Arches National Park has been a bucket-list destination for me for years. I’ve dreamed of standing under natural stone arches and staring out into the beauty of the west, and finally, I did it. Nothing could have prepared me for the beauty that awaited me in Moab, Utah.
Gazing out into the Garden of Eden
Moab, Utah is in the southeast corner of the state, between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The town is nestled down in the heart of red stone mesas. While only 5,000 people live in the town, it is dominated by tourism that is driven in by these national parks. I spent four days here and I loved every minute of it.
Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches and covers 119 square miles. Believe me, every square inch is breath-taking. The park is divided into different sections, all of which you can drive to. The drive through the park is spectacular on its own, but then you can also hop out to get up-close and personal with arches.
The Windows Section
After pulling into the park we had to switchback up these mesas to get to the top, where the actual park is located. After driving about nine miles you will arrive at the Windows Section. This was my personal favorite, which made for a great start to the day. There are some very iconic arches here, including the North and South Window, Turret Arch, and Double Arch. Even Balanced Rock is right at the start! All of this looks out over a stretch of desert named the Garden of Eden.
Enjoying the views at Turret Arch
The North Window (right) & South Window (left)
Across the road a few hundred feet into the desert is double arch. This arch, specifically, was my favorite place in the park. You can scramble right up into the cave that has formed, giving you a view of both arches and out towards the Windows.
The path leading to the Double Arch
From inside Double Arch, enjoying the views of the Windows
From there we traveled into the Fiery Furnace, named for its great sandstone walls and red rock, this features the most prominent arch in the park, Delicate Arch. The Salt Valley and Fiery Furnace overlooks are also here.
Because it is so popular, Delicate Arch is always crowded. There is a stream of people hiking the 3 miles up an enormous rock to get to it. Here is a suggestion for those who do not want to face the crowds or the direct sunlight: drive one mile further to the overlook. There are actually two overlooks. The first is just off the parking lot and you can gaze up at Delicate Arch. The other is a short hike, leading a little closer and it climbs up to give you a better view.
I liked this option because it was not nearly as crowded, but it also gives you a view of both Delicate Arch and the beautiful landscape around it.
Enjoying the view at the Delicate Arch viewpoint
The Fiery Furnace overlook
The view of Delicate Arch from the overlook
Unfortunately, while I was visiting most of this section was closed. It includes more hiking trails that lead to Double O Arch and Private Arch, among others. However, I could only get to Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch.
Sand Dune Arch is an exciting arch in the park because the terrain quickly changes from the hard, desert ground to sand. You have to squeeze between two towering stone slabs and walk into this secretive-feeling enclosure to view this fragile arch. Because of falling rock and its delicacy, you can’t touch it, and the park asks that you stay back from it.
After emptying the sand from your shoes you are all set to trek to Broken Arch. It’s a short distance, and well worth it. This arch is weathering away in the middle, hence its name.
The path to Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch
Spires on the trail leading to Broken Arch
It is incredibly easy to spend an entire day in this park, especially given the opportunity to further explore Devil’s Garden. While it is known for its natural stone arches, the landscape, mesas and spires are just added bonuses to this enchanting park. It’s no surprise that over one million people visit this national park each year. It was the perfect way to begin my trip to Utah.