Arches National Park is one of the most well-known national parks in Utah, if not the entire United States, and for good reason:
The iconic rocks in the park sit atop an underground salt bed that’s basically (by virtue of a lot of complex geological processes) responsible for the various arches, spires, and rock formations we see.
There are over two thousand natural sandstone arches preserved within the park (although over forty of these have collapsed since 1970 due to erosion). While a handful of the park’s arches are visible from the road or various overview points, the best vistas require a bit of a hike.
We did a few of the shorter hikes off the main road, then opted to spend our afternoon exploring the backcountry on their dedicated 4×4 trail. Arches’ neighboring town, Moab, has become quite the off-roading Mecca, and in addition to the numerous OHV trails you can find around Moab itself both national parks in the area (Arches and Canyonlands) also offer various 4×4 opportunities.
We had quite the off-roading experience in Arches, but instead of getting into that here (other than to say that we practically almost died!!) expect a more comprehensive post soon detailing our week of Jeeping adventures.
There were tons of awesome rock formations, many of which boasted some pretty interesting names. My favorite was the rock in the Garden of Eden which looks just like a T-Rex face… though Kali claims it resembles an elephant walking toward the camera. Clearly I’m right, as you can see for yourself in the rock on the left below.
Unfortunately in most of the photos it’s very difficult to get a sense of scale; the sheer size of these rock formations is absolutely breathtaking. I’m used to being towered over, but not to this extent!
Here are a couple pictures with people in them for reference:
Arches National Park is most famous for its Delicate Arch, which graces Utah’s license plate and most of the postcards you’ll find in this area. Of course we didn’t want to miss it, but we thought we’d be clever and leave it for after our off-roading expedition so we could photograph it in the rich pre-sunset lighting.
What we didn’t realize, even though (in retrospect) it only takes about a nanosecond to research, is that the most popular vantage point is only accessible via a three-mile hike. Lacking the time (and a flashlight) to embark on such a hike twenty minutes before sunset, we instead opted to run up to the Upper Vantage Point for a view of its backside.
The lighting was less than ideal, our lungs were complaining about the decision to sprint in the high altitude/low oxygen conditions, and we were separated from the arch itself by a huge canyon… but there’s always a silver lining.
Instead of dealing with hoards of tourists, we got to enjoy Delicate Arch in peace and solitude.