Arches National Park

Arches National Park photo by james.gordon6108 on Flickr

Arches National Park is a diverse landscape filled with vivid colors, varied textures, and, of course, a vast array of looming arches carved into the rocks and hillsides. Arches National Park contains the densest concentration of natural stone arches than anywhere else in the world. Here, you’ll find more than 2,000 different arches, some no more than a small slit in a rock wall, and others, gaping divides that span over 300 feet!

How were the Arches created?

How exactly did all these arches form? It took just the right combination of materials and events to bring this majestic red rock palace to life. The rock formations were once buried over a mile underground, filled with a mixture of salts, sand grains, and clay that eroded, froze, and expanded from precipitation. Thousands of years ago, when the rock formations we see today were buried beneath the ground, this area may have been only a simple, flat plain. Who knows how the park could change in the next 100,000 years!

Arches National Park Scenic Drive

For anyone making a quick visit to the park, the Arches National Park Scenic Drive is a great way to view many of the breathtaking sights the park has to offer. The Visitor Center and entrance to the park are located 5 miles north of Moab, Utah along Highway 191. On this drive, you will find many places to stop for photos and spectacular views as you pass massive sandstone walls, nomadic canyons, natural arches, balanced rocks, petrified dunes, and sandstone buttes.

The Many Arches

Delicate Arch
All that’s left from one section of the Entrada

One of the park’s most unique and recognizable arches, Delicate Arch is located at the top of one of the park’s most famous sandstone fins. A freestanding arch, Delicate Arch was previously part of the upper portion of the fin. After years of erosion, the arch is now all that’s left standing from that section of the Entrada sandstone formation. Delicate Arch is spectacular to behold from afar and worth a close-up inspection as well. Delicate Arch trailhead is located 5 miles north of Moab, Utah. About 10 miles into the park, take the Delicate Arch and Wolfe Ranch turn off. Turn right and drive 1.2 miles to the parking area. If you’re visiting during the peak season, it’s best to arrive before 9:00 a.m. as the lot fills quickly.

Fiery Furnace
An exhilarating sandstone maze

Arches National Park’s Fiery Furnace is an exhilarating maze of narrow passages between tall sandstone walls. It’s recommended that first-time visitors accompany a ranger or someone who has been there before. Anyone wishing to enter must first join a ranger-guided tour or obtain a hiking permit at the Visitors Center. Navigating these narrow passageways can be difficult as there is no trail, and has a few tight squeezes. To get to the Fiery Furnace follow the Arches National Park Visitors Center Drive into the park for 14 miles until you see the turn off for Fiery Furnace Viewpoint and turn right into the parking lot.

Double Arch
Two arches in one massive stone

The Double Arch Trail is one hike with twice the arches! This incredible rock formation is named for the two arches that cascade out from the same massive foundational stone. Double Arch was formed by downward water erosion from above the sandstone compared to side to side water erosion. A short, but magnificent trail, Double Arch is located in the Windows section of Arches National Park. To get there, head up the Arches Entrance Road for about 9 miles. Take the first right after Balanced Rock and follow the road to its end to the circle for Windows Trail. The Double Arch Trailhead can be found at the far end of the circle at the head of the parking lot.

A view to dozens of arches

In addition to the Double Arch, there are plenty of other great reasons to explore Windows! Though this section of the Arches National Park is small, it’s packed with astounding attractions like Turret Arch, Ribbon Arch, and Elephant Butte! Here you can explore the Cave of Coves, a sandstone formation with large round coves carved into its sides, a site highly visible from the road. Another can’t miss site is the Spectacles, two side by side arches separated by a wide distance on the same sandstone fin and is best photographed from a distance.

Devil’s Garden Trailhead

A hike full of captivating views

Another fascinating section of Arches National Park is Devil’s Garden, which includes an 8-mile hike packed with stunning scenery and multiple opportunities to explore the sights of the park. Approximately 4 hours long, this trail can be difficult and includes an elevation gain of almost 1,200 feet. However, it’s worth the trek! You can explore hidden petroglyphs as you hike alongside narrow, exposed sandstone fins. The views in all directions are spectacular! This trail allows breathtaking glimpses of double O Arch as well as leading directly to one of Arches National Park’s most fascinating sights, Landscape Arch. To get the Devil’s Garden Trailhead, after you enter the park, stay on Arches Scenic Drive for 16 miles until it becomes Devil’s Garden Road. After you pass the campsite, you’ll see a large cul-de-sac near the trailhead where you can park.

Landscape Arch

The largest arch in the world

When you visit Arches National Park, you can’t leave without seeing Landscape Arch! This arch is the largest in the world, beating out the next tallest arch in Zion National Park by just a few feet. Throughout the last hundred years, pieces of Landscape Arch have broken off from the formation. Some of these pieces have been as large as a car or truck! Specialists are divided over whether this arch is nearing the end of its days or if it will remain intact for another hundred years. Landscape Arch is located at the end of The Devils Garden Trailhead.

Arches National Park is a place unlike any other. There are so many stunning rock formations to behold beneath the sunny, blue sky. This vast, changing landscape is a spectacle to behold, a piece of nature that was once buried far underground and may erode away in the thousands of years to come.