This summer while having some down time due to covid-19, I decided to take a road trip to explore new places I’d never been before. The first stop of my adventures was in Moab, Utah. There I got the chance to go see Arches National Park! A place that holds more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches as well as many other geological formations that leave you in awe.
Where I Stayed
Just south of the national park, in the north end of Moab, is a canyon that follows along the Colorado river. Inside this canyon you’ll follow road 128, and nestled just inside is the Grandstaff Campground. The campground is named for the side canyon that runs off from the Moab Canyon and allows you quick easy access to go hiking from your site. It’s a first come, first serve type of campground, so I recommend you get there early in the morning to grab a site because it’s one of the more popular campgrounds in the area.
With it being the end of July when I decided to go, it was definitely top summer temperatures reaching 103F during the day. In the evenings it dropped down to 75F, but being in a canyon makes these temperatures a bit more bearable. All but two of the campsites have a really good number of shaded trees, but again it’s popular so you need to get there early. I unfortunately didn’t get there early enough and ended up at one of the two non-shaded sites. No worries though, because I came prepared with a couple of pop ups for shade just in case. Not to mention, the campground is right up next to the river allowing you to walk to the water for a nice cool dip during the day.
The campground is surrounded by stunning canyon views. Another perk of the campgrounds is that you’re only about a ten minutes’ drive from the entrance of Arches National Park and about ten minutes the opposite way to get into Moab should you need anything like ice or food. The cherry on top for camping in this area are the sunrises with breathtaking colors on the canyon walls and water. I recommend this place should you ever find yourself camping out in the Moab area or headed to the park.
A Day in Arches National Park
To start my adventures, I went all the way to the north end of the park to start my day on the Devils Garden loop trail. The trail itself is about 7.8 miles long and a wonderful hike that gives you the chance to see six arches and with an extra 2 and ¼ miles of a hike, you can also go see Double O Arch and the Dark Angel. The trail is well maintained and wide, making it easy to get around other people on the trail.
The Devils Garden trail leads to Landscape Arch, one of the world’s largest spanning natural arches, reaching 306’ across. From there, the trail takes on more of an incline but takes you across the top of some spectacular rock formations that give you views of a lifetime. I’d have to say that part of the trail is probably my most favorite. Not only because of the views but also because of the nice breeze you get on top, which when you’re there in the summer is very appreciated. If you do happen to find yourself there during the summer season, it’s best if you start with this trail as early as the sun comes up to make the hike cooler due to the lack of shade on the trail. After making my way through the garden all the way to the back to see Dark Angel, I worked my way back down through the park making my stops along the way.
On the way back down the national park road, my first stop was to Skyline Arch, and then to Sand Dune and Broken Arch. Sand Dune Arch, I think was my favorite arch of the day because of how it is hidden amongst a bunch of sandstone fins, and the trail suddenly turns into complete sand to get to it. To me, Sand Dune Arch almost looks like a hawk feeding its young. The way to get to Broken Arch, you have to hike out away from Sand Dune Arch a little bit, which by this time of the day for me it was close to 100F. Make sure you bring plenty of water and sunblock with you out on these trails. Even just being outside for a few minutes can result in a slight sun burn if your skin is more sensitive.
From there I made my way down to Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. Due to covid, the Fiery Furnace trail is currently closed, but the sights from the viewpoint are still spectacular. It’s an area that’s surrounded by fins, spires, and arches, making it a great place for shots if you’re a photographer. Once covid is hopefully gone and things open back up, I hope to go back during the fall or winter to go hike out to the Fiery Furnace.
After the viewpoint, I went to Delicate Arch. Now at Delicate Arch, you can either drive further down to go to the Upper and Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoints that are shorter trails but don’t go all the way to the arch itself, or you can hike three miles to get right up to the arch. With the temperatures being 104F by this time, I opted to go to the Upper view area. This still provided a unique view of the arch as it sits up on top of a massive fin with wide open skyline around it. I’ll save the three mile hike for next time when I go back and it’s not so hot out.
After going to several arches, I then went to the North and South Window Arches which are right across from Double Arch. Not to be confused with Double O Arch. I promise there’s a difference in the names for a reason once you see the two arches. This section of the park has been said to be one of the more scenic areas due to the number of arches and other features such as Elephant Butte, the Parade of Elephants, and the Garden of Eden; all compressed into about a 2 square mile area. Double Arch is enormous as it towers over you, making you realize you’re quite small compared to nature. It’s the tallest arch in the entire park and the second longest in width of arches just behind Landscape arch.
After Double Arch, I stopped in the Garden of Eden followed by Balanced Rock, a formation that makes you wonder what kind of magic nature is pulling to allow such a massive boulder to be balanced on top of the formation below it. However, it’s actually not balanced. The boulder of Entrada Sandstone is attached to the Dewey Bridge mudstone pillar below it, and is slowly eroding away.The boulder on top is estimated to weigh 3,600 tons. There used to be more than one Balanced Rock in the park, but with time, those fell over. Nothing at Arches National Park stays the same. Erosion is constantly at work out there in the desert of the park, but that’s part of what makes it spectacular to go and see. What you see the day you go may not be there for the next generation to see. I have no doubt that at some point Balanced Rock will fall over like its predecessors, and in time hopefully a new Balanced Rock will form giving me another thing to come back and see in the future.
Last but not least I stopped at the famous Three Gossips on my way out of the park, one of the more iconic formations in the park attached to the Courthouse. These three formations look like people standing around telling tales to each other, hence the name they were given. I could only imagine the things they could tell us after the number of years they’ve been standing, if only they could talk. They certainly leave people talking as they drive into the park as they appear after you’ve gone up multiple switch backs to get up the top of a steep cliff to the plateau.
Although I spent a day in the park, I still have so much more to see there, such as the Marching Men, Tower Arch, Eye of the Whale Arch, and many more. If you get the chance to go, I recommend giving yourself two days to explore Arches National Park if you want to see all of it like I do. I myself will be going back to see the rest of all the arches, fins, spires, and other formations. All I saw thoughout this park makes it a unique wonder all its own that stands out amongst the rest in our country. It’s a hidden gem in the middle of a desert; one that is ever changing and will never stand still or stop changing as time continues to move. It’s a place that will leave you in awe of nature and eternally inspired by your surroundings. A must see to be added to your list of places to go in your lifetime.