Sunrise in the park
Favorite thing: I always take the time to watch the sunrise in Arches. Fortunately, Devils Garden campground is perfectly situated do observe the sun come up from a far away horizon. This most recent trip had one particularly beautiful and interesting sunrise. A beam of light was shooting up wider than normal. The photo is just a point and shoot. It is exactly how it looked. Very special.
Sunset in the park
Favorite thing: Arches has some great places to watch the sunset. I always take the time to watch sunset when possible. I have found several good places to watch the sunset.
If you are in Devils Garden campground, sunset is difficult to watch because you are surrounded by sandstone spires and fins. To get around this and not have to drive from the area, walk over to Skyline Arch. You can access this from the Ranger amphitheater area, walking straight back. There is some negotiating to descend a rock wall but there is a log you can climb down and a smaller obstacle to get up into the arch. Be aware that you have to do this in reverse, by headlamp when the sun is down.
If you are driving into the park nearing sunset, drive down the road toward the "Windows and Turret Arches. You will find some excellent view points along the road here.
Fondest memory: You definitely have to wait well after the sun is down past the horizon. The great colors will come out up to 15 minutes later.
- National/State Park
- Family Travel
Arches National Park
Favorite thing: Arches National Park is located in East Central Utah near the town of Moab and just South of Interstate 70. This park is jammed full of interesting rock formations, beautiful vistas, and opportunities to learn something new. Stop at the visitors center to gather information to help you get the most out of your visit, whether you are staying a few hours or a few weeks. There are over 2000 arches in the park ranging from 3 feet (the minimum to be considered an arch) to 306 feet. One of the best known is "Delicate Arch" which graces the state license plate and the state quarter for Utah. Another interesting rock formation you will encounter in the park is the balanced rock.
Fondest memory: Hiking to Delicate Arch
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
Favorite thing: Despite the over 2,000 arches there is much more to see in this park; it just depends on how far you want to go.
Fondest memory: Park Avenue is one of the first significant outcrops you come to. It stands tall and proud and long. Frankly, if it had a couple of arches in it it would probably be the main attraction. There's a walk that takes you beside it for its entire length.
It's an easy walk and only about a mile long so if you have the time, unlike me, it's something I would plan to do.
- Family Travel
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
How were they formed?
Favorite thing: Like many of the sights in Utah, Arches National Park owes its existence to the work on nature on rock, in this case the sandstone of the Entrada Formation. Water (in the form of ice and rain) and wind have eroded the sandstone into these amazing formations over millions of years. The park today contains the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches – there are over 2,000 catalogued arches, which range in size from a three-foot opening (the minimum considered to be an arch), to Landscape Arch which measures 306 feet from base to base. To be considered an arch there must be a clear hole in the rock, at least three feet across and completely formed by natural forces. The hole has to have been caused by the selective removal of rock by any natural force (whereas in the case of a natural bridge, such as Rainbow Bridge near Lake Powell, it has to have been caused by flowing water).
The Entrada Formation sits on a large salt bed, deposited here 300 million years ago by a long-since dried-up ocean. Over time the salt bed liquefied under pressure from the layers of rocks above it, shifted and tilted those some rocks. The rocks fractured, forming long, parallel cracks, covering many square miles of rock. Over time, water seeped into the cracks and ice formed in the fissures, expanding and cracking the surrounding rock, breaking off bits and pieces. A series of free-standing fins remained, which were attacked by wind and water until, in some, softer rocks gave way and chunks tumbled out. This caused many to collapse, but others, with the right degree of hardness and balance, survived despite their missing sections to become the famous arches.
And of course, just as the arches have formed slowly over time, so time continues to pass and the arches to erode. Since 1970, forty-three arches have toppled because of further erosion. You can read about the collapse of Wall Arch in 2008 on the National Park Service website, from where (with permission) I borrowed these two “before and after” photos.
- National/State Park
Favorite thing: The park is divided into several sections. You can see many of the arches from your car or from the various overlooks and parking lots, and a full tour with brief stops at many of these is likely to take about half a day – more if you want to do a few short walks. There are parking places lots of the features and you are asked to use these rather than damage the soil and plant-life by parking anywhere other than these designated spots.
However, it only needs a little more effort to get a bit closer. The Windows section makes an ideal focus for your visit if you have limited time and want to see as much as possible – this is where we spent much of our one day in the park. There are easy walks from parking areas to several of the park’s most notable features, including the Windows Arches, Turret Arch and Double Arch. All of these can be seen on an easy one mile round walk from the Windows trailhead. The road to this trailhead passes another well-known formation – not an arch this time but a “Parade of Elephants” – or rather (of course) a rock formation thought to resemble such a parade! We also stopped at nearby Balanced Rock to do the short trail around its base.
Further along the main park road is the turn-off for Wolfe Ranch and the Delicate Arch viewpoint. The trail to the latter is a short fairly easy one, but to reach the arch itself (as opposed to the viewpoint) involves a much longer and more strenuous hike from Wolfe Ranch. Unusually my pre-holiday planning and research appears to have let us down on this occasion as we managed to visit Arches National Park without ever seeing its most famous symbol, Delicate Arch.
The other main section that is easy to visit and attracts plenty of visitors is the so-called Devil’s Garden at the end of the park road, with an easy trail to Landscape Arch and a longer more strenuous one that will take you on a loop past several more arches, massive sandstone fins and other scenic features. Unfortunately we ran out of time to do this area justice, but hopefully one day will return.
When we do I will also make a point of seeing the Fiery Furnace section in the centre of the park. The recommended way to visit this is on a ranger-led hike, as the number of formations and fins gathered here can make navigation confusing.
Finally, back near the entrance is the Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue section, the two parking lots linked by a one mile trail. This is the place to see some great rock towers and fins, including the distinctive Three Gossips formation.
- National/State Park
THE MOAB FAULT
Favorite thing: Arches National Park lies atop an underground salt bed that is basically responsible for the arches, spires, sandstone fins and eroded monoliths found in the Park. Thousands of feet thick in places, this salt bed was deposited across the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago when a sea actually flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, residue from floods, winds and the oceans that came and went, blanketed the salt bed. The debris was compressed as rock, at one time possibly a mile thick.
Salt under pressure is unstable and the salt bed lying below Arches was no match for the weight of this thick cover of rock. The salt layer shifted, buckled, liquefied and repositioned itself, thrusting the rock layers upward as domes and whole sections fell into the cavities.
Faults deep in the Earth made the surface even more unstable. You can see the result of one 2,500 foot displacement, THE MOAB FAULT, from the visitor center.
Fault-caused vertical cracks later contributed to the development of Arches. As the salt's subsurface shifting shaped the Earth, surface erosion stripped off younger rock layers. Except for isolated remnants, today's major formations are salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone.
Over time, water seeped into cracks, joints and folds. Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and putting pressure on the rock, breaking off bits and pieces. Wind later cleaned out the loose particles, leaving a series of free-standing fins. Wind and water then attacked these fins until the cementing material in some gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many of these damaged fins collapsed. Others survived despite missing sections. These became the famous Arches.
Locals Try to Save the Environment
Favorite thing: Two Park Rangers worked here at the park for years, and starting in 1968, Edward Abbey was one to promote save the Nature of this regional area. He became a one man crusader to spread the word how development and tourism is ruining the environment of the pristine land. He wrote about 15+ books on subjects, and became reknowned for his viewpoints. Along came Jim Stiles and Ed ended up being his mentor. Jim carried on the tradition of trying to save the land form intrusion and being overrun by tourists around Moab. He started a free paper called Canyon County Zephyr. It now is only on line, but he has stories to tell, and it a great cartoon artist.
Favorite thing: One of the prettiest and easily accessible arches is TURRET ARCH in the Windows Section of the Park. Hans and I parked the Van in the large parking area and then proceeded to walk up the steps to the Arch. Lots of delicate shrubbery, so please stay on the designated trail. Lots of photo opportunities, especially shooting through one of the dead juniper trees to frame your picture. Do watch your step though, as the loose gravel is slippery. I just about fell, when I lost my footing.
This is one of the more popular Arches, because it is so accessible and not a far walk. Lots of families with children were making their way up to the Arch.
Favorite thing: One of the more impressive Arches in the Park, DOUBLE ARCH is a closely set pair of natural arches that share the same stone foundation. The Arches, which is located in the Windows Section, are reached by a short walk from the parking lot. Its massive size does not become apparent until you walk right up to it. Visitors can explore directly beneath and through the Arches.
Double Arch was formed differently than most of the others. It is known as a POTHOLE Arch as it was formed by water erosion from above rather than more typical erosion from the side.
It was one of my favourite Arches and it was easy to get to, even for me.
MOAB - GATEWAY TO ARCHES
Favorite thing: The vibrant resort town of MOAB is the Gateway to Arches National Park and also Canyonlands. The town is located 5 miles south of the Park on Highway #191
Hans and stopped in Moab at the Visitor Center and got lots of good information and brochures (all free) on what to do and see in the area, esp Arches.
You need to know that the Park does NOT have any places to have a bite to eat nor any places to sleep, except the Park's campground, so most visitors stay in Moab as it offers, shopping, restaurants and accommodations - Hotels - Motels - Lodges - B & B's - Cabins, etc. It advertises that it has 1800 rooms to offer. That is so ironic, because Hans and I tried to find a place to stay after our long day in Arches, only to be frustrated by "No Vacancy" signs everywhere we went. It was a Friday night after all and we did not make any reservations anywhere. In hindsight I would have booked a room ahead, but we were so used to finding places at the end of the day, that we didn't consider it, just assumed we would find a place as it was a quiet time of the year for tourists. We ended up continuing on our journey and headed for the I-70 and Grand Junction.
ANCIENT SAND DUNES
Favorite thing: One of the many interesting Plaques in the Park, explained about the ANCIENT SAND DUNES. I found it fascinating and it read as follows:
"This vast area was once covered by extensive Sand Dunes. Some 200 million years ago, winds from the Northwest carried tons of fine-grained sand into the area, creating an immense desert.
Over time, the sand drifts were covered by other layers of sediment, compressed and cemented by quartz and calcite into Navajo sandstone. erosion has since washed away the overlying layers, exposing the "Petrified" dunes.
Favorite thing: The last section of Arches is DEVILS GARDEN. Here you will find a varied area of Arches (eight all together) , Fins, Canyons and Slickrock. The Park's Campground is also located here.
Devils Garden Trailhead starts off gravelled, flat and easy. Hans and I did a bit of this trail, until it started to descend into the canyon and besides it was getting near the end of the afternoon.
One of the first arches you come to are Pine Tree, Tunnel Arch and Landscape Arch, the destination for most walkers. The huge 89 meter span is a little more than one meter thick at its narrowest point and has numerous fractures, making it prone to collapse one day.
Beyond this, the trail is rougher though more interesting and have many more arches including Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, Double O Arch, Dark Angel and Private Arch along the Primitive Trail.
Favorite thing: Located in the Devils Garden Section of Arches, SKYLINE ARCH has a span of 69 feet and is 45 feet high, making it one of the most impressive of the arches.
It is an easy hike to the Arch and is popular with families as it is a great place to experience an Arch up close. I would also imagine it would be a wonderful spot for photographing a sunset photo.
VEGETATION IN ARCHES
Favorite thing: There is a surprising variety of VEGETATION IN ARCHES. Pinon and Utah Juniper trees provide a splash of green, in contrast to the red surroundings. Cacti and yuccas thrive throughout the Park. Other plants such as wildflowers, grasses and mosses come to life from April to July, with the right conditions.