ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
I’ve blogged about the stunning vistas that Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks have to offer. But, when it comes to the dramatic –Arches has the magical touch. At first, I considered writing about both Arches and Capitol Reef in today’s blog. But, there’s so much to say about Arches that I feel it needs its own platform to shine.
Arches is one of those places where even if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve certainly seen images of the place. Think of its iconic marker – Delicate Arch, a world-renowned structure that pretty much put Utah’s parks on the map.
But, despite the appeal of this and the many other arches in this desert landscape, there’s so much more to see.
There are pinnacles, great walls and even a few natural bridges of its own here - and plenty of spots to explore both by car and by foot.
A scenic drive goes about 18 miles one way and hits almost all of the park’s highlights, while additional side trips take visitors to some idyllic spots like the Windows and Delicate Arch.
Easy enough to see from viewpoints scattered across the park, visitors can choose a more intimate look at the landscape by taking a variety of hikes that are offered.
One of the first and easiest of such treks was to Balanced Rock.
It looks just as it sounds – a 3,600-ton boulder sitting precariously on a pedestal of eroding stone. The view from the road doesn’t do it justice, but, a short, simple hike to its base certainly does. In less than five minutes, I found myself in the shadow of this grand monolith, amazed at its enormous, but fragile structure.
But, this was just the warm-up.
One of the longest hikes I took was to the Windows Primitive. The fairly easy trek brought me to the North and South Windows, with a simple side trip to Turret Arch. I found myself nestled nicely under the North Window to capture a few photos and a refreshing breeze on this hot, dry day in the desert.
Coming down from the arch, hikers can continue to the backside of the Windows via a primitive loop trail. I broke off and headed to Turret Arch instead for a full complement of photo memories before turning my attention to the real hero of this place: Double Arch.
From a distance, the size of Double Arch is deceptive. But, as you draw closer, the stunning formation quickly reveals its true nature. A short hike and climb led me right up and under the arch where I could freely appreciate its scope.
On the way to this prime spot are a number of other sights to drink in. A series of caves, on the right, may one day become arches themselves. And, to the left, you can see a massive throng of rocks known as the Parade of Elephants resembling … well … a parade of elephants.
Each is a wonder to see, just be aware of where you step – the fragile, desert environment is all around you.
My last stop on this whirlwind tour was to Delicate Arch, a true poster child in this dry wonderland. It stands alone baking in the arid climate of the desert. And, against a bright, blue sky it is truly stunning to see.
The hike to get to it is a strenuous one. It’s a three-mile round trip that takes you through slippery slickrock and steep drop-offs. But, the view is a dramatic one if you have the drive and energy to do it. Don’t worry though. For those with a little less time, the arch can also be seen at a distance from a viewpoint that sits just five minutes away from the parking lot.
But, however you approach your visit, one thing is clear. Carve out the time to appreciate some of the most formidable and fragile pieces you’ll ever see in the natural world.
BALANCED ROCK TRAIL:
Distance: .3 miles RT
Distance: .5 miles RT
WINDOWS PRIMITIVE LOOP:
Distance: 1.25 miles
Difficulty: Moderate - Strenuous
Distance: 3 miles
NEXT: CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK