Friday, July 24, 2015

Two days in Arches National Park.

Arches National Park is one of those iconic places that everyone knows about and everyone wants to visit. And for good reason - it's absolutely stunning.

exhibit A
(Broken Arch)

exhibit B
(vistas from the Devil's Garden trail)

It's also very crowded.

exhibit C
(Disneyland at Delicate Arch)

Granted, we did visit on a Friday and Sunday on a busy weekend in June, but I have a feeling it's like that all the time.

Anyway. We spent two full days driving the scenic drive, hiking the various hikes, and checking off every arch and viewpoint on the map. (No kidding - every single one.) We stretched out our stay to two days because we could, but you really don't have to drive or walk far to see many of the amazing sights. Time-crunched travelers could probably see enough in a few hours.

The hikes. This is mostly a drive-through park but there are a handful of areas where you can get off the beaten path for an hour or three.

Day One: The 7.2 mile Devil's Garden hike is billed as "primitive," "difficult," and "longest of the trails" - which, to us, translates to "less crowded" - so we headed straight for that one first. The trail features several of the park's more secluded arches, a giant upright rock formation, and miles of beautiful "fins" in the landscape.

salt + wind + water = this

attempting a spooky face
at Dark Angel

Double O Arch

Navajo Arch

Partition Arch
(where everyone says "ooooooooooooh"
as soon as they turn the corner and see the view)

Landscape Arch

Parts of the trail were normal trail; other parts were definitely "primitive."

hiking up a fin

not the trail

the trail
(a long fin with a 50' drop on either side)

We also hiked the ~2 mile Broken Arch/Sand Dune Arch trail that day. Both were much more accessible and therefore more crowded. These arches also featured tourists climbing on the arches and getting way too close to areas that were marked with signs saying "dangerous, don't get too close" due to recent rockfalls.

Seriously... Arches was the first park where we saw people routinely disrespecting park regulations by tromping over the cryptobiotic soil and scaling rocks; while rock climbing is allowed in some areas, the park specifically prohibits climbing rocks with openings greater than three feet. Most frustrating was watching young children run all over the place while their parents egged them on. This trend would continue over the next several parks in Utah.

[Begin soapbox.] Park rules exist to protect both the natural beauty of the park and the safety of visitors, and the National Park Service doesn't have the funds to properly staff parks to ensure that the rules are enforced. Parents, it's up to you - please teach your children to respect our national parks! [End soapbox.]

Day Two: First was a short, hot hike up to Delicate Arch.

mandatory photo op

From there we headed down to the Windows Section and walked the "primitive" path. (Apparently they weren't too creative with names in this area of the park!)

North Window
(really? not "Cat Eyes" or "Bandit"?)

South Window
(faces... you guessed it... south)

Turret Arch
(maybe "The Scream" would've been more appropriate?)

Double Arch
(at least it wasn't sponsored by McDonald's)

And of course we stopped at Balanced Rock...

three school buses big

That's right, Arches National Park isn't just about arches. Many of the rocks scattered throughout the park are like clouds and we had fun "rock spotting" during our walks and drives. Some had actual names on the park map...

Parade of Elephants

The Organ

Ham Rock

Others, we named ourselves.

T-Rex Rock

Abraham Lincoln Rock

We stopped at the remaining viewpoints and ended the day with a stroll through Park Avenue, a gorgeous canyon with rock walls towering on either side.

Manhattan skyline, eat your heart out

Many, many more pictures here... It's quite a photogenic place.

The campsite. There is a campground at Arches National Park but it was full that weekend. Almost everything was full that weekend, actually - the rodeo was in town and there was also a marathon happening. There are BLM campsites all around Moab but honestly, we just didn't feel like driving around for hours to maybe find a campsite so we sucked it up and stayed at Arch View Resort.

our first and last RV park

It had showers, laundry facilities, wifi, a market that sold beer, and a lovely view of the gas station from the median strip where they put tent campers. For RVers, it was perfect. For us... not so much.

best thing about the RV park
(see third arrow from top)

In hindsight we should've planned in advance and stayed at Dead Horse Point State Park, where we could've seen the location of that scene in "Thelma and Louise" where they drive off the cliff. Next time!

The food. We held off on hot dogs until just the right campsite... the RV park in Moab was just the right campsite.

franks and salad

franks and beans and cheese

The summary. Arches National Park was gorgeous and definitely worth visiting. Two full days was probably overkill, and fairly overstimulating too. Near the end of our visit we'd see a beautiful rock formation and say, "oh look, a beautiful rock formation" and then we'd talk about what we wanted for dinner, because our brains just couldn't take any more densely-packed beauty. If we were to do it all over, we probably would have spent just a day in the Devil's Garden area and moved on.

still a good time though!

Or maybe we would have visited in March or October when it wasn't so crowded. At any rate - two down, three to go!


  1. Wow, how did you know where to look/what the names of all the rock formations are? I remember in Sedona I would hear some of the names/get them pointed out on tours, but not when we were hiking on our own before the tour that evening....

    1. They're actually on the park map and labeled pretty clearly with signs near the pulloffs or trails in Arches. Good thing, too - otherwise we would've made up names for them as well. :)

  2. Gorgeous!! Arches is definitely on our list to visit.

  3. Wonderful pictures....I'd be pretty ticked at the "bad tourist behavior" as well!

    1. Yes, Bryce and Zion were equally bad. We only really noticed it in in Utah, for some reason. Maybe because there were SO many tourists that the bad behavior really stood out.

  4. I have been dying to go to Arches for forever! Your photos are so good.

    It's too bad about people not following the rules at the park. That's something that always frustrates me too. We've got to keep beautiful places like Arches safe so that everyone can enjoy it. Looks like you are having a great trip though!

    1. Thanks Chloe! We did have a great road trip. We're back in Portland for a little while now, enjoying that too. And I finally have time to catch up on these blog posts. :)

  5. Hahaha... man, you crack me up. I'd have stayed far, far away from the most difficult hikes and you take it on like it is nothing! Amazing. It looks gorgeous. It is so frustrating that the people weren't following park rules... I hate that so much, especially when someone gets hurt or something gets ruined and then they turn around and feel like it is the parks fault because there aren't more signs or rails or what-have-you. People in general need to be more respectful of the space that they take up in the world.

    1. Yep... Sad to say but of the 17 countries we visited on this trip, the westerners were really bad about this, and Americans were among the worst! Very disappointing... This is why we try to get as far away from them as possible in the parks. :)

  6. Amazing! We had the privilege of visiting Zion National Park a few years ago, but missed the Arches. We must get back down there and take a tour. Just stunning vistas! Even though these are great photos, I bet it's better in person.

  7. Ah, I've been dying to go to Arches. I've always wanted to go there ever since I fell in love with some photos from there years ago. Though reading your blog post made me realize how crowded and hot it also must be. Was it kind of like Angkor Wat, beautiful but too many people to really enjoy it? Or was it still worth all the crowds?

    1. I think with the right attitude anything can be totally enjoyable. That said, I wouldn't recommend Arches between June-September. Delicate Arch was a steady line of people. April or October might be better weather-wise and crowd-wise.

      We had a pretty good time at Angkor Wat - it's so HUGE that even in the crowded spots we didn't always notice all the people. Thanks for mentioning that, btw. I just re-read our post about our visit to the temples last year. Fun walk down memory lane. :)

  8. i sure hope that rock resembling Abraham Lincoln doesn't get assassinated

    1. I know you're just being silly, but on a related note I thought it was pretty odd that you can bring a loaded firearm into a national park - but shooting guns in national parks is mostly illegal... (Except when it's not. I don't understand gun laws.) Leave your swords at home though!

  9. My husband, grandson and I visited Aches in early October, it was pretty crowded then, as was Yellowstone which we visit the week before. We encountered several tour groups.
    Arches is now considering limiting the number of visitor per day because it has become a problem.

    1. Good to know, that's probably better for the park anyway. (Or they could take a hint from Bryce and Zion and offer shuttles instead of letting people drive through. It may not be as fun for the visitors - although we enjoyed Zion's shuttle service - but it definitely prolongs the life of the park.) Thanks for the feedback!