Arches National Park, located right outside of Moab (about 4 miles from the town center, actually) was the impetus for this trip. Long ago, in my first job out of college for the National Park Foundation, it was pictures like this that instilled the desire to see this area of the country:
Obviously the goals of the trip evolved a lot since that time almost seven years ago, and parks like Zion and Bryce may have surpassed Arches as the dream destination. But I never would have expanded my horizons to seek out those parks had it not been for Arches.
The park is aptly named due to the fact that it is the largest collection of free standing natural arches in the world. And we did our best to see many of them.
We got started somewhat early, and it was quickly warming up. Arches is definitely a desert park- lots of sand and very little shade. At this time of year it didn’t get oppressively hot, but it was sufficient for me to be glad that we didn’t wait to go any later in the year.
I don’t recall the name of the first hike we did, but it was a nice four mile loop scaling lots of tall boulders. There were two notable arches on that path. First, and before the trail got too difficult, was the Landscape Arch:
Believe it or not, there is over 300 feet laying between the two ends of that arch, or an entire football field base to base. It’s hard to conceptualize because you can’t get too close, but it’s beautiful regardless.
The final destination- for us anyway- was the Double O Arch. Really cool:
The trail actually continued beyond that to make a seven mile loop into ‘primitive’ trail, which I take to mean mostly sand. We were tempted to do that since a lot of hidden gems were supposed to be there. But we also knew we wanted to do the Delicate Arch hike around sunset which, while only three miles round trip, is supposed to be a very difficult one.
So instead we returned to the car and drove back to Moab to set up our campsite in town. Our first two nights in Moab we stayed at the Sunflower Hill Inn, which was a wonderful find by my husband. When we go back to Moab, we’ll definitely stay there again.
But for our third night, we camped. Nice enough campground, but I’d like to try to get in Arches or Canyonlands next time.
After we set up and relaxed a bit, we headed back to Arches to do a series of mini-hikes to several other arches and rock formations before our impending Delicate Arch hike. It was pretty warm at this point, and I had a minor headache, so it was good to just do some easy sightseeing- and there were lots of sights to see.
After all that, around 5:15 we began our climb to the Delicate Arch. The Delicate Arch is THE Arch- it’s Utah’s official symbol. It’s a difficult hike, but once you get there you understand why Utah is so proud of it (and Utah has a lot to be proud of, it seems unfair that one state gets so much beauty to choose from).
In retrospect, the hike isn’t the most difficult I’ve done due to the terrain- it’s challenging, don’t get me wrong, just not as bad as the Bryce hike or even our climb up from Crater Lake after our boat tour. But you’re in the beating sun the entire time, in addition to being at least 7,000 feet up. Those factors combine, along with my cranky headache, made it tough. But being able to see this is completely worth the strenuous effort.
After hanging out a while and chatting with other fellow hikers, we headed back down before it got dark and grabbed dinner at the Moab Brewery for the second night in a row- surprisingly good food at really good prices. Plus they had tasty microbrews on site.
It was a great send off to the Grand Canyon, the last park on our itinerary….