The United States is blessed with some beautiful geography — perhaps more varied than any other land. Utah especially has some extremely unusual geology and is home to 5 National Parks, surpassed in number by only Alaska and California. There`s no more beautiful area in Utah than that around the small city of Moab, adjacent to which Arches National Park is located.
(Turret Arch, Arches National Park, Utah)
Arches National Park is situated in the “high desert,” around a mile above sea level, it has very hot summers, cold winters and little rainfall (though lots of wind). Arches is easily accessible and frequently visited — around 1,000,000 people come here each year. Most come in the peak summer season for obvious reasons, but it’s better to visit in fall or spring if you can because the stifling summer heat can limit your ability to explore on foot. I've visited the park three times and on each visit (all in the summer) the temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, heat that drained my hiking energy. Next time I hope to visit in the fall when things are a little cooler.
(Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah)
The park derives its name from its 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the largest density of natural arches anywhere on the planet, like the world-famous Delicate Arch. (Note: to be considered an arch, the rock’s opening must measure at least a meter in diameter). Arches are formed by differential erosion of the rock by wind and rain. In addition to arches, there are a number of other unusual and appealing rock formations, like those of Park Avenue and the Fiery Furnace. The vivid colors in the stone is best seen at dawn or dusk.
(Park Avenue at dusk, Arches National Park, Utah)
There’s a great drive through the park which you can comfortably complete in a half day (plus extra time for any hiking you care to do). It takes you by the main arches and other geologic formations, and stops at many scenic points. And it’s great to walk around the rock formations though difficult in the hot weather of summer unless you head out early or late in the day.
(Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah)
Some of the best hikes in the park include:
1) The Fiery Furnace region, a hike which must be done under ranger guidance because of its maze-like quality. This is a challenging and rugged hike.
(North and South Windows, Windows Loop Trail, Arches National Park)
2) The Windows loop trail which provides an up-close view of the North and South Windows and Turret Arch. There’s few trails anywhere that provide better access to or views of arches.
3) The Delicate Arch Trail winds up the sloping slick-rock to this beautifully shaped and situated arch.
(Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah)
4) Hike Devils Garden to see Landscape Arch, the world’s longest. It measures 306 feet from base to base. It’s an awesome sight to see the span of this arch!
If you’re in the park after dark, there are few places better for watching the night sky. Keep an eye out for bats and owls, and listen for the howl of coyotes.
(Moon-rise over Castle Valley near Arches National Park, Utah)