There are so many reasons to visit southern Utah. The amount of national parks and different landscapes are endless. I have always wanted to get lost there and a particular drive recently took me thru it. I took advantage and wandered around a park I have been meaning to get to but is always so out of the way it is sometimes not within reach. Not this time. Arches National Park was mine to explore.
Now unfortunately I only had half a day to visit this mass area and we didn’t even scratch the surface. We were able to take in one regular and one small hike and even after those two our legs were a little shot. If I had the time and some camping materials, I would recommend a few days here to really take in the full park. I am sure the evening stars would jump out at you being in the middle of nowhere. Keep in mind some of these hikes are a bit of work and sweat, especially that you are not at sea level to begin with, ranging between 1200-1700m(4000-5600 feet). But keeping all these things in mind, take off and explore is an understatement.
Arches National Park is in southeastern Utah. It’s gates lie in the middle of a massive red canyon that you drive down to reach the town of Moab, the parks jumping off point. Once you pay your entrance fee, our in April 2017 was $25 USD, there is the visitor’s center at the beginning before you take the road up the side of the canyon to enter the park itself. I would recommend stopping at the center for a bathroom break as there are only 1 or 2 others within the park after that. There are also a few filtered water fountains to refill any water bottles before you enter. Fill them up!! We actually went in April and it was only about 19 C outside, but on some of the hikes to the arches themselves you are in wide open territory and the sun beats down pretty hard. Shade is hard to come by so take your time and replenish with lots of water. I cannot even imagine in the dead of summer when temperatures soar to mid 30’s C.
Once leaving the visitor’s center, you begin a switchback climb up the side of the canyon to see the vast openness of the park above its walls. A lot of the sites are spread out but choose the ones you want from the information map and be gone.
The definite one I recommend is Delicate Arch. It lies almost in the middle of the park and for sure do the hike up to it rather than the viewing point. The hike itself is a bit strenuous, climbing 500 feet up hill, but the view and the photo ops once you have arrived are worth every drop of sweat the hike takes in the Utah sun.
The final turn around the side of the hill is a path of a little vertigo as you look to one side that has a large drop off, but come around the corner to Delicate as it sits above the canyon below and on top of what looks like a natural amphitheater to host all of its viewers.
The dimensions your eyes take in are constantly changing as you walk around the area for as many different angles and photos to capture the incredible site. We also got a little adventurous climbing up onto some individual pinnacles to have a seat, snap some shots and just marvel at the work of art below us. The hike up itself did take over an hour so find your own place to rest and sip some water to replenish. Take your time and some deep breathes of the crisp mountain air…
There are some other great sites to take it. We did a quick drive by shot of Balancing Rock, Windows and Elephant Parade. We also drove out to the end where Devils Garden begins. Here we only did the short 30 minute walk out to Landscape Arch but definitely worth the short jaunt. There are many beyond that looked good for climbing around and more photo ops but we just didn’t have the time on our short half day. Gotta leave something behind for next time…
Lastly let me not forget to mention the massive La Sal Mountain range lingering in the background. The couple of peaks that rise to over 3800 m are seen from just about everywhere in the park, make a perfect backdrop for most pictures and being snow capped seem out of place with the sand and desert landscape of the park.
Southern Utah is full of stunning scenery and National Parks. Arches is one of its greats and worth the effort of travel to this unique and remote area of the states.
Over the last few years my wife and I have really gotten into hiking and I will stress that if you like it, it is worth investing into some great hiking boots because nothing will cut a trip short than a twisted ankle or blister. You don’t even need to break the bank. Some great hiking boots start about the same as a regular pair of shoes and they will get used again and again on all of your outdoor excursions. I started with some simple ones and have gone up from there with what I feel comfortable. Here is a link to the boots my wife uses and recommends as they are hiking and also lightweight and water proof. Give ’em a try!!