Adventures in Utah: Arches National Park

‘Land really is the best art.’ —Andy Warhol

After an evening in Moab, I hit my last ‘Mighty Five,’ Arches National Park early in the morning! Arches is considered the gateway to the Mighty Five and it was supposed to be mine but it was my final stop (due to Covid restrictions at Zion). It is also incredibly popular, so popular that they actually will close the gates due to overcrowding. I had read this, so made sure I got there first thing and even arriving around 8 it was busy. I should also note that Moab is doing road construction so getting in and out of Arches at peak times can be arduous. Traveling from Canyonlands to Moab (you drive past Arches, which is about 3 miles outside the town) took a long time, I sat in traffic for about an hour. Be prepared and have plenty of gas!

If you plan on visiting Arches during the summer, I HIGHLY recommend going very early in the morning with lots of water as it is very, very hot with little shade and difficult hikes. I had moderate temperatures and by 1, I was pretty done. This should be kept in mind especially if you want to hike to see Delicate Arch, one of the most famous landmarks in the country. The map the NPS gives you is really handy, giving you a list of key attractions, the distance to reach them, and the difficulty of the hike. I used the loo at the visitors center and reviewed the map. I saw Delicate Arch was a roughly three mile, difficult hike. I made the decision, as it was 8 am and about 65 degrees to immediately go there. Thank god I did because it is, in fact, a difficult hike. I do not recommend if you have any type of respiratory issues or bad knees. The walk to the arch is about a mile straight up a rock slab. It wasn’t overly hot and I still felt overheated. The walk back is down hill, so you want to make sure you have good treads on your shoes for grip. Once you’ve survived the first part, you walk a narrow path around a rock face until you reach essentially a giant bowl with Delicate Arch on one end.

Fortunately, there are plenty of spots to sit to catch your breath, orient yourself, and, in my case, build up enough courage to go under the arch (living furiously is still sometimes at odds with my fear of heights). I did see a cute chipmunk and more ravens! Everyone is very polite and there’s a line for your photo. The person behind you takes your photo and you do the same for them. This is also the moment that made me feel like shit because the lovely couple behind me took some beautiful shots of me under the arch. I did not…while I gave them my phone (and so glad I upgraded to the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max before I left), they gave me a regular, slightly more advanced than a point and click camera and then didn’t tell me how to use it. It wasn’t a fancy camera but lord knows how to zoom in and out on it (plus I was not wearing my glasses, so couldn’t read it). Well, I have zero faith their photos turned out well. Hopefully they noticed this and got someone else to try. But the moral of the story is to just give people your phone. On a better note, a fun fact, the Delicate Arch is properly named, it could collapse at any moment (unlikely but it could). The NPS has tried to find solutions to its precarious state but have been unsuccessful and decided to trust nature (good move). So don’t miss your shot!

After Delicate Arch, be sure to check out the pictographs as you leave the area. They’re from the Ute and, like, a thousand years old! Then I hopped in my car (yay, a/c) and headed to the Sand Dune Arch. It is a easy hike but still tiring as you are walking in desert sand (very similar to the feeling of walking on the beach in your trainers). You walk through a slot canyon and the Sand Dune Arch is along the wall. Again, for the most part people take turns…except for this woman who kept walking into my shot! Sand Dune Arch Trail is to the right and to the left is Broken Arch trail. Do not take Broken Arch trail if you have any issues walking. Other than more desert sand, you have to climb up a slick rock, under an arch, to access the rest of the trail. I literally crab walked my way back down. It is also a few mile hike…in desert sand. I did not complete the hike but got close enough to see the Broken Arch. By the time I was on the trail, it was very hot, I had already hiked about 7 miles, desert sand is exhausting and I was over it. Its okay to just have had enough, especially in an extreme climate. While I was there, there was some sort of incident because as I was driving, several police cars and an ambulance came screaming around the bend. Stay safe!

Another area I did not make it to was the Devil’s Garden. For one, it was VERY crowded when I arrived around 1:30 and, the main reason, to see all of the main views was fairly long hikes and I had reached my limit. If I had had the time, I would have stayed another night in Moab and gone back the following morning (perk of the parks pass) but I didn’t have an extra day. Also, while I did see The Fiery Furnace, it was closed to hikes. You need a permit or sign up with a park guide but due to Covid, this has been suspended. While much of the park you have to hike to, a lot you can see from your car, including Balanced Rock and Windows, so that’s nice.

Arches was very cool. That many of the arches were created due to earthquakes is truly something. I grew up in California and we do not have anything that cool. Nature is truly something else and I’m so grateful that I was able to spend time here. So much so, as you’ll see in my next post, it has pushed me to reconsider some of my long term plans!

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