Arches: A Red Rock Wonderland

Home to five national parks, seven national monuments, 45 state parks, and a vast expanse of wilderness area, Utah has no shortage of incredible outdoor destinations to explore. And while I have explored a few of the highlights like Lake Powell, Bear Lake, and Park City, I knew that Utah had a lot more to offer; so when the calendar changed over to 2016 I decided that this was the year to get out and see what all the hype was about. Interestingly enough, the National Park Service turns 100 later this year, so my goal of visiting Utah’s Mighty Five came at the perfect time and I was thrilled for the opportunity to explore my own backyard for a change.

Welcome to Utah sign

Source

It was just after dawn when my brother and sister-in-law pulled up outside of my house; the February morning air was crisp, the coffee was hot, and the cooler was full of drinks and plenty of snacks. We spent the next four hours driving through busy canyons, rural towns, ghost towns, and wilderness for as far as the eye could see, and after a while the tree covered mountains gave way to vibrant hues of red-colored sandstone. The slick rock formations resembled out-of-this-world landscapes vastly different from the snow-covered mountains a few hours north, and as I stared out the window mesmerized by the rainbow hues of red, I knew that we were close to our weekend destination: Moab, Utah.

Moab is not only home to over 5,000 permanent residents but it’s also the “home base” to two of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Arches National Park is unlike any other place in the world with over 2,000 natural stone arches found within its boundaries.

Arches Map

Arches Park Map

Our first official stop of the day was at one of the most famous landmarks in Arches National Park: Balanced Rock. The red and orange, 55-foot rock is perched ever so perfectly 73-feet above the slick sandstone below (according to the National Park Service).

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

As we stood in the parking lot Balanced Rock didn’t seem to be THAT big, however, once we noticed the hikers standing near its base, the true scale of this rock formation really settled in. It was in that moment that we realized our perception of the enormous rocks within our sight may have been slightly off — they were much larger than they appeared.

Balanced Rock

I couldn’t help but think: “E.T. Phone Home”

We hopped back into the car and drove towards the longest hike of our day, which was not only the highlight of our trip but also the highlight of the entire park: Delicate Arch. I’ve seen this famous arch my entire life — it’s the image on Utah’s license plates, it’s on marketing materials, billboards, and even commercials — and I was finally going to see it in person.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

The three-mile hike (round trip) is considered Strenuous according to the National Park Service, however being the limited-experienced hiker that I am, even I would classify it as a Moderate hike (and we all know my history with hiking). 😉 The hike took us a total of three hours, one of which was spent at the Arch itself.

Arches National Park

Petroglyphs

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Jumping for Joy at Delicate Arch

After hiking to Delicate Arch we enjoyed a picnic lunch and then drove towards Devil’s Garden in the north end of the park to see Landscape Arch. At close to 300-feet long, this arch is not only the longest in the Park, it’s the longest arch in the WORLD!

Back in 1991, a couple of European hikers had a close call when a giant slab of rock (larger than an automobile) fell from the arch onto the trail right next to the hikers — luckily nobody was injured — and to this day the trail directly underneath the arch is off-limits due to safety concerns. As we stood behind the safety fence, I couldn’t help but notice the hairline cracks which have appeared along some of the most delicate points on the arch. It’s only a matter of time until this famous landmark completely crumbles onto the path below.

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

One of the recurring thoughts throughout the day creeped into every trail, every photograph, and every arch — nature is powerful yet incredibly delicate. The powerful forces that were responsible for creating this incredible area are also the same forces that will eventually destroy it. I was amazed at the beautiful rock formations and often wondered what the park would look like in another thirty, fifty, one-hundred years. How many arches would be standing? How many new ones would appear?

Pine Tree Arch

Pine Tree Arch

After a couple of other short hikes, we ended our day with a final stop at The Windows. Classified as one of the easiest hikes in the park, this 20-minute hike rewarded those on the trail with two natural arches side by side: the North Window and (you guessed it) the South Window.

2016Arches10

Windows Arch

Just hanging out at the edge of a cliff for a great sunset photo

My brother did some research before arriving at the park and lead us on a quick five-minute (fall and you’re seriously injured) jaunt to watch the Sunset through North Window Arch. There’s something so enchanting about watching a sunset, (its one of my favorite times of the day), and watching as the red rocks slowly morphed into a deeper, richer, darker shade of red as the sun set over Arches National Park was a sight to experience.

Windows Arch, Arches National Park

Sunset at Windows Arch, Arches National Park

It took me 29 years to visit Arches National Park and since my visit I’ve often wondered what took me so long. We hiked a lot of the trails and stopped at many of the highlights, however, there’s still a lot more to explore and I can’t wait to go back.


It’s the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service, wondering if there is a National Park near you?

Have you been to Arches National Park? Which National Park is your favorite?

14 Comments

  1. May 4, 2016 / 6:59 PM

    Arches is one of my favorites. Reading this brought back memories…. Beautiful pictures 🙂

    • May 4, 2016 / 10:05 PM

      Thank you 🙂 I loved Arches as well! Glad I could bring back some great memories for you.

  2. May 4, 2016 / 8:35 PM

    Arches is one of my favorites too! I’ve been three or four times and it never gets old. Thanks for sharing your great photographs.

    • May 4, 2016 / 10:06 PM

      Hey Phoebe!
      Thank you 🙂 Arches had so many great photo ops! Do you have a favorite trail (or Arch) in Arches?

  3. May 5, 2016 / 8:28 AM

    … and where was your husband, didn’t he come along on this adventure?

    • May 6, 2016 / 8:18 PM

      Aloha auntie! You noticed. 😀 he was in a serious car accident years ago and he can’t stand for long periods of time, so he decided to sit this weekend trip out. (The dogs kept him company at home) 😀 he could have hiked to Delicate Arch, or any of the other hikes as well, just not all together in one day. After seeing all of the pictures he said that he really wants to go, so hopefully we get back there soon.

  4. May 19, 2016 / 5:41 PM

    I have to say the sunset picture was my favorite. Have not been to the park, but took the train through the state of Utah, seeing some magnificent scenery.

    • May 23, 2016 / 10:34 AM

      Thank you 🙂 It was such a fun little spot. Utah is very beautiful, I am grateful that I’ve spent some time exploring my backyard this year.
      Have a great day,
      Krystle

  5. May 20, 2016 / 9:06 PM

    I love the fact that it’s called the delicate arch, it sure looks like it is! Great shots as always, hope to visit this someday on a US tour! C&K

    • May 23, 2016 / 10:38 AM

      Hey C&K!
      Thank you. It is an incredible location, of course the photos don’t always do it justice, but it was fun to try and capture the colors and textures and all the arches. I hope you get the chance to visit when you come to the US.
      Happy travels!
      -K

  6. June 1, 2016 / 11:11 AM

    Life Elevated could certainly describe life in Utah. Viewing a sunset is also an amazing experience and the Arches looks like a great place to do so.

    • June 5, 2016 / 6:40 PM

      Thanks for reading. Utah has so many great outdoor experiences, I’m happy that we’re finally getting out to explore it all. 🙂

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