Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 arches etched in Entrada sandstone. It also has the highest density of natural stone arches in the world. We had been to Arches 21 years ago when our daughters were 2 and 5. Because of their ages, we didn’t do much hiking, so our goal this time was to do just that.
We wanted to see as many arches as we could so we planned hikes to give us the best vantage points. The iconic arch of Arches National Park is Delicate Arch, and we headed there as soon as we entered the park. It was crowded because of Spring Break, making the parking lot almost full by the time we arrived at 9:15 am.
It is a 1.5 mile hike each way to Delicate Arch, and we joined many people who were making the steep hike up the rock. Once we reached its base, we enjoyed the people watching as much as photographing the arch itself.
After returning to our car, we drove to the end of the park road and the trailhead for Arches’ longest hike. Devils Garden is a loop that takes one past seven arches. To complete the loop, one must hike the main trail, a rougher path, and a primitive section, which involves rock scrambling. We had received advice to hike counter-clockwise, doing the primitive trail toward the beginning. This turned out to be a good plan as we could handle the steep rocky ascents and descents (sometimes on our hands and knees) while we were still fresh. The most difficult part ended up being on the rougher path, where we needed to climb up and along a 10 foot wide flat rock, with 100 foot dropoffs on both sides. Terrifying for someone like me who is afraid of heights!
The predominant arch on this hike is Landscape Arch – the longest arch in the park with a span of 290 feet. The other six arches were impressive as well, including Pine Tree Arch, Tunnel Arch, Private Arch, Double O Arch, Navajo Arch and Partition Arch.
On our second day we decided to seek out the best sunlight for photos and began by hiking Park Avenue. The trail got its name because the stone structures arising from both sides of the canyon resemble buildings. We timed our 2 mile hike just as the early morning sun lit up the “buildings” around us.
We headed to the Windows section of the park to hike around the windows arches and to view Double Arch. We sat at Double Arch for awhile, watching people climbing around it. Seeing a person next to this arch, the tallest in the park (at 112 feet high), made it seem even larger than life to us.
As we drove out of Arches National Park, we could see small windows in the stone that perhaps will become full-blown arches someday. It is nature’s way here, as while new arches are forming, 43 older arches have collapsed in the park since 1977.
Our visit to the 5th national park on our list complete, we head to the neighboring state of Colorado and to Great Sand Dunes National Park.