Arches National Park possesses a beauty both grand and strange. Some who visit will want to know more about geologic or natural history. Others may be inspired to creative expression. The sublime beauty of the land, however, speaks to everyone. The naturalist Edward Abbey wrote in his 1968 devotion to the park, Desert Solitaire, "If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies, I will venture, in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful—that which is full of wonder." The Internet Brothers have visited this wonder of nature on many occasions... most recently in July 2009... it always startles us anew. No trip to Utah is complete without it. Go directly to the Arches Photo Gallery.
In the southwestern United States there is a world of stone and sky, where between the eye and the horizon lies a colorful panorama of buttes, canyons and plateaus. Life can be challenging in this desert environment, yet many animals have adapted to the extremes of temperature and topography. Rare perennial streams and seeps support explosions of vegetation and echo with the songs of water-loving wildlife. A portion of this land was set aside in 1929 as Arches National Monument, and then declared a national park in 1971. In Arches, the forces of nature have, over an immense span of time, created a wondrous landscape. Slickrock caps of Navajo Sandstone cover layers of sediment from ancient oceans, shores and deserts.
The best way to get to Arches Visitors Center is the 27 miles on US Hwy. 191 from the I-70 turnoff in Crescent Junction, Utah. However, there is a little known dirt and gravel road access to the park through the Salt Valley that also turns off Hwy. 191 5.5 miles from the interstate. From there it is less than an hour drive on the Salt Valley Rd. to the end of the paved scenic drive in Arches at Devil's Garden. This dirt road will take you through a beautiful desert valley full of red sand and scrub that is surrounded by the Klondike Bluffs on one side and the La Sal Mountains on the other.
In summer, June through September, temperatures may exceed 100° F. and in winter, December through February, temperatures often drop below 32° F. Temperatures may range 50 degrees in a 24-hour period. Arches is very dry! Carry drinking water at all times. The 48 mile round trip scenic paved road in the park travels through spectacular scenery and leads to major park features. Hiking trails of varying length and difficulty lead to and through arches and into the heart of the park. There are regularly scheduled walks, guided hikes and evening campfire programs by rangers mid-March through October. Check bulletin boards in the park for details. Reservations must be made for the popular Fiery Furnace guided hike in person at the Arches Visitor Center, up to 48 hours in advance.
The Internet Brothers have visited Arches National Park several times since the 1990s, most recently in July 2009. On this recent visit we enjoyed the Salt Valley Road, a hike through the Devil's Garden, four-wheel driving the Herdina Park section to the Eye of the Whale Arch, and the many awesome overlooks that comprise the scenic drive through Arches.
Starting before dawn in Green River, UT we exited I-70 in Crescent Junction and headed south on US Hwy. 191. We turned left on the unpaved Valley City Rd. 5.5 miles from the interstate then turned right on Salt Valley Rd. a mile later. Within another 10 minutes we had reached the northwestern boundary of the national park. Along the way we paused to watch the sunrise over the bluffs and buttes that surrounded this dry river valley. About an hour from our start we reached the paved road and pulled into the Devil's Garden parking area for the beginning of our hike to many of the more famous arches in the park. Along the trail you will see Pine Tree and Tunnel arches—Landscape, Wall, Navajo, and Partition arches. We stopped at that point to save some time, but if you continue on the 8-mile loop trail to Double O and Dark Angel arches you are guaranteed a delightful day hike.
Our next destination was Eye of the Whale Arch in Herdina Park. You get there on an unpaved turnoff at the Balanced Rock observation point. The road to Eye of the Whale is definitely technical four-wheel-drive territory. Do not try it in your conventional vehicle. The total drive is less than an hour over very rocky, bumpy terrain. It is only a brief quarter mile hike to the arch from the trail marker. Be sure to bring some water as it is very dry in this, and all, areas of the desert. The arch itself is well worth the effort to get to. Be sure to hang around for awhile, walk around the slickrock that surrounds the arch, and take in the marvelous view of the La Sal Mountains.
In most national parks we always advise to get off the beaten path to enjoy the best the park has to offer. You generally have to hike a ways to witness the hidden gems that are not accessible from paved highway. Arches is an anomaly. A goodly number of the inspiring rock formations are viewable right from the scenic drive. If you are visiting Arches for the first time, be sure to drive the entire length of the park, and back, so you get the essence of what this incredible place has to offer. Check out all the turnoffs, and whatever you do, be sure to bring your camera.
Proceed to the Arches National Park Photo Gallery
National Parks Conservation Association — The gradual, accelerated warming of our planet will have disastrous consequences for America's national parks. But all is not lost. Although the situation seems dire, NPCA's report, Unnatural Disaster, says we can still halt the most severe effects of climate change if we take action now. The national parks offer a unique opportunity to draw attention to America’s priceless resources at risk, and to showcase opportunities to act to protect them.