Arches National Park, Utah – American Road Trip (pt28)
Sept 24, 2015. Day 46 of my American Road Trip.
The day after Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Colorado National Monument, I made my way into Utah and began my journey through some of the most beautiful locations in the United States. When I woke up in Grand Junction, Colorado that morning, Arches National Park was the only thing I thought I’d see that day. Thanks to my good friend and virtual tour guide, I got an added bonus via Highway 128 and the drive through Dewey and Castle Valley. Wow, what a great day of driving and hiking through some truly amazing natural wonders.
Highway 128 and Castle Valley
If you’re ever driving west from Colorado towards Moab, Utah on I-70, I’d highly recommend you exit at Highway 128 to witness the red sandstone corridors along the Colorado River that take you into eye-opening Castle Valley. It’s a visual treat you won’t soon forget.
Arches National Park
Highway 128 pops you right out onto Highway 191 and the entrance to Arches National Park. The park was packed when I arrived around 11:00 a.m. so I had to wait a bit to ask a Ranger my, “what should I see in a day” question. As usual, I got some great advice and was informed that Devils Garden Trailhead had a beautiful and somewhat strenuous hike through some of the park’s most popular arches, including Double O arch featured on top of this post.
The drive to Devil’s Garden also took me through most of the park and made seeing many other popular arches very easy. The pictures below illustrate my day driving and hiking through Arches National Park. Once again, I think was well served by a National Park Ranger.
This Arches map link might be a good reference if you’d like to see where the locations below are in the park.
The Organ and Fiery Furnace
Devil’s Garden Trail
The Devil’s Garden trailhead was packed with tourists when I arrived. There were tour buses lined up and the parking lot was almost full of cars. Lucky for me there are plenty of things to see at the trailhead and most of my fellow tourists weren’t up for the hike all the way to Double O Arch.
As the sign below reads, the trail is primitive, but I wouldn’t say it was extremely difficult. It does get narrow in a few spots and there are a few times you have to climb on all fours, but nothing strenuous or high heart rate painful. The worst part I’d say was the heat and the sun beating down on your for a couple of hours. But, as you can see below, the views and the arches are definitely worth the hike.
The first arch I saw on the hike was the very popular Landscape Arch. Up to this point, the trail is a relatively easy walk. After this is where it starts to get a little “primitive.”
Double O Arch
I honestly don’t remember how long it took to get to Double O Arch, but when I did I was definitely ready for a break. I had snack, explored the arches a bit and made my way to the very end of the trail and Dark Angel.
On my return hike from Double O Arch, I made my way to Navajo Arch. It’s much smaller than all the other arches and cool because it has an open area inside about 60 feet / 20 meters long. Like a caveman’s open air living room if you will. I liked it because it got me out of the sun for a few minutes.
After a few hours out on the trail, I was very happy to finally make it back to my car and relax a bit before heading to see a few more spots.
Relatively close to Devil’s Garden is Skyline Arch. I made a quick five-minute walk towards the arch to take a picture and continued on towards Delicate Arch.
When I arrived at Delicate Arch, I just didn’t have the energy (or time) to hike all the way up. So I made the 10 minute trek to the viewpoint, enjoyed it for the appropriate amount of time and moved on to the next set of arches.
North Window Arch
South Window Arch
My next stop was North Window and South Window Arches. If you look at the pictures, I’m sure you can guess how they got their names. The hike to and around the windows is very mellow and doesn’t take more than an hour.
When I started my hike towards the Window Arches, I saw a sign for Turret Arch and made my over to see it too. It’s quite impressive because it just sneaks up on you the way the trail weaves through other rocks. All of the sudden you’re just looking up at this massive structure.
On my way out of the park, I stopped by Park Avenue and realized that when I passed it earlier I had made a mistake. The lighting mid day would have been perfect to capture the sandstone version of New York’s Park Avenue. The towers were impressive in person regardless of light, but the shadows in the pictures at the end of the day don’t do it justice.
After Wall Street, my trip to Arches was complete. I felt good about the day and was happy with everything I saw. Now it was time to relax.
Next, I made my way to Moab, Utah and my hotel before meeting another old Marine Corps friend that was in town mountain biking for the weekend. I hadn’t seen Charles in over 15 years and then all the sudden we both just happened to be in Moab at the same time. I met up with him and his group of friends and had a solid evening of catching up and reminiscing about the good ol days. A great end to a pretty damn good day.
Arches National Park, Highway 128 and Castle Valley blew my mind and definitely were greater than anything I had expected. I’ll never forget driving into Castle Valley and just staring up in amazement at the giant shiny red rocks towering above me on all sides. That drive takes you right into Moab, Utah and is a must for anyone visiting Moab and the adjacent National Parks. It was truly a great introduction to the amazing natural landscapes in southern Utah.
Hope you enjoyed all the arches. That post was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Funny thing about writing and preparing all the pictures is it takes you back and helps you re-live and remember many parts of a trip you had forgotten. Definitely one of the benefits of writing this blog.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.