Arches was our fourth national park in the Grand Circle tour. After checking into our hotel, brunch at Moab, and orientation in the Arches National Park Visitor Center, we drove up the steep scenic drive to reach the top of the Arches plateau.
The first significant stop in Arches was the infamous Park Avenue, a facade of giant red-rock formation that lined the left side of the drive. With giant pillars of rocks that rise out of earth lined in the shape of a V, this rock group was very impressive. There was also a trail leading through the Park Avenue for those who wanted to get a little more out of the area. We simply relished the view here before heading out onto the scenic road.
Then, just a few miles down, we came across a cluster of buttes that is very reminiscent of Monument Valley. To our right, a huge butte was named "the Organ." To our left, several smaller buttes were named the "Three Gossips," the "Sheep Rock," and the "Courthouse Towers." And just a few hundred yards down was yet another giant butte named "the Tower of Babel." These buttes were very well named, as they closely resembled their names.
As we drove a few miles north, we reached the infamous landmark, the “Balanced Rock.” Turns out, the national park service had built the road right along side the rock. This made accessing and taking pictures of the rock incredibly easy. We got out of the car at this viewpoint and marveled at how the giant rock could stand like that on top of another rock.
Next we came across an intersection where turning right would lead us to the “Windows,” straight to “Arches.” We decided to visit the "windows" section first. It was in the drive to the Windows that we caught a glimpse of the numerous giant fins that made up "Fiery Furnace" section to the north. As we finally reached the end of the side road, where the trailheads to the north, the south, and Turret Window start, we saw on the left side of the parking lot another trailhead leading to a series of rock formations called "the Marching Elephants." We decided to forgo seeing the Double Arch in the Marching Elephant section and instead hiked up to the North Window, then towards the Turret Window. Once we were at the midway point between the North and Turret window, we turned around and shot a few photos of the North and South window together. From this perspective, they looked like the eyes of an eagle. It was very interesting.
For our next stop, we drove back to the main road, took the turn at the intersection we came across earlier, and headed into the “Arch.” We then parked our car at the Wolfe Ranch, an abandoned historic farm house built in 1888, where the Delicate Arch Trailhead starts.
This hike is one of the more strenuous hikes I have taken within the Grand Circle. In the beginning it is quite mild. Then at the halfway point, the trail suddenly goes up a gigantic slick rock area that continued on for a mile. The elevation gain of this section was at least 500 feet. On the slick rocks, even gaining a strong footing was a challenge. But after 1 hour of hiking and following the "cairns," we reached the top of the slick rock. With only a few more hundred yards to go, we made our way through the winding rock trail on the backside of the cliff that flank the Arch. As we made one last turn, the Arch finally came into full view. There it was, the Arch glowing in the afternoon sun. It was solitary yet majestic. The feeling of seeing this international symbol just a few hundred feet in front of us was just incredible. We stayed there and admired the arch and took numerous pictures before finally heading back down the slick rock.
After visiting the arch, we eagerly went through the rest of the park to see as much as we could in the 2 hours we have left. In this time, we visited such attractions as the "Fins," the Tunnel Arch, Skyline Arch, Broken Arch, Sand Dune Arch, and the Pine Tree Arch. From the park we could also easily see the beautiful La Sal Mountains in the distance, with its peaks covered in snow. As the day turned dark, we headed back to Moab for the night and ate at the most famous restaurant in town, the Moab Brewery.