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Arches National Park, Utah

October 7, 2008 Home

If there is one common theme to every aspect of this vacation, it has got to be driving. To go to Arches National Park required a four hour one-way drive from our perch in Little Cottonwood Canyon above Salt Lake City, but we would find the drive to be well worth it. In fact, visiting this place has probably been the highlight of our trip.

Delicate Arch and surroundings

Driving into the park, we were immediately greeted by walls of red and orange rock, with formations such as the Three Gossips, the Tower of Babel, and the The Great Wall, among others. This was no small area, such as the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. No, this road went on for 15 miles, and we had not yet seen the most spectacular rock formations.

Holly standing under Delicate Arch

Knowing next to nothing about the park ahead of time, all I did know was that I wanted to hike to the Delicate Arch. Holly and I parked at the crowded lot at Wolfe Ranch and hiked the 1.8 mile trail to the arch. Along the way, we detoured to scramble up to a miniature arch that allowed our first view of Delicate Arch and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

The trail continued along a ledge to the final natural rock basin before the main destination. We hiked the interesting semicircle until we were standing underneath the massive balanced arch, an incredible spectacle that does indeed appear delicate—as if it is to collapse at any time. Immediately beyond the arch, a cliff dropped off to the valley below. We took our moment for pictures, then quickly got out of the way so others could have their turn. We stayed to admire the scenery for a few more moments, but the day was flying by and we still had most of the park to get to.


On our hike back to Wolfe Ranch, we detoured from the main trail to view the petroglyphs—interesting drawings on the rocks from maybe 150 years ago.

Landscape Arch

Holly wanted to see the Landscape Arch, so next we drove to the northern end of the park and began hiking from the Devil’s Garden Trailhead through a sea of red rock formations that made my head spin. Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the Landscape Arch, the sun was behind the rock walls, casting dark shadows over Devil’s Garden. We were also disappointed to find that hiking off the trail up to the arch is no longer allowed because of its fragile state and the potential for rock-fall. But we did at least see the 300-foot long arch, and we caught glimpses of some of the surrounding arches, such as Double O and Navajo Arch.

Skyline Arch

After hiking back to the car, we still had a small amount of daylight to work with. We stopped to take pictures at Skyline Arch and Balanced Rock, but nothing in my mind compared to our final short hike of the day: to Double Arch. We glanced at the North and South Window Arches, but when we turned our heads and saw Parade of the Elephants and the Double Arch, Holly and I both looked at each other and decided we had to hike over there before the sun set.

Balanced Rock

Parade of the Elephants does look convincingly like elephants made of rock, all walking in one direction as if they are trying to pass through the Double Arch. As we followed the trail we gazed in awe at this double-tiered rock formation. We continued scrambling up the rocks until we were sitting in the uppermost arch, looking down a sheer drop-off on the opposite side, with Balanced Rock visible in the distance as the sun continued to near the western horizon. What a beautiful place!

Double Arch

Even with all our exploring we did not get to see nearly all of Arches National Park, but I think we made it to most of the highlights. Double Arch sticks in my mind as the most memorable spot of all, something so seemingly unnatural but altogether aesthetic and beautiful. We visited Arches National Park almost as an afterthought on this vacation, but were we ever glad we decided to go!