Arches National Park

Arches National Park Balanced Rock
Arches National Park Landscape Arch
Arches National Park Delicate Arch

Located just 5 miles north of Moab, Utah is one of this countries


greatest geological marvels. Just a mere 119 square miles, it is a place that contains over 2,000 stone arches, ranging from just 3 feet to the worlds longest at 306 feet, and countless other stone fins, spires, pillars, towers, walls and petrified dunes and breath taking views.

Arches National Park

Arches is a place that where no matter where you look you must ask your self “How?”

Just how was this place formed?

The answer to the question goes back over 300 million years ago when this part of the globe was underneath a vast ocean. Then the dreaded word began, “Climate change.” Damn dinosaurs and their flatulence caused the ocean floor to heave forming the start of the Rocky Mountains. Which brought on winds and rains and more heaving of the lands, then more wind, rain and erosion.

Arches National Park entrance road

The damage the dinosaurs caused is evident from the moment you enter this part of the world. Signs of the earth’s uplifting can be clearly seen as one begins to climb up the entrance road to the park. The elevation quickly goes from 4,085 feet at the Visitors Center to 4,607 feet in under 2 miles. At Balanced Rock it is over 5,000 feet and tops out at 5,653 feet at Elephant Butte.

The 21 mile drive to the back side of Arches National Park is lined with views of rock formations that are seen nowhere else. Any visit of less than 2 to 3 days should be considered a tease, but enough of one to bring you back.

There are 2 ways to start your visit. The first is enter the park, hit the Visitors Center, gather some of the information and then stop at each sight. Not the recommend method for each sight in it’s self can be overwhelming.

We recommend driving the full length of the parks main paved road, being very careful to keep your eyes on the road. Then return to the Visitor Center and gather the information you overlooked on your first stop for the sights you have just witnessed. Then go back. Now would be the time to reserve your spot for the Fiery Furnace Tour.

Arches National Park Park Avenue

Hiking is the best method to view most of the arches and a good hike at Park Avenue is a great way to start your tour of Arches. While there are no arches along this one-mile walk, being surrounded by walls of seemingly solid rock hundreds of feet high starts to put this park in perspective. The pace of this slightly downhill walk will give one plenty of time to view the "Three Gossips", "The Organ" and the "Courthouse Towers." Upon viewing the structures, their names will become self-evident. Unless you split your party so you can be picked up at the end of the trail, the view in the opposite direction can be had on the reverse walk.

Arches National Park Three Gossips
Arches National Park Sheep Rock
Three Gossips
Sheep Rock

The road then takes you right by and in between the 500 to 800 foot tall rock formations know as "The Organ", "Courthouse Towers", "Three Gossips" and along side "Sheep Rock" and the "Tower of Babel"

Arches National Park Balanced Rock

The next several miles passes by the "Great Wall' on the left and the "Petrified Dunes" on the right before coming to the 128 foot tall "Balanced Rock"

Balanced Rock is a 55 foot tall boulder of Slick Rock that weighs a mere 7 million pounds that is balanced on top of a chunk of Dewey Bridge.

Due to it's size and location seeing Balanced Rock cannot be missed, however the only way the size and natures construction of Balanced Rock can be appreciated is by walking the short trail that surrounds it.

While on the trail distance views of the Windows Arches can be seen with La Sal Mountain as a backdrop.

Arches National Park Delicate Arch from 5 miles away

Right after the sweeping right curve on the side road leading to North and South Windows Arches and several other arches, is the Garden of Eden parking lot. Pull in, park, get out, and face northeast. Take a long hard look to the middle of what you see. Study the terrain real hard and if your eyeballs are good, right in the middle of your view, just below the greenery, Delicate Arch can be seen. At this location the arch is about 5 miles away but with a short drive and a healthy hike, you can be standing right next to Delicate Arch. (the above picture was taken with a 600mm lens)

The long sweeping Salt Valley is to the left as the main road declines towards the Delicate Arch turn off. The panoramic view can be quite distracting, so take advantage of the excellent viewing lot that is provided on the right side of the road.

The trail head to Delicate Arch starts at the Wolfe Ranch. This is the former home of John Wesley Wolfe who settled here on the banks of the Salt Wash in 1898. Wolfe lived and attempted to farm here to 1910. It is hard to believe anyone would have even thought they could eek out any kind of life in this area.

Arches National Park walk to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is by far the most famous arch in the world. It is often referred to as the unofficial symbol of Utah. This is the arch that is on Utah's license plates and countless screen savers.

But the only real way to see Delicate Arch is to hike, not walk, the 1.5 miles to it.

A series of switchbacks starts the uphill hike. The trial then crosses over an area of slick rock which, except for the 480 foot elevation change, is a fairly easy "stroll."

The last one third gets real interesting when the trail gets rougher and harder to traverse. And the final stretch is on a ledge carved out of the rock. A drop off of several hundred feet will be to your left, so be careful. Overall the trail is well marked and not that scary.

In order to soak in the scenery during your walk allow at least one hour to get to the arch. At no time during the hike up can Delicate Arch be seen, so be prepared when you come around the final rock for the initial view of the arch, for it is simply breath taking.

While it is fine to walk right up to the arch and touch it, kindly do not spend too much time underneath it for many people, like you, will be trying to get the "perfect" picture.

A short video clip of Delicate Arch.

Arches National Park Delicate Arch

Arches National Park view coming from Delicate Arch

The best time to be at Delicate Arch is either sunrise or sunset. We choose sunset so we could could not only see the color changes as the sun set on the arch, but also so we could get this view on the hike back to the parking lot. Our total time for going to Delicate Arch was nearly 4 hours.

There are four MUST SEE areas of the park and Delicate Arch is one of them.

To The Fiery Furnace and the rest of Arches National Park