Arches National Park
Here, an azure sky contrasts with a crimson and gold panorama of graceful arches, spires, and fins. Made a national monument in 1929 and a national park in 1971, Arches protects more than 76,000 acres of desert landscape and more than 2,000 arches, the world’s largest concentration. The rock formations—some fanciful, some bizarre, all breathtaking—were carved over millennia by erosion and exfoliation of the Entrada sandstone that formed over thick salt beds more than 150 million years ago.
As the salt dissolved, it warped and cracked the sandstone into vertical ridges that, in turn, eroded into fins. Repeated freezing and thawing chipped away at these, resulting in windows and arches. The process continues today, as rock falls destroy older formations and new ones emerge from eroding fins.
The scenic park drive winds more than 20 miles each way, extending as far as the Devils Garden Trailhead. You can see plenty of awe-inspiring scenery from your car window, but be sure to get out and follow a couple short trails up to the formations. Some, such as the famous Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, with its seemingly impossible 306-foot span, require moderate hikes to view at close range. (A fully accessible 100-yard trail leads to a good, albeit distant, viewpoint of Delicate Arch.)
Before setting out, stop by the visitors center near the park entrance to see the short video (shown every half-hour) on park history, pick up a self-guided tour booklet, and browse in the bookstore. You can also make reservations and buy tickets for the ranger-led tour through the Fiery Furnace. There aren’t any food concessions in the park (pack accordingly), but drinking water is available at the visitors center and Devils Garden. The Devils Garden Campground fills to capacity every night between March and October, so plan ahead and check in early.
U.S. Hwy. 191
- Moab, Utah 84532
- 38.61609000, -109.61262000
- Visitors Center: daily 9--4; with extended summer hrs.
- Visit Website
- (435) 719-2299