Mother Nature’s imagination went a little nuts here, creating a crazy land of shapes and colors in rock that’s still changing quickly enough to measure in a human lifespan. There are more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches in Arches National Park, and since 1970, more than 43 arches have collapsed within the park (so there’s a reason why they tell you not to wander into the arches). To be considered an arch, the rock’s opening must measure at least three feet in any direction. Landscape Arch, which measures 360 feet base to base, is the widest in the park and the hike to see it is an easy 1.6 miles through an area called Devil’s Garden, with additional beautiful arches tucked away on the Devil’s Garden Trail.
There are also petrified dunes here, which I had never heard of until I saw this view:
Right in the middle of the park is the area known as The Fiery Furnace, a dramatic collection of needles that you can hike through on either a Ranger led tour, or with a permit for advanced hikers.
I had read this hike was a “must do”, but all the slots were booked, so I chose to plop myself at this lookout for the late afternoon views, which was a very agreeable alternative.
Another easy and beautiful hiking option is the Park Avenue Trail, which is basically one way through these stunning rocks (you’ll need someone to pick you up at the other end, or else you’ll need to retrace your steps back to the trail head.)
I found that pretty much any stop along the main road yielded dramatic views of vibrant colored rock walls, or formations that often looked like birds or other animals. I was surprised at how different the view was at each stop.
In a park filled with beautiful arches, the most dramatic one (to me) was Double Arch, which is located in the Windows Section of the park. There is definitely a draw here, and even in early morning, there were people crawling as high into this formation as they could.
Overall impression: I spent two days hiking various trails inside of Arches, and they were two days of stunningly beautiful views. The entrance line to the park starts forming by about 9 am, and the main road through the park started to get crowded by around 10 am. At that point, any arch that was accessible to human clamoring was filled with people. Heading here early in the day worked as a strategy for me, and I was at my destination trail head each day by 7 am.
Costs: Access to the park is $25 per vehicle and there are no food concessions available, but water filling stations are located at the Visitor’s Center. I got in free with my annual National Park Pass.