Since we missed out on Zion National Park in Utah, I wanted to make sure we devoted plenty of time to Arches National Park, near the town of Moab. What I failed to take into consideration, however, is that most of the arches that make Arches famous require hiking to see. And it was August. And sunny. And incredibly hot.
… Yeah, we probably didn't think this one through too well.
Instead of doing some of the longer hikes in the park (such as the hours-long hike out to the famous Delicate Arch), we instead opted to just drive through the entire park, stopping at all the viewpoints, and doing a few of the shorter hikes to some of the more accessible arches.
Well, I should say that I did a few of the shorter hikes, while Melissa sat in the car most of the time.
I'm not saying I didn't enjoy Arches — because I did. It's a really worthwhile national park, with plenty of cool rocks and arches to see and climb. It's just that I hadn't planned on losing roughly 10 pounds in sweat while exploring it.
But, once I started getting all gross and sweaty, I figured the only option was to keep going. So, armed with more water than I've ever drunk before in a 4-hour span, I tackled the following at Arches:
PARK AVENUE — Okay, so this one really required no “tackling,” as I didn't actually do the hike here. Melissa and I just hopped out of the car at the lookout, and got our first taste of the red rocks of Arches.
BALANCED ROCK — A quick 10-minute walk here loops around an interesting rock formation — a gigantic boulder balancing on a pillar of rock.
The path around Balanced Rock is lined with dozens — maybe even hundreds — of cairns, man-made piles of stones that are often left behind by hikers to mark trails. I don't really think this trail needs any more marking, however. At this point, I think people build them just for fun, and to add to the collection.
THE WINDOWS SECTION — The Windows Section was one of the longer hikes that I did (and the beginning of Melissa's relaxing stint in the car). The whole loop around this section is 1 mile, and the estimated hike time is set at 30-60 minutes, which was pretty dead-on. I went first to the North Window, which was the toughest part of the hike. It was all out in the baking sun, and all uphill. Granted, it wasn't very steep… but the hill plus the heat plus the high altitude had me sweating and panting in no time.
I took a break in the shadow of the North Window arch before continuing on.
Next came the South Window.
And then, lastly, Turret Arch. Part of me really wanted to climb through this one, but I was beat by this point, and had already drunk my bottle of water.
I settled for turning around and getting a view of both the Windows — a view some people call “The Eyeglasses.”)
DOUBLE ARCH — Not far from the Windows section sits Double Arch. Which you can probably figure out from its name. A gentle 5-10-minute walk gets you out to this arch.
If you climb through Double Arch, you can also see the Cove of Caves. Melissa and I, however, opted to sit in the shade and watch some guy propose to his girlfriend.
PANORAMA POINT — This was just a lookout. It did, indeed, give a pretty cool panorama of the park.
DELICATE ARCH VIEWPOINT — The half-mile hike to the Delicate Arch viewpoint doesn't sound too bad on paper. But once you get going and realize that it is entirely uphill (like, climbing a small mountain uphill), the hike becomes a lot less fun. But, I wasn't about to tackle to popular 3-mile hike out to the arch itself on such a hot day, so I forced myself to climb this damn hill.
Was it worth it? Probably.
FIERY FURNACE — This was another viewpoint, although you can take Ranger-led hikes through this labyrinth of narrow canyons. The area is named because, at certain times of day, the sun hits the rocks just right and makes them look like they're on fire. The day we were there, I would have said the whole park could have been called Fiery Furnace.
SKYLINE ARCH — You can hike out to this arch on an easy path that will take about 15 minutes round-trip, but we opted to just look at it from the car. By this point, we were pretty tired. And hungry.
SAND DUNE ARCH — As we drove through the Arches campground to turn around and head back out of the park, we came upon a French couple trying to hitchhike a ride back to their car. They had done a 40-minute hike, and didn't want to hike another hour back. So we squashed them in on top of all our stuff, and drove them back to Sand Dune Arch. Here, they suggested we do the easy 5-minute hike to the arch, which winds through a little slot canyon. We decided to do it.
It was actually probably my favorite arch in the park. The arch itself wasn't that exciting, but the short hike was in the shade, and the ground underfoot was covered in deep, cool sand. The kind of sand that's soft and fine and makes you just want to lay down in it.
It was definitely a great way to end our day at Arches.
So would I recommend a trip to Arches National Park? Absolutely. But I would not recommend it on a sunny August day. At least, not if you actually plan to get out of your car.
Each day, I’ll be cutting together a quick video to show you what we’ve been up to. Here’s Day 13:
Tomorrow, it's on to Keystone, Colorado!