To visit Arches National Park was one of my primary motives for doing a road trip across America. I remember doing numerous image searches for different places in America and the photographs taken at Arches National Park blew me away; unique, stunning, I had to go.
This photo taken by Dan Ballard is just one of many awesome photos you can easily find on the internet; do you really need more inspiration for visiting Arches National Park?
At dusk I took this photo of Park Avenue, the first stop on the scenic drive after the visitors centre. Arches aren’t the only interesting rock structures, these vertical rock walls are really spectacular.
- Located just five miles north of the town of Moab.
- Home to more than 2000 documented arches ranging from 3 feet (minimum size to be classified an arch) to 306 feet.
- One campground (52 sites + 2 group sites)
- Open year round; expect crowds between March and October.
“parking lots at Devils Garden, Delicate Arch/Wolfe Ranch or The Windows may be full anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During these peak hours, expect travel times to be longer than expected along the scenic drive.” – National Park Service
- Close to Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse Point State Park
- Unlike Canyonlands, Arches National Park is pretty vehicle friendly with scenic drives taking you within a five minute walk of most arch viewpoints; however for those a little more adventurous there are plenty of hikes and better views to be found. The trails range from as short as 100 yards to 4.2 miles (6.8km) round trip.
- The popular walk to Delicate Arch is a 3 miles (4.8 km) round trip. During the peak months of March to October it is not uncommon to have hundreds of people visiting the arch at sunset.
- The park was first protected as a National Monument in 1929, later upgraded to National Park status in 1971.
What Made the Arches?
In short extreme temperature changes, water and ice, and underground salt movements are responsible for the arches we see today. As I understand it the park lies on top of layers of salt which over time have buckled under the pressure of the sedimentary rock above creating domes. Time and harsh weather conditions have then worked away at these domes, eroding the inside and leaving arches. Of course it is an ever continuing process with the landscape changing every year; mostly changes are unnoticed but occasionally large slabs of rock have fallen off the arches. Wikipedia has more to say on the geological process which formed these impressive arches if you’re interested. Note that rivers are not responsible which makes this park quite different to Natural Bridges National Monument.
From the visitors centre we drove the main scenic drives stopping at Park Avenue pictured above and The Organ (Courthouse Towers section).
We took the road to the Windows Section where we did the short easy walks to the Cove Arch, the North Window and South Window Arches and Turret Arch.
We then did the 4.8km trail to Delicate Arch for sunset, where we waited patiently for the clouds to clear and allow the sun so shine on the arch. It never did.
After sunset we walked back and I captured this photo of the historic Wolfe Ranch.
During the day we stopped at most parking spots and pull-outs along the scenic drives, if only for a few minutes to get out and admire whatever arch was in sight. Occasionally we would see something without a pull-out for easy stopping, but often there was room on the side of the road to stop briefly and have a look.
The National Park Service has a surprisingly good section for planning a visit to Arches, explaining what options there are depending on how many hours you want to walk/spend in the park.
Have you been to Arches National Park? Would you like to?