Arches NP was my last stop in Red Rock country and I explored it over two days while keeping Moab as a home base. The entrance to the park is about 2 miles outside of town, so it is understandably popular and crowded. On my first day I beat the crowds by getting to the park right when they opened and immediately driving all the way to the end of the road for a hike in the Devil’s Garden area. Unfortunately, after the long process of suiting up, putting on sunscreen, and assembling supplies for a long hike, I looked under Van Halen and was shocked to find the front section soaked with coolant. After some mental debate I decided it was a good day to spend in Moab trying to fix this thing, which meant much less hiking! Not one to entirely waste an opportunity to hike I decided to do a short out-and-back to Landscape Arch with a tiny side trip to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch was huuge - about 300 feet wide or something - a looked extremely fragile. Signs around the arch mentioned that people are no longer allowed to walk beneath it because a large section collapsed off of it back in the 90’s and the rest might go at any time. Looking at its impossibly delicate form I could certainly envision the imminent collapse, and I fantasized about being one of the lucky few to be there to see the event. Sadly this did not happen.

Pine Tree Arch

In contrast, Pine Tree Arch was very thick and robust - a proper arch!. I’m not sure why it’s called pine tree, but whatever.

Tunnel Arch

Tunnel Arch was perhaps my favorite of the three. Its placement high up in the face of a rock fin made it easy to spot, easy to look at, and easy to enjoy.

On the way back into Moab I couldn’t help but stop at the visitor center to check out the park video (a favorite activity of mine), and boy was I glad I did! Of all the parks I have been to on this trip I dare say that Arches may have the best visitor center, from an informational point of view. Despite having been to the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands (all parks with similar formation histories) I learned a lot of new information about the area and how the amazing rock features formed. In particular, the role of huge, underground plugs of salt was fascinating. Nice work!

A few days later, after failing to even diagnose Van Halen’s coolant leak, I was back in Arches, this time even earlier in an attempt to be the first person to the super-popular Delicate Arch so I could grab some people-free dawn shots. I was not the first car in the Delicate Arch lot, but the 1.5 mile trail to the arch gave me an opportunity to pull out in front. At one point I lost the trail for a moment, but a helpful bunny built a cairn to show me the way.

Bun showing the way

When I arrived at Delicate Arch I was disappointed to find that the Sun was rising behind the arch, thus rendering any dawn pictures totally unachievable. That didn’t stop me and about 100 other photographers from trying, though! Once I got over this minor inconvenience, however, I came to appreciate the strange beauty of not just the arch, but also the environment in which it stands. The arch sits on the edge of a large rock bowl and, unlike the other arches I had seen, stands completely alone. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular arch.

Delicate Arch

After spending the morning hanging out near Delicate Arch I hiked back and drove to the Delicate Arch viewpoint, which is pretty far from the arch itself, but offers views from the other side. By this time the sun was high enough up in the sky that the light was bright and boring, but it was still interesting to see the arch in a broader context.

The other side of Delicate Arch

After Delicate Arch I was off to the Windows area, which might have been my favorite area of the park. The entire formation (massif? I think it’s called the Garden of Eden) is absolutely stunning; here is a collection of rock gardens, many with arches, rising out of the surrounding hillside while the ever-present La Sal mountains watch in snowy silence far in the background.

A crappy view of the Garden of Eden. This picture does not do the area justice.

Double Arch was really sweet - it’s rock formation held a very chaotic assortment of arches and pre-arches and it all felt very raw and wild. The Double Arch itself was huge and imposing to stand beneath.

Double Arch

Other arches in the Windows area included Turret Arch:

Turret Arch

and the Windows, which looked like two giant eyes staring out across the desert.

The Windows

On my way out of the park I had time to stop briefly at Balanced Rock, which certainly lives up to its name.

Balanced Rock

As I left Arches I felt that I had simultaneously seen almost all there was to see and also not really penetrated beneath the surface. I’m not sure if this is because I was rushing from site to site or if Arches is really all about the arches (which are totally awesome) and not much else. It’s probably the former and I look forward to proving that to myself sometime in the future.


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