Miracles of Nature: Arches National Park, UT

Located on U.S. 191, 20 miles south of I-70 and five miles north of Moab, Arches National Park is a geological wonderland and one of Utah’s most accessible parks. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures that is unlike any other in the world. An awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations dot its landscape.

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally a centre for the uranium-mining industry, Moab is also close to Canyonlands National Parks and a starting point for many boat trips down the Colorado River.

The greatest density of natural arches in the world occurs in Arches which preserves more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous and much-photographed Delicate Arch. Towering spires, fins, petrified dunes, massive sandstone buttes and walls, and balanced rocks complement the arches, creating a remarkable assortment of landforms in a relatively small area.

In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history.

Arches are formed as a result of the dissolving action of water on rock—freezing and thawing—and gravity.

The park is located in a high desert, with elevations ranging from 4,085 to 5,653 feet above sea level. The climate is one of very hot summers, cold winters, and very little precipitation.

Although you can see much of Arches by vehicle, hiking is the best way to fully appreciate the park. There are short, easy trails leading to many of the arches and to Balanced Rock. The longest trail in the park leads 4.2 miles round-trip to Double O Arch.

One of 2,000 natural sandstone arches preserved in Arches National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the visitor center, the park’s paved scenic drive climbs several switchbacks while presenting views of Moab Canyon and adjacent cliffs. Major points of interest along the first half of the road include Park Avenue and Balanced Rock.

From Balanced Rock, a paved road leads to the Windows Section of the Park. This area features the Cove of Caves, Parade of Elephants, Turret Arch, the North and South Window Arches, and the fabulous Double Arch. While the arches are visible from the road, they are best viewed from the short walking trails leading from the parking areas.

Beyond Balanced Rock, the main park road continues to the road leading to the Delicate Arch trailhead and historic Wolfe Ranch. From the Delicate Arch turnoff, the Park road travels past Fiery Furnace and Skyline Arch to end at the Devils Garden trailhead. Landscape Arch, an incredibly long and slender span, is an easy 1 mile stroll from the trailhead.

Camping is available at Devils Garden Campground located 18 miles from the park entrance. Campsites are set amidst boulders and rocks.  Open year-round, there are 52 sites, flush toilets, and water. Evening campfire programs are presented at the campground several times per week in season. Camping fees are charged. Please note that this campground is not suitable for large RVs.

 

Early morning and late afternoon light at Arches is beyond amazing! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Photography tip:The parks’ Visitor Guide includes a list of arches with tips on when they are best photographed—in early morning or late afternoon.

Arches National Park

Details

Location: 5 miles north of Moab along Highway 191

Operating Hours: Open year-round, 24 hours a day

Admission: $10/vehicle (good for 7 days), all federal lands passes accepted

Pets: Not allowed on any hiking trails

Camping: $20/night; reservations available March-October through recreation.gov ($9 booking fee)

Contact: (435) 719-2299

Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it’s still current before making your travel plans.

Worth Pondering…
There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe.

It has symmetry, elegance, and graced—

those qualities you find always in that which the true artist captures.

You can find it the turning of the seasons,

in the way sand trails along a ridge…

—Frank Herbert, Dune

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