.......... .. .. ........... "Once In A While You Get Shown The Light In The Strangest Of Places If You Look At It Right" :Robert Hunter

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a gem of a place. While it doesn't have the amazing vast views of the Grand Canyon, or the awe inspiring sheer cliffs of a Yosemite or Zion (though it does have a little of that), for me in it's own way it is just as special. Arches has the largest collection of natural rock arches found anywhere in the world. It is not a very big place as far as National Parks goes, but it packs a lot into a small space. This makes visiting it easy for all types of people of all ages and ability. I have been there several times and it never gets old for me. What I love about it is the scale of things is small enough that you can climb around in it and feel like a part of it yet there is also an amazing size in some cases as well. This really isn't a place to rock climb massive cliffs (though there are some big and awesome cliffs and spires in the Courthouse Towers area) but it is a place to climb around on rocks like a kid on playground equipment. While some of the arches are truly massive many are delicate and beautiful works of stone art. The arch formations are made up of a salmon pink shade of sandstone called Entrada Sandstone. The larger cliffs and spires in the park I believe are made of Navajo Sandstone. There are small junipers and pinion pine trees through out the park but for the most part this is a high desert environment. Arches can be divided up into five main parts: Courthouse Towers, The Windows, The Fiery Furnace, The Devils Garden, and Klondike Bluffs.

The first area called Courthouse Towers is all about very large redrock cliffs and tall spires. To best see this there is a short one mile trail that takes you through a gap in the rocks called Park Avenue. There are also several noted rock spires or monuments with whimsical names like the Three Gosips, Tower Of Babel, The Organ, and Sheep Rock. Most of these can be seen from the road. Here is a view of the Three Gosips taken from the road.
The next area The Windows area has short walks to some of the largest and beautiful arches that could be imagined. Double Arch is located here and is one large arch that splits and branches out into two.
It is grand in size with the larger opening measuring at over 148 feet across and 104 feet high. If you look very closely there are actually people sitting up in the opening in this photo to give some scale. Just southeast of this arch are three other large arches, Turret Arch, and the two Windows (two large arches in one long rock). The North and South Windows are also called the Spectacles because when viewed from east side they look like a giant pair of eyeglasses placed on the ground.
The larger of the two openings (South Window) is 115 feet across and 56 feet high. Right near these two amazing arches just to the west is turret arch.
Turret Arch is a strange rock formation with a large arch (65 feet high opening) and another smaller arch. And coming up out of the same rock as the arch is a spire or turret sticking up on one side. Here is a photo of Turret arch viewed from the west so you can see one of the windows through it in the background. All three of these are just a short easy walk from the road.

The third major area called the Fiery Furnace is known for it's assortment of red spires and fins and tight canyons as well as a few smaller but interesting arches. This area is a maze and now a permit is required to go here. Either with a ranger or not. They are trying to limit impact to the fragile environment. There are also some smaller arches in this area, but to me they are not as impressive as the ones in the Windows or the Devils Garden areas.

The Devils Garden part of the park has at least six or seven major arches. The longest one being Landscape Arch measuring 291 feet from base to base, and it's opening is 105 feet high in the middle. This is a very long and delicate arch that gets pretty thin in the middle for its long span. A photo just does not capture the scale of this amazing natural sculpture. Many of the arches in this area are smaller and more intimate in size but very beautiful. In some cases they are like picture frames to frame and view the beautiful landscape. In other cases they are like incredible large sculptures to admire and meditate on. The arches in The Devils Garden vary in size from the dramatic to the small, and some are accessible and some are high up in cliffs or rocks. I love this area with it's fin shaped rocks and great views of the La Salle Mountains. It would be a fun place to explore even without the amazing assortment of arches. This previous photo is from the back side of Landscape Arch looking out towards the La Salle Mountains to the southeast. The walk out to my favorite arch of this area, Double O Arch is around two miles one way. Double O Arch has two openings, a smaller one down low you can climb through and a much larger one that is up higher. As you take the walk out to Double O arch you will pass several of the others on the way. I have kept going out past this quite a ways into the fin canyons and camped overnight back in the 80s. It is a beautiful area but a maze of linear rocks that could get you lost if you don't pay close attention as you go.

The last of the five main areas is The Klondike Bluffs. The Klondike Bluffs part of the park is the most remote. There are only dirt roads to access it and this eliminates most of the visitors. I have visited this area by riding a mountain bike on a trail outside of the park up to the park boundary near this Klondike Bluffs and then walking in the rest of the way. In this area there are large rock formations, and again the linear fin type formations. One of the most notable features is a long line of spires called the Marching Men.

There is one more well known attraction that stands alone and is not in any of the five main areas of the park. It is called Delicate Arch. This arch sits out on a beautifully sculptured bare stone ridge top off the beaten path so to speak. It has a 1.5 mile (one way)trail starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking area that goes out to it, with a moderate climb. This arch is sitting on the rim of a slickrock bowl perched on the edge of a steep cliff. The arch is about 52 feet tall. This is one of the most photographed places in the park if not all of Utah. It is the most widely-recognized landmark in Arches National Park and is depicted on Utah license plates and on a postage stamp commemorating Utah's centennial anniversary of statehood in 1996. The Olympic torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through the arch. This is the one photo I did not take because I didn't have one that could do it justice. To get a good photo you need to get there at sunset and hope there are not a million people climbing all over the place as is often the case. Here is a site that has some great photos of this amazing landmark to give you a perspective of how it fits into the fantastic stone environment that surrounds it. http://utahpictures.com/Delicate_Arch_Arches_National_Park.php If you are at the Wolfe Ranch parking area I have heard there are some good pictograph panels in the area that I have never seen myself that might be worth a visit if you have the time.
If you visit Arches there is a campground with 50 sites that are first come first serve basis. I camped here once and liked it as far as structured car camping type campgrounds go. The weather here can get very hot in the summer with highs above 100 degrees. The winters can get pretty cold too so the best time is fall or spring. Though the winter can offer up some interesting beauty when snow falls on this red rock environment. Finding Arches National Park is easy its just off the main highway north of Moab Utah.


  1. Your photographs are magnificent !
    And I appreciate a lot of your posts (Allman Brothers for instance) and the comments are fine.

  2. I'm jealous that you live so near these spectacular locations! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Dear Arizona; Buzzcut 9 here. Just stopped by to download a few of your Emmylou Harris concerts. I think she is the worst singer around, plays with the worst musicians and picks the worst songs to sing. So I have downloaded about 20 of her concerts to convince myself that I am right. I was looking at your pictures of Arches National Park and decided it wasn't pretty either so I downloaded most of the pictures to remind myself. I am thinking of putting the one with the snow as my wallpaper;this way I can remind myself everyday how unlucky you are to live in such a place. My heart goes out to you. I live in New Jersey ; I could send you some beautiful pictures of landfill, toxic waste dumps, or abandoned factories. Then you would realize what true beauty is! I can't for the life of me understand how you can breathe that clean air everyday. Just a warning ; I'LL BE BACK!! buzzcut 9
    P.S. On a more serious note, God Bless You Brother!!!

  4. Buzzcut9, you are pretty funny. Thanks for stopping by. I put in my time in the "Big City" of Los Angeles and fought the traffic and breathed the smog, and lived in fear of crime. So I know a bit of what you put up with in your city. So glad I traded that life in for this one. Quality of life choice. No money here but happy to be poor in paradise.