone.
Hiking To Delicate Arch On Devil’s Garden Trail
Top on our list was hiking to Delicate Arch, considered difficult by the trail guide due to it’s lack of shade and exposure to frighteningly steep drop-offs. The roundtrip hike was three miles along very scenic steep flat rock slopes, dirt trails, and patches of sand. After traversing a scary winding rock ledge, we were rewarded with a magnificent view of Delicate Arch with both buttes and snow capped mountains in the distance.
It was a perfect summer day with low humidity and temps in the upper 70’s; however, once we reached the highpoint the wind kicked into high gear and we were a little chilled.
What goes up, must come down; and so on our return we had to once again walk past the steep drop-offs which had no protective rock walls or guardrails to keep us from careening down into the valley below if we misstepped.
It was difficult to capture a picture showing just how steep the drop-off is, but as Bill said, “We left skin on the wall,” as we stuck to it, staying as far away from the cliff edge as possible.
Once past the dangerous ledge, the hike was quite easy as we made our way back down the dirt paths and slickrock slope to our car and our next adventure.
The Windows Section: Turret Arch, North Window, and South Window
Next on our agenda was a very short hike to Turret Arch, North Window, and South Window. The relatively flat gravel and dirt trail made the hike quite easy. Despite there being about twenty ten to eleven year old boys roaming around, we managed to capture a few pictures without them being the background – not an easy feat.
Sunset At Arches
Even though we were both getting extremely hungry, we decided to stay in the park until dark so we could catch some sunset pictures. We drove back toward the entrance, stopping at Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. Bill set up his tripod and got ready for the show. He hasn’t processed his pictures, so everything in this post is either from my iPhone or my GoPro (affiliate link).
La Sal Mountains…
Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, and Tower of Babel…
Closer view of Sheep Rock…
After a long day, we left the park just after sunset and as we drove into Moab, we marveled at how much it has changed since our visit 37 years earlier. It has changed from a simple little stop in the middle of the desert, to a bustling tourist town and hot spot for mountain bikers. We stopped for dinner before finally checking into our hotel after what had been a busy, scenic, and incredibly enjoyable day.
Throwing In Some Running At Landscape Arch
We made our way back to Arches two days later for a hike to Landscape Arch, stopping at several overlooks along the way. The 1.6-mile roundtrip hike was relatively easy until we got to deep sand near the arch. Not wanting to get sand in my shoes, I changed my gait to that of an awkward flat-footer, slowing my pace substantially while looking totally ridiculous.
Once back on dirt and gravel, I threw in a little running as we made our way back toward the car!
As we approached the trailhead near the parking lot I stopped long enough to snap a picture of these massive rocks with deep sand between them. One of the beauties of Arches National Park is the wide variety of geological features.
A Final Stop At Skyline Arch
On our way out of the park, we decided to stop for one last quick hike to Skyline Arch which was an easy half-mile roundtrip.
Final Thoughts On Arches National Park
Since my first visit to Arches while on our honeymoon, it has stood out as one of my favorite national parks. The red dust, scrubby desert brush, and wide open views add to the delight of seeing interestingly formed rock structures that have randomly withstood the power of erosion.
We’re already dreaming of another trip to Southern Utah. The big question is which of the Mighty Five National Parks will we visit next time – Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Capitol Reef, or Bryce Canyon? We could visit all five, or like with this trip, pick two or three parks and spend more time in them. Whatever we decide, it will be fun planning our next adventure!
- Have you visited Arches National Park?
- Would you rather do an active vacation or a spa-type vacation?
- Which is your favorite National Park?
- Do you have a National Park pass?
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