Tunnel Arch on the Landscape Arch Trail
Arches is exactly as its name implies – a park full of natural, rock arches. In my non-science brain, I understand the formation of arches as this. There was a layer of sandstone that formed porous rock. Below that was a layer of clay and sand that formed a less porous rock. Somehow salt from underneath both layers came up forming domes. With more shifts of the earth, a rock formed over the salt layer. Over time, rain eroded openings. Arches aren’t permanent and in 2008, Wall Arch eroded away. For it to be considered an arch, the opening must be at least 3 feet wide. Today Arches NP boasts over 2,000 of these formations.
For sunrise, we started at the Windows section. An ideal hike for an overview, the 1-mile loop allows access to three arches. Driving past the visitor center, the three gossips, Wall Street and Balanced Rock, the red stones began to light up with a pink hue. Parking at the Windows section, we took the trail to the North Windows. From the other side, we saw tripods clicking away as the sun rose through the arch opening onto Turret Arch. Climbing under the arch is quite exhilarating as its more magnificent than it looks. Once past the opening, we climbed several rocks to get to the photography staging area. It was a bit challenging at first, but once over this one set of rocks, I was fine.
North Windows Arch with Turret Arch with Turret Arch in the background.
I loved the dedication of the photographers. Besides them, the park was a quiet hush. We spent time under Windows Arch and then walked over to Turret Arch. An hour after sunrise more people showed up. Even though it was still beautiful, I wanted to tell the people to come an hour earlier.
Next. we drove the scenic drive to the Devil’s Garden parking area to take the 1.6-mile (round-trip) hike to Landscape Arch. Considered the longest arch in the park at over 300 feet (think one football field), it didn’t impress me at first. From the angle of the trail, rocks behind the arch made it disappear into the landscape. Not until we continued past the several lookouts did we get to the best view with the blue sky appearing through the arch.
In the evening, we returned to the park. I took the 1/2-mile (round-trip) walk to Double Arch from the Windows parking lot. You truly can’t see it until you get almost up to it as it is between several large fins. Two arches start at the same point. Several people climbed underneath the arch but since I was alone, I didn’t feel comfortable. I got about halfway up, took pictures and left mainly because several kids were running around and jumping seemingly unsupervised. Two brothers thought it was fun to throw small rocks down below while the parents were completely oblivious. Only when the mother thought her son fell did she clue into the fact they were throwing rocks. Although people weren’t in the path of the falling rocks, I wanted to get away from these crazies.
Every tour book says tourists must see Delicate Arch. No wonder – it’s the emblem on the Utah license plate. Although there’s an overlook to the arch, hikers recommend taking the difficult 3-mile hike at sunset to get to the actual arch. I would consider the trail moderate – not difficult, but it does have an increase in elevation. At one point, its similar to climbing Stone Mountain. At the very top, a ledge with steep sides gets you to the final area. Once at the top, it looked like an outdoor concert. Hikers and photographers all focused on the beautiful arch. A family in front of us had a full picnic with blankets and candles.
I took one of our daughters to get a quick picture under the arch. As long as you did it quickly, photographers were nice. One man who kept making funny poses and taking a long time under the arch received boos from the crowd. Snow capped mountains stood up from the distance. A large bowl-shaped area plunged from the right of the arch. As the sun descended, the colors on the arch began changing and the temperatures lowered. In hushed silence everyone enjoyed the natural beauty, picked up their belongings and began to hike back.
The way back leads mostly downhill. However, careful attention to not to roll off the mountain is necessary. The looming mountains grew bigger during the descent as the sky darkened. Worth it? Absolutely.
If we’d have more time, I’d like to have hiked Skyline Arch and Sand Dune Arch. For more information about the park click here.