Exploring Arches National Park
Utah is known for its epic landscapes but Arches National Park packs a punch because of the intricacies of its incredible rock formations rather than for its vast vistas. There are 2,000 natural sandstone arches plus other stunning rock formations within 100 square miles. You can take the 18 mile main road through the park – the Arches Scenic Drive – and you see many of the rock formations from the road. However, the devil is in the detail and you really should park up and walk – there are well-marked trails for every level of energy and fitness, so don’t worry about getting lost on a “Who Dares Wins” style route march. Most of the trails are short, just a mile or two long, so you can plan to fit a few into your day. We've brought together some of our highlights in the article below and these are our recommended holidays to visit Arches National Park:
Self-drive Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and The Mighty Five of Utah
Starting with a really short stroll, it will take just a couple of minutes to reach Double Arch from the car park in the Windows section of the park. The downside being the potentially high number of people around here, as it’s so accessible, but don’t be put off as it’s such an impressive sight, with the trail passing directly beneath the bigger of the two arches which rises over a hundred feet high. Double Arch is so-called because its made up of two arches that share the same stone as a foundation for both of their outer legs - it looks like part of a gyroscope embedded in a sandstone cliff.
Landscape Arch is the longest of the arches, in fact the longest in the world, and is so thin and delicate with a span of nearly 300 feet, it’s a wonder the arch remains. This is an easy hike of 1.5 miles and you’ll reach it from Devils Garden Trailhead, off the Arches Entrance Road, which takes you through a landscape of amazing sandstone spires and fins.
Also part of the Devils Garden Trail is the trail to Partition Arch. This is a little more strenuous but not too difficult and is just over two and half miles there and back, but is well worth the effort for the stunning view through the window-like arch to the valley below. It might be worth considering doing this hike at sunrise - this will give you the most fantastic photo opportunities and allow you to do this longer hike in cooler temperatures, as well as avoiding any crowds.
Delicate Arch really is the must-do hike and is the most photographed of the arches and the most iconic, due to it’s delicate beauty. The arch is 14 metres tall, which is the height of more than three double decker buses. This is a three mile round trip beginning from the Wolfe Ranch Trailhead. The fabulous thing about this hike is that you don’t see the arch until you round the very last corner – so you enjoy a real WOW moment. You always must remember to carry water with you on any walk, however short, but you’ll certainly need it on this one as there is very little natural protection from the sun. Although we’ve saved this til last, it’s actually a great hike to start the day and sunrise at Delicate Arch comes highly recommended for both it’s photography opportunities and the fact that there will be less people there.
A final note, Arches National Park is an officially designated International Dark Sky Park so is also worth a night visit. The further you drive into the park, the darker it becomes as you get further and further away from the lights of Moab. Spring, Summer and Autumn there are Ranger-led Dark Sky programmes when you’ll enjoy a presentation then have telescopes available for star-gazing. You can check at the visitor centre which days it’s taking place – they rotate between Dead Horse State Park, Canyonland and Arches National Parks.