on May 2, 2007
The world’s densest collection of natural rock arches, sometimes called natural bridges, is in Arches National Park, three miles north of Moab, UT, off US 191. The park has some 2,000 identified arches. Most of the biggest and best can be seen from or by short walks from the Park’s three paved roads. The main road runs 18 miles from the Visitor Center to Devils Garden trail head (restrooms) and campground. Two roads branch off the main road, the very scenic Windows Road (restroom), and the road to the Delicate Arch view point (restroom) and trail head. There is more to Arches than arches. Leaving the Visitor Center, the road climbs about 1,000 ft. up a red rock cliff, with good views of the Moab Fault, the depression where the highway runs. The first of the park’s major stops is at the top of the cliff on the left, the Park Avenue area which bears a resemblance to Monument Valley. The Park Avenue trail cuts across a curve in the road, so if someone picks you up, it can be walked one way. The next place of interest is the Petrified Sand Dunes pullover on the right, from which you look out across a filed of ancient sand dunes which turned to rock when they sank beneath the sea eons ago. Next on the right, the short flat trail around Balanced Rock is much more interesting than it looks from the road. Do it. The turn off to The Windows runs through some of the best roadside scenery in the Park, ending at the Windows parking lot (restroom). On about three out four visits, we skip the Windows Trail, but always take the short and easy Double Arch Trail, one of the best in the Park. The parking lot is oval shaped. The Double Arch Trail is about 3/4 the way around. On the way back to the main road, stop at the Garden of Eden Viewpoint for grand views in every direction. Bring binoculars. Use the spotting scope at the right hand end of the parking lot to locate the Delicate Arch. Next up, the Delicate Arch (see review). The trail head (2-3 hours) or parking lot (restroom) view point of Delicate Arch are reached by the same road. Back on the main road, we pass the Fiery Furnace, the Arch’s toughest hike. If you sign away your first born at the Visitor’s Center, they might issue you a permit to explore Fiery Furnace on your own, but this is no place for amateurs. The Fiery Furnace is a rugged rock maze, with wall so high you can’t see out except straight up. Get lost here, and you are really lost. A Ranger leads 1-2 daily hikes into the Fiery Furnace. Very difficult hiking. Only by personal reservations at the Visitor’s Center.
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