Over Christmas break Andre and I headed down to Moab, a small town in Utah that’s smack dab between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Christmas is the BEST time to hit up a National Park, as they are empty. On Christmas Day we saw exactly 2 people, and that wasn’t even until after 4:00. This post is about Arches, but I’m going to be telling you all about Canyonlands in a couple of weeks so keep an eye out for that.
Located near the eastern boarder of Utah, Moab is only about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Denver, in good weather. We arrived during a snow storm, so it took us almost 8. The next morning was incredibly foggy, but we headed out to Arches in hopes of seeing some of the 2,000+ land features they are named for. We saw about 4. Everything looked like this:
Couldn’t see a thing, unless we were right on top of an arch. We went back a couple days later when it was clear, only to find we were grossly mistaken, and there were, in fact, arches everywhere. The fog was so thick on our first day, we didn’t realize we were missing all this:
Experiencing Arches isn’t like going to other parks where it’s all about the journey. Arches is about the destination. You don’t hike a trail for the scenic beauty along the way, you hike it to get to the bad@ss arch at the end. That being said, I’m not going to recommend any specific trails to you, I’m going to recommend specific arches.
1. DELICATE ARCH
If you see only one arch in the whole park, it has to be Delicate Arch. This is the classic one you see on billboards and Utah license plates.
The hike up to Delicate Arch clocks in at about 3 miles round trip, and gains 480′ in elevation. You’re going to want to wear at least sturdy sneakers if not hiking boots for this trail, which scrambles over some fairly steep rock on the way up. In the winter, you *definitely* want hiking boots, and even some yaktrax or spikes. We passed some people slipping and sliding around dangerously in Converse and Vans. Not the way to go.
Hiking not for you? There are a couple viewpoints you can drive to where you can see Delicate Arch from about a mile away, but if you are able you are definitely going to want to see this one up close.
Delicate Arch was the very first arch we saw, and with the opening measuring 64 feet high and 45 feet wide we weren’t quite sure why it was being referred to as “delicate”. It turns out that compared to other arches in the park, Delicate Arch is fairly unique in that it is free standing, and the sides aren’t super chunky. Let’s check out some others for comparison.
2. THE WINDOWS
The arch openings such as the ones at The Windows are far more representative of most of the arches you’ll be seeing. Many are somewhere in between Windows and Delicate, but by the numbers the vast majority of arches are still carving their way into the world through thick cliffs, leaving Delicate Arch a unique feature worthy of its fame. If you want to check out Windows, there is an easy 1 mile loop you can stroll called The Spectacles, which will also bring you past Turret Arch. North Window is a mere .1 miles from the parking lot, with South Window just a few dozen yards further down the path.
3. TURRET ARCH
Continuing along the trail will bring you to Turret:
With 3 beautiful arches to see up close, The Spectacles is definitely a great loop to hit up.
4. LANDSCAPE ARCH
Back on Day 1 we went to Landscape Arch in hopes of seeing one of the other amazingly slim, gravity-defying geological features Arches has to offer. Spanning 290 feet across, Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park. As foggy as it was that day, we were a little disappointed in not being able to have a clear view, but boy did it make for unique photos:
The trail to Landscape Arch begins at Devils Garden Trailhead. Reaching the arch is 2 miles round trip, but we had planned to continue on for the entire 7.8 mile loop. Nope. Winter conditions (see above) prevented us from even finding the trail more than a few dozen yards beyond Landscape Arch. Unblemished snow fields let us know that no one had attempted the slippery and steep loop recently, so we decided to turn back. We’ll definitely be checking out the rest of the arches we missed on the Devils Garden loop when we return.
5. BROKEN ARCH
Named for the crack down the middle, the hike to Broken Arch is a flat 1/2 mile (maybe a tad more?) from the Sand Dune Arch trailhead but is part of a larger 3 mile loop. This was our last stop before heading back to Denver, so we only went to Broken Arch before calling it quits for the day. So glad we made it!
6. DOUBLE ARCHES
As amazing as all these arches are, my absolute favorite was Double Arches. A mere .5 mile round trip will get you here:
Don’t settle for viewing it from the parking lot; you can climb all the way up into the arch and see what lies beyond.
There are so many incredible geological formations in Arches National Park, I could write about them all day. I’ll leave you with a few last pictures instead.
What’s your favorite place in Arches? Let us know in the comments below!
– C. Egli