Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout At: Arches National Park, Utah

Basic Information

  • What: Arches National Park
  • Where: Moab, Utah
  • Founded: April 12, 1929
  • Cost: $10 per vehicle
  • More Information: National Park website

Picture from Arches National Park

Narrative

After visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison the next National Park that my family and I planned to visit was Arches National Park in Utah.  We ended up spending the night in Grand Junction, Colorado before making the 1.5 hour drive to Arches National Park the next morning:

The day was absolutely beautiful with mostly blue skies as we approached the park:

Picture from Arches National Park

As we pulled up to the entrance gate I showed my annual National Park Pass to enter for free, but for people without a pass the cost to enter is $10 per vehicle.  The park attended gave me a brochure with a park map in it that ended up being all I need to get around and see the sites located in the park.  The first thing we did after entering the park was to stop by the visitor center.  Like most National Park visitor centers this one was quite nice with plenty of informative displays describing the history of the park:

Picture from Arches National Park

For example we learned how Arches became a National Park in 1929:

John “Doc” Williams

Every small town needs a good newspaper, and early Moab was no exception. The beauty of the red rock country around Arches was glowingly described in print by Loren “Bish” Taylor, who took over the Moab newspaper in 1911 when he was just eighteen years old. Bish editorialized for years about the marvels of Moab, and loved exploring and describing the rock wonderland just north of the frontier town.

Some of his journeys were with John “Doc” Williams, Moab’s first doctor. As Doc rode his horse north to ranches and other settlements, he often climbed out of Salt Valley to the spot now called Doc Williams Point, stopped to let his horse rest and looked back over the fabulously colored rock fins.

Word spread. Alexander Ringhoffer, a prospector, wrote to the Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1923 in an effort to publicize the area and gain support for creating a national park. Ringhoffer led railroad executives on hikes into the formations; they were impressed and believed such wonders would certainly attract more railroad customers, so the campaign began. The government sent research teams to investigate and gather evidence.

On April 12, 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed presidential proclamation No. 1875 reserving 1,920 acres in the Windows and 2,600 acres in the Devils Garden for the purpose of establishing Arches National Monument. Since that time, the park’s boundaries have been expanded several times. In 1971, Congress changed the status of Arches to National Park, recognizing over 10,000 years of human history that flourished in this now-famous landscape of rock.  [National Park website]

Something else I found really cool at the visitor center was seeing this huge 3-D topographic map of the park which really brings to life how expansive this place is:

Picture from Arches National Park

After we finished checking out the visitor center we then proceeded to drive up the road and into the park.  The road immediately begins to gain elevation as it winds its way of a steep cliff face.  Once the road reaches the top of a plateau a number of red rock formations come into view:

Picture from Arches National Park

Besides the red rock formations something else that was quite scenic was the La Sal Mountains towering over the park to the east:

Picture from Arches National Park

This mountain range is actually a sub-range of the beautiful San Juan Mountains that are located just across the border in Colorado.  The high point of this mountain range is Mt. Peale which rises to an elevation of 12,721 feet (3,877 m) above sea level.  The mountains were all snowcapped and made for quite a contrast to the red dry desert I was currently traveling across.

The first area my family and I stopped to checkout was a stretch of red rocks known as Park Avenue:

Picture from Arches National Park

The view was absolutely spectacular.  This valley with steep red rocks on each side got its name because the rocks looked like the tall buildings towering over Park Avenue in New York City.  Here is a panorama of Park Avenue that I took using my iPhone 5S:

Picture from Arches National Park

On one side of Park Avenue I was able to spot this unusual rock formation that looked like an animal’s head:

Picture from Arches National Park

With a closer look at the rock formation it actually appeared that erosion was about to cause this rock to collapse:

Picture from Arches National Park

It looked like this rock could collapse next week, but it may stay there for hundreds of years, who knows?  We next came to another lookout where ancient sand dunes that had turned into rock could be seen:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a wider angle panorama picture of this view:

Picture from Arches National Park

The below sign at the viewpoints says that these sand dunes were first created 200 million years ago before turning into rock:

Picture from Arches National Park

This got me thinking whether in a few tens of millions of years if the Great Sand Dunes located in Colorado will also change into a rock formation?  As we continued up the road and deeper into the park the road on one side ran adjacent to a wall of red rock that is appropriately known as the Great Wall:

Picture from Arches National Park

On the other side to the east we could see a number of rock formations:

Picture from Arches National Park

With a closer look at the rock formations using the zoom on my camera I could actually make out the first arch we would see that day in the park, North Window Rock:

Picture from Arches National Park

The next viewpoint we came to was for Balanced Rock:

Picture from Arches National Park

The viewpoint actually took in more than one rock, but balanced rock is the one in the center right of the above photo.  The rock’s stability appeared to be very precarious and close to collapsing, but like I said before it could be hundreds of years before that rock actually collapses.  Here is a wider angle picture of this view:

Picture from Arches National Park

From Balanced Rock we took a right hand turn down the road that leads to North and South Window Rock.  As we drove down the road we could see the impressive arches in full view right in front of us:

Picture from Arches National Park

This area of the park is very popular and has a large parking lot to support the number of visitors who come here to hike the various short trails that lead to the arches.  Before starting off on the short hike to see North Window Rock this sign explained how rain and wind over time created these beautiful arches:

Picture from Arches National Park

As I began the hike I was lucky because I could see a number of tour buses had just parked with crowds exiting them.  Since I was ahead of them on the trail I was able to get some good views of North Window Rock without any crowds in front of it:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a wider angle view of this arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

As I reached North Window Rock there were a few people there, but no crowds.  In fact the people in the picture added some good perspective of how big this arch is:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is the view I had looking through North Window Rock:

Picture from Arches National Park

I could actually see the canyon where the Colorado River flows through from the arch.  I ended up walking through the arch and down the small hill on the other side.  Here is the view I had as I looked back towards the arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here are some of the rock formations I saw on the other side of the arch as well:

Picture from Arches National Park

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a panorama picture of this view as well:

Picture from Arches National Park

I scrambled further down the hill side to be able to look back up and take this picture of both North and South Window Rocks:

Picture from Arches National Park

After taking the picture I then scrambled back up the hill side to North Window Rock and was able to take this pretty cool picture of the arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

I then passed through the arch again and then walked over to South Window Rock to take a picture of that arch as well:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a closer look at South Window Rock:

Picture from Arches National Park

From there I then hiked across the valley towards some other arches.  As I looked back behind me I had a good view of both North and South Window Rocks:

Picture from Arches National Park

Ahead of me was this rock formation that had a few arches in it:

Picture from Arches National Park

The biggest arch in this rock formation is known as Turret Arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a closer look at Turret Arch which reminded me of a keyhole:

Picture from Arches National Park

From Turret Arch I then hiked back towards the trailhead where the view in front of me was dominated once again by North and South Window Rocks:

Picture from Arches National Park

From the parking lot I took my kids and walked over to another viewpoint where Double Arch could be seen:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a closer look at Double Arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

This area of the park I highly recommend anyone visiting the park to check out because the arches are spectacular as well as having trails that make them accessible to just about anyone to include the small kids that I have.  After spending a 2-3 hours checking out the rocks here with my family we then left to go and see the most famous arch in the park and maybe even in the entire world, Delicate Arch.  To reach the arch we had to drive back up to the main park road.  From there we drove deeper into the park.  Along the way we stopped at Panorama Point which had some great views of the park.  This below picture shows the unusual rock formations known as the Devil’s Garden:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a closer look at these rocks:

Picture from Arches National Park

Out to the southeast we once again had a great view of the La Sal Mountains:

Picture from Arches National Park

From Panorama Point the road drops steeply down a hill where we made a right hand turn towards the Delicate Arch Viewpoint.  Once again this viewpoint had a very large parking lot to accommodate the large number of tourists who come to the park to see this famous arch.  Just a short walk from the parking lot Delicate Arch can be seen in the distance:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is closer look at Delicate Arch using my camera’s zoom feature:

Picture from Arches National Park

From this viewpoint there is a trail that is about a half mile long, but a bit steep to another view of the arch.  I was able to hike up the trail with my five year old daughter and my one year old son on my back with no issues.  Here is the view of Delicate Arch from this viewpoint:

Picture from Arches National Park

Here is a closer look at the arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

There is actually a trail that takes visitors to the arch, but it was a couple of miles in length and my daughter was already pretty tired from the various short hikes we had done already around the park.  So I figured this just gives us an excuse to come back some day to the park and hike up to Delicate Arch.  As the below picture shows Delicate Arch is just one of a handful of rock formations on top of this plateau:

Picture from Arches National Park

However, for whatever reason Delicate Arch was the only that had formed into an arch:

Picture from Arches National Park

Maybe in the future the other rock formations will also turn into arches?  Anyway it was a pretty awesome sight to see even if from a far.  This final picture I took is a panorama of the view with Delicate Arch located towards the center in the distance:

Picture from Arches National Park

Conclusion

Seeing Delicate Arch finished our day long visit to the park. We had time just to spend one day in the park and that really just allowed us to scratch the surface of what Arches has to offer.  This truly is an otherworldly and spectacular place to visit.  It is one of those places that I will definitely be taking my family back to once my kids get a little bit older and can hike deeper into the park.  For now though we had a great time experiencing the park from the road and the short trails we did hike.  If traveling through Utah I highly recommend taking the short detour to go and just spend a couple of hours if that is all you got to see this great park.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *