Home » 1999 Cross Country Road Trip

Arches National Park, UT

Saturday, August 7, 1999 - 7:00am by Lolo
60 miles and 1.75 hours from our last stop


Arches is a great place to take kids, because besides the great views along the scenic park road, there are numerous relatively short hikes to some very spectacular arches.

We started our visit as usual at the Visitor Center where we purchased our hat pins, got our National Park Passport books stamped, and gathered park information. We then proceeded along the scenic park road which passes most of the park's major sights.

Arches Park - Double ArchArches Park - Double ArchOur first stop was Balanced Rock where we took the short walk around the precariously balanced rock formation. However, this was "Arches," so the kids wanted to move along and see some of those. The day was really hot, so we decided to do some of the short hikes over in the Windows section of the park.

We first took the 1¼ mile Windows Loop past the North and South Windows, whose side by side arches looked like a giant pair of spectacles. Through the windows of the spectacles was a great view of Turret Arch, which as its name implies, is an arch with a tower-like structure attached.

Back at the parking lot, we convinced the kids to hike the ½ mile to the spectacular Double Arch, which is the third largest arch opening in the park. They loved this one because we actually climbed right up under the arch and along the caves in the rock wall next to it. I was quite nervous watching the kids scampering around up there, but they were a heck of a lot more sure-footed than I was. I find that they have a much better time when they can climb on stuff and not just look at it. It really was spectacular and we got some great photos.

It was really hot and the kids were pretty tired, but there was still so much to do and see--so we had to do some negotiating. The hike I really wanted to do was the 3-mile hike to Delicate Arch--that's the arch you see on the Utah license plate. However, that hike was pretty strenuous and the temperature was over 90, so we compromised on the 1.6 mile hike to Landscape Arch instead. The kids were sick of taking off their hiking boots, which were caked in red dust, every time they got into the RV, so we put plastic trash bags on them for the ride to the trailhead for Landscape Arch.

We continued our drive along the park road to the Devil's Garden Trailhead, stopping along the way at the various viewpoints. Especially noteworthy was the view of the colorful maze of red sandstone fins called the Fiery Furnace. This maze is so confusing that it is recommended that you only hike it on a ranger-led hike.

When we got to Devil's Garden at the end of the Park Road, we noticed that the kids were awfully quiet. What we saw in the back of the RV wasn't pretty. The two of them were slumped over the couches sound asleep with their little feet wrapped in trash bags--pretty pathetic. I must admit I felt some guilt waking them up for what I promised them would be our final hike of the day.

I think we were all glad that we made this final hike. Landscape Arch has to be one of the most beautiful arches in the park and I think the longest. It is 306 feet long and very thin--in fact, it is only 11 feet wide at its narrowest point. It is much more delicate looking than Delicate Arch, which I think would be a better name for it. You can no longer walk under Landscape Arch because there have been several incidences where rock slabs have fallen off of it. In 1991, a 73-foot slab fell off and was captured on video by a Swiss Tourist. I'm glad we got a chance to see this incredible arch before it collapses completely.

There are a lot more great hikes to do at Arches, like Delicate Arch and the Fiery Furnace, but I guess we'll have to save them for another trip. That's okay. It gives us a good excuse to come back to Arches again someday.


Arches National Park contains the greatest concentration of natural arches in the world--more than 2,000, and more are being discovered every day. The park is more than just arches, however. There are also numerous brilliantly-colored balanced rocks, spires, fins, and domes made of the same soft red sandstone.

The park's 77,000 acres are part of southern Utah's canyonlands, which have been carved and shaped through millions of years of erosion. About 300 million years ago, a 3,000 foot thick layer of salt was left behind in this region when the inland seas evaporated. Over millions of years, debris covered the salt bed and compressed into rock. The salt layer shifted, thrusting the rock layers upward into domes. Further pressures from within the earth produced vertical cracks in the domes. Millions of years of surface erosion gradually stripped away the younger layer of these domes, exposing the salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone and yellow Navajo Sandstone below. The cycle of freezing and melting of water within the cracks in the rocks caused bits of them to break away forming free-standing fins. Wind and water continued to do their job on these fins, breaking off chunks of rock and forming the arches we see today.

Unlike Canyonlands, Arches is much more visitor-friendly in that its treasures are much more easily accessible. A 41-mile round-trip paved road in the park leads to the major sights, including Balanced Rock, the Windows Section, the Fiery Furnace, and Devil's Garden. From these stops, relatively short trails lead to most of the park's main attractions.

From the Windows Parking lot you can take the 1 ¼ mile Windows Loop past North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Another choice from there is the ½ mile hike to the spectacular Double Arch.

Delicate Arch is probably the best-known feature in the park--it's even on Utah license plates. The hike to Delicate Arch, which is probably the most scenic hike in the park, is a 3-mile round trip, fairly strenuous one across slickrock and along a narrow cliff. However, the dramatic and spectacular view of 45-foot-high, 33-foot-wide Delicate Arch perched on the very edge of a slickrock bowl at the end make every bit of it worthwhile. Because of the heat, this hike should be done late in the afternoon. That's also when the lighting is best for photography.

In the summer, rangers lead guided walks into the Fiery Furnace, which is named for its sandstone fins that turn flaming red when the lighting is low. Reservations and fee are required and must be made at the visitor center.

At the end of the scenic drive at Devil's Garden, there is a 52-site campsite which works on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground is surrounded by spectacular red sandstone rock formations and is the starting point for several hikes into the Devil's Garden, which contains the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The campground usually fills up early, so you have to get their early in the day.

Arches National Park location map

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