Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Utah - Arches National Park


Arches is located just North of Moab.  The park receives so many visitors that on busy days the line to get into the park can end at the highway.  There are warnings to not stop on the highway.  Which means that you must do a drive-by if there is not enough room to get your car into the entrance road.  The entrance road is rather long.  On the day that we went to the park, it wasn't too busy and they had two gates open that were processing cars rather fast.  If you're planning a trip to see Arches you should stay in Moab and see Canyonlands as well.  Both parks accept the national park pass, which will pay for itself if you spend any time in the four-corners region of the U.S.  From Moab you can drive to Mesa Verde and National Bridges.  If you're up for a serious drive, you can drive to the Grand Canyon from here.  All these parks take the National Parks pass.


Arches National park is a very big park.  We went on the 8th of July, 2016.  So it was 102 degrees outside.  It was dry, but it felt like an oven.  After we passed the entrance gate, there is a winding road that goes right up the cliff-side.  At night you can see headlights that look like they are coming out of the sky.  Those are cars full of people who's legs are very tired.

You can see the highway and the lead-up road in this picture:

There are pull-offs along this winding road, which is how I obtained the photo above.

At the top is a plateau.  The road just winds around various cliffs and canyons. 

The mountains in the background make a nice backdrop:

The first pull-off is a major stop called Park Avenue Viewpoint.  The lookout is a vista that surrounds you.

There's a trail here.  Michelle and I were reserving our energy for Devils Garden trail at the end of the park.  We wanted to make sure we saw the Landscape Arch since it is unknown how much longer that arch will survive.

There are a lot of pull-offs along the way.

Balanced Rock.

Garden of Eden.

The Windows section.  This is at the end of a road.  The road forms a one-way loop with a lot of parking.  Half of the planet was here the day we arrived.

There are a bunch of short trails.  We hiked them all.

Here's a view of the parking loop from the end of the trail:

The double-arch:

On to the next pull-off:

Here's how they guarantee that cars do not enter the 4x4 road:

This is the delicate arch area.  We went down to the viewpoints first.  It was so hot that we were not sure if we wanted to hike the 3 mile hike (500 foot elevation gain) to the arch.  Here's the viewpoint path:

This is the view from the lower viewpoint (through my telephoto lens):

There is another trail that goes up the hill a bit.  It's quite a climb but not too far back:

Here's the view from the top viewpoint:

If the temperature wasn't 102 degrees, Michelle and I would be up there with those people.

You can walk a bit further than the lookout.

It gets rough after a bit so we turned around.

Next was Wolfe Ranch and the Rock Art panel:

There was a bee-line of hikers headed up to the delicate arch.  This is the trail-head for the 3 mile hike:

With temperatures at 102 degrees, Michelle and I decided not to do the 3 mile hike.  There was still a lot of hiking that we needed to do in order to see the sights that we had on our list.

The fiery furnace was next up.

You need a permit to hike this trail, or you can sign up for a scheduled ranger-guided hike.

Next up is the sand dune arch.  This was surprisingly spectacular.

After you park in the small lot, there's a short hike around the fins into a little cave-like area with a sand floor.

Just for scale:

There's a small arch back in there:

The sand is very soft:

Here's an arch in the distance:

Next is the Skyline arch.  This was at the next pull-off:

There's a tiny trail that leads right up to the cliff face in front of the arch.

Here are the boulders that fell out of the opening:

Back to the car.

Next up, Devils Garden.

We had to hike a trail or two to see anything here.  Fortunately, Michelle did her research and she knew we wanted to see the landscape arch.  So we conserved our energy for this hike.  This section is at the end of the park, assuming you see all the sights as you enter the park.  For those who drive back to the back of the park and see the sights as the drive out, they're the lucky ones to hike this trail in the morning.  We were hiking in the late afternoon and it was hot.

Our backpacks were still pretty full of water and we fill the whole 3-liter packs.  So this sign made us smile.

This trail is not difficult.  In fact it's really nice, but there are some hills, sand and it goes back 7.1 miles, if you're willing to see it all.  Landscape arch is only 1.6 miles back.

Tunnel arch:

Pine tree arch:

On to the Landscape arch.

You can see the arch in the distance.

There are other arches here as well:

More sandy trail.

The landscape arch is so thin that it is unknown how much longer it will last.  I'm thankful that we were able to see it intact.  The trail goes further back and there are more arches, like the Dark Angel, Double O, and the Private Arch.  Michelle and I know we're coming back to this park some day to at least hike the fiery furnace.  So we'll get another chance to hike back here as well.

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