Updated: Feb 7
After a fantastic day exploring Capital Reef Resort, we arrived in Moab to overpowering structures of deep red rock formations looming high above us. The overpowering urge to check out some of these amazing red rock landscapes took over quickly, and we opted to forgo checking in to our accommodation, and instead explore before the last light from the sun faded low into the sky.
Arches National Park is located just 5 miles (8 km) north of Moab along highway 191, contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches and an astounding variety of other geological formations.
Hikers can choose from a wide variety of trails, from short twenty minute walks leading right up to many of the largest arches in the park, to more adventurous hikes into lesser seen areas.
Colossal sandstone fins, massive balanced rocks, soaring pinnacles and spires dwarf visitors as they explore the park’s viewpoints and hiking trails.
The landscape can change from flat pads of sandy soil and shrubs to huge structures of red rocks throughout your hikes.
Just a few of the beautiful formations as you enter into Arches National Park.
A gentle climb up a gravel loop trail leads to three massive arches (North and South Windows and Turret Arch).
An alternate return, slightly longer, is by way of the primitive loop around the back of the two Windows. The primitive loop trail starts at the South Window viewpoint.
Looking back toward the car park from North Windows.
From the Park Avenue parking area, there is a trail that descends steeply into a spectacular canyon and continues down the wash to Courthouse Towers.
It's amazing the views from the side of the road travelling through Arches National Park.
I just loved the varying landscapes, from rocky plains to the towering mountains in the background.
One of the more rewarding ways to see the park is on foot, so throw on those hiking shoes and experience the magic of this place.
A short paved trail leads visitors to the base of Balanced Rock. The landform’s total height is 128 feet, with the huge balanced rock rising 55 feet above its base.
"The story of Arches begins roughly 65 million years ago. At that time, the area was a dry seabed spreading from horizon to horizon. If you stood in Devils Garden then, the striking red rock features we see today would have been buried thousands of feet below you, raw material as yet uncarved. Then the landscape slowly began to change."
"First, geologic forces wrinkled and folded the buried sandstone, as if it were a giant rug and someone gathered two edges towards each other, making lumps across the middle called Anticlines. As the sandstone warped, fractures tore through it, establishing the patterns for rock sculptures of the future."
"Next, the entire region began to rise, climbing from sea level to thousands of feet in elevation. What goes up must come down, and the forces of erosion carved layer after layer of rock away. Once exposed, deeply buried sandstone layers rebounded and expanded, like a sponge expands after it's squeezed (though not quite so quickly). This created even more fractures, each one a pathway for water to seep into the rock and further break it down."
"Today, water shapes this environment more than any other force. Rain erodes the rock and carries sediment down washes and canyons to the Colorado River. Desert varnish appears where water cascades off cliffs. In winter, snowmelt pools in fractures and other cavities, then freezes and expands, breaking off chunks of sandstone."
"Small recesses develop and grow bigger with each storm. Little by little, this process turns fractured rock layers into fins, and fins into arches. Arches also emerge when potholes near cliff edges grow deeper and deeper until they wear through the cliff wall below them. In addition to grand arches, water dissolves small honeycomb formations called tafoni."
You can lose the perspective of size and distance in photos, but just check out Peter on the smaller rock in the photo.
"Over time, the same forces that created these arches will continue to widen them until they collapse. Standing next to a monolith like Delicate Arch, it's easy to forget that arches are impermanent. Yet the fall of Wall Arch in 2008 reminded us that this landscape continues to change. While some may fall, most of these arches will stand well beyond our lifetime: a lifetime blessed with an improbable landscape 65 million years in the making."
These structures are amazing and their size, enormous. Peter in the back of this photo.
A lovely hidden arch we stumbled across.
The longest of the maintained trails in the park, the Devils Garden Trail leads to eight awe-inspiring arches. You can expect narrow ledges with rocky surface hiking and scrambling on slickrock. There is an area where you have to clamber uphill between two lots of rocks, making sure you keep your footing and balance. Make sure you can keep your hands free (cameras away and backpacks secure) to assist in the uphill climb. The remaining photos are from our 6 hour hike over the primitive trail.
The views are stunning and we enjoyed lunch under the arch.
If you hike the entire 7.2-mile loop, you get to see eight arches!
Some of the trails as we ventured further were not marked and we got lost several times.
We did not encounter many people on this hike and at one point in time hadn't seen a person for well over two hours.
The Devils Garden Trail has all of the ingredients for a perfect hike in Arches National Park.
What makes the Devils Garden Trail so great is that you can pick and choose what you want to do.
Beyond Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more challenging as it climbs over sandstone slabs; footing is rocky; there are narrow ledges with exposure to heights. Spur trails lead to Partition and Navajo Arches. Dark Angel is one-half mile (0.8 km) farther.
Along the way, go rock scrambling, hike along fins of sandstone rock, and enjoy some of the best views of the park.
It is recommended to take at least 1 quart (1 litre) of water per person - I drank way more than that. The entire hike took us about 6 hours, but we did stop for lunch, afternoon tea and had to have some fun as well. Remember there is no shade on the hike. There is open slickrock with lots of exposure to heights, and very narrow ledges.
After such a hike, it's always nice to return to some luxury. I can highly recommend staying at Sunflower Inn. The most quaint, lovely and special place in Moab. We chose the Sunset Room (stunning) which had a lovely lounge and bedroom, including a verandah where we couldn't resist eating dinner one night and watching the deer that wandered through the backyard. Don't forget the outdoor spa which was open late into the night - sitting there around 10.00pm and watching the amazing starry night - what better way to finish the day.