Arches National Park, just outside of the town of Moab, Utah, is a feast for the eyes. There are more than 2,000 natural stone arches in the park, the largest density in the world. But you will also be amazed by natural windows, balanced rocks, pinnacles and other stunning formations.
Just driving through the park along the Scenic Drive is a great experience. It’s a 36-mile roundtrip with plenty of pullouts to view the arches and other fantastic formations. But, if you set out on foot you will get a closer look at some of the park’s best features, and these views will inspire awe.
Elevations in the park range from 4,085 to 5,653 feet, and temperatures in April and May are considered perfect, with average daily highs in the 70 and 80 degree range. Wildflowers will be at their annual best.
In short, now is the best time to go, but unfortunately, it is also one of the busiest times of the year. So if you want any solitude head out to the trails or roadways in early morning.
There are a variety of trails in the park ranging from short and easy to more strenuous. Most of the trails have no shade so be prepared with proper attire and carry plenty of water and replenishing snacks.
Landscape Arch is the longest in the park, and the hike to see it up close is only 1.6 miles roundtrip. It’s also easy, a mostly flat gravel trail starting in the Devils Garden parking area. The arch’s span measures more than 300 feet from base to base. It is now a mere 11 feet thick in the center. Back in 1991 a 60-foot-long piece of rock fell off the bottom of the arch. No one can predict accurately how long this arch will stand as the rock is subject to gravity and constantly eroding.
In 2008, the Wall Arch along the popular Devils Garden Trail collapsed during the night, when no one observed the event. The arch was ranked 12th in size in the park; it was 71 feet wide and more than 33 feet high.
Another classic hike is up to see Delicate Arch, one of the most famous arches in the park. The trail starts at Wolfe Ranch parking area. It is a three miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of about 480 feet. There are some drop-offs so if you have small children along, be extra vigilant on this trail.
For even more adventure try the Devils Garden Primitive Loop, the longest maintained trail in the park. It is 7.2 miles roundtrip, well worth the effort because along your journey you will be treated to eight arches. The trail involves some rock scrambling and there are also narrow ledges to walk across, but you will find more solitude here than on other, shorter trails.
The Devils Garden Campground, with 50 sites, is the only camping in the park. It is usually reserved well in advance during the busy season from March through October, but try your luck at www.recreation.gov.
Many other camping and lodging choices outside the park, but still in the Moab area, are listed at www.discovermoab.com.
Arches National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. The visitor center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. through October with reduced hours through March. You can get further information at www.nps.gov/arch or at 435-719-2299.
Many of Deborah Wall’s columns were recently compiled with new information and photos in “Base Camp Las Vegas” and published by Stephens Press. She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.