Arches National Park

Arches National Park. This is one of those obligatory posts, because, well for the amount of time I’ve spent in Moab, you’ve kinda gotta go here at least once during one of your visits. Make no mistake, this place is always packed with tourists. It’s next to impossible to get a picture of an arch, let alone a person standing in one, without at least several other people next to you trying to do the same thing. In fact, it’s such a tourist trap that it’s a tourist trap in the fourth week of November. There are dozens of tourists here, all the time. And nothing that each and every one of them is photographing hasn’t been photographed at least 100 times earlier that same week. Anyway, here is my trip report for Arches National Park.

One of the reasons Arches NP is such a tourist trap is its accessibility. The entrance is impossible to miss if you’re going anywhere on US-171 into or out of Moab. In fact, the turn off to get there has a signaled intersection. You first pass through the entrance station, and then pass the visitor center. Just under 3500 vehicles/day enter the park on Memorial Day. Below is an image of the entrance station during peak season, from the official National Park Service website:

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Arches NP entrance station. Image credit: NPS/Chris Wonderly

Continuing into the park, you climb steeply up the side of a cliff and some switchbacks, all paved of course. Immediately at the top you are already greeted with massive sandstone monoliths towering above and around you. This area is appropriately called “Park Avenue” as a tribute to the towering skyscrapers lining Park Avenue in New York City. The Park Avenue trail in Arches goes through a dense portion of these towers.

Just after Park Avenue, there is a pull off for a viewpoint of the La Sal Mountains. The next major feature is the Courthouse Towers, an icon of Arches NP and my cover photo for this post.

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Courthouse Towers at sundown

Despite the tourists, it’s quite scenic. Arches National Park is the “largest collection of naturally formed arches anywhere in the world.”

The next major feature is the Balanced Rock, which is a rock that looks like it’s balancing, as it’s supported by a comparatively small tower. Just past this is the Garden of Eden, a glorified rock garden with some cool formations.

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From within the Garden of Eden

Beyond the Garden of Eden are the North and South Window arches, Turret arch, and the Double arch.

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Window Arch
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Aptly-named Double Arch

You can see part of Castle Valley from Arches NP:

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Castle Valley, or the entrance to it, is visible center-right.

Fiery Furnace is a bucket-list hike. It’s a hike in which you’re embedded in these sandstone formations. Unfortunately during this trip I didn’t get to do it, because only 50 passes are issued daily, and they sold out by 8am.

Below is a view from the Fiery Furnace overlook. Those red bumpy looking rocks are the Fiery Furnace.

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The Sand Dune arch is tucked back in some rocks. Specifically, you have to go through a narrow crevasse to reach the Sand Dune arch:

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That shadowy canyon just in from the right hand side of this image is where you’re going if you want to see Sand Dune arch.
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From within said canyon. Pretty cool (both literally and figuratively) in here.

Overall, Arches NP is a pretty scenic place to visit. Even with all the tourists, if you time it right you can get some pretty good pictures. As mentioned earlier, Arches NP is the largest amount of naturally formed arches in one place. It’s definitely a place one has to visit at least once in their lifetime. You’re doing America wrong if you don’t visit Arches or the Moab area in general at least once.

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The sunlit Petrified Dunes on the way out of Arches

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