Living in the Southwest offers residents a never-ending list of possibilities when it comes to vacations and adventure. Utah is among those states in the area that have something to delight just about anybody. One of the most intriguing spots to visit if you find yourself driving through Utah is Arches National Monument.
Natural, ancient arches carved millions of years ago enthrall and captivate visitors year round. The shapes, color and majesty of these towering rock formations is a must see, and the Park is just a hop, skip and a jump from major Interstate 70.
Arches National Park is filled with hundreds of arches, big and small, in addition to rock towers that reach for the clouds. Intriguing rock formations awe travelers driving, bicycling or hiking through the monument. Campgrounds are available for sturdier travelers, and are open March through October. August, despite the heat, is their busiest month. If you intend on camping, make your reservations early, as this park sees thousands of visitors every year.
If you’re not opposed to taking a chance on weather, you may also visit the park in November or later in February. Winter offers a sometimes snow-covered vision of towers and arches, a spectacular vista if you’re willing to brave the cold. At times, low hanging clouds or even fog shroud the arches and blanket the scenery with a silence that is truly awesome. Bring a coat, gloves and earmuffs and hike a short distance from the road to capture truly fantastic photographs.
The entrance to Arches National Park is located five miles north of Moab on U.S. 191. Coming from Interstate 70, take the U.S. 191 exit at the Crescent Junction turnoff. The Visitor Center for the park is located just inside the entrance. A seven-day entry fee of $10 per vehicle or $5 per person if you’re hiking in is good for both Arches and Canyon-lands National Monuments. Campsites cost $10 a night.
Be advised that wood fires aren’t permitted within the confines of the park and stick to the trails. Summers can be toasty, and wintertime sees the temps dropping below zero on occasion. Watch weather reports and always prepare for the unexpected.
A scenic drive winds through the park, and trailheads for hiking are ample and varied. If you opt to drive, the route extends 18 miles one-way. Another five miles will take you on a slight detour to view Windows, and another for a side trip to view Delicate Arch. For those wishing only a short, easy hike, views of Double Arch and Delicate Arch. If you feel more daring, catch one of the Park Rangers in a hike down to Fiery Furnace, one of the most popular and colorful views within the park.
As always when hiking, make sure you have water with you and keep your eyes open for signs of wildlife. Arches is teeming with wildlife and if you’re fortunate, you’ll see black-tailed jackrabbits, rock squirrels, kangaroo rats and perhaps even a coyote or two.
Just off the Delicate Arch trail, visitors can find a Ute Indian Petroglyph in the rock face of one formation, displaying etchings of horses and bighorn sheep. Be adventurous and hike the trail, which winds past Wolff Ranch, built in 1898 by Civil War veteran John Wesley Wolff. He and his family lived at that secluded location until 1910, when a flash flood destroyed his cabin. His daughter’s cabin survived and is still standing.
Several short trails offer easy hikes for beginner or moderate walkers; among them Balance Rock Trail, less than a half a mile long. Broken Arch Trail is an easy mile with little elevation change. Another very short trail is the Desert Nature Trail, also less than half a mile, and Double Arch Trail is also an easy, quarter-mile jaunt. Don’t miss the Parade of Elephants formations off to your left on this one. Park Avenue is another easy one-mile stroll each way that will take visitors to Courthouse Towers, the Tower of Babel, Three Gossips, and Organ Rock. To finish out your short hikes, make sure you venture down two easier, less than a half-mile trails of Sand Dune Arch and Skyline Arch.
Experienced hikers will delight in Devils Garden trail, a seven-mile hike that leads visitors to more then fifteen spectacular arch formations, among them Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch. Follow directions and you’ll find yourself admiring Landscape Arch, one of the longest in the park with a span of over three hundred feet! Leaving that fantastic sight, look to your right and you’ll see Wall Arch, then a little further on Navajo Arch and Partition Arch. Winding your way back to the main trail, don’t miss out on the Double O Arch and Dark Angel, a towering spire of sandstone that seems to reach for the skies.
Visitors never forget the spectacular sights they’ve seen in Arches National Monument, and often return. Viewing national monuments is very cheap entertainment, and offers countless opportunities to get out of the vehicle and explore nature at its best, in conditions that have been preserved through generations.
For more information on visiting Arches National Monument, contact:
The Grand County Travel Council
P.O. Box 550
Moab, Utah 84532