Arches National Park

Anna and her sons write of their experience of their one-day trip to Arches National Park.

Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park. 

Anna, the Mom

Arches National Park is in Utah, United States of America. It is home to the greatest concentration of natural arches in the world; around 2 000 sandstone arches can be found here, as well as a collection of unique rock formations like windows, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, eroded monoliths. The iconic Delicate Arch, as can be seen photographed in the picture above, is located in Arches National Park.

The Delicate Arch in the distance, seen from the Lower Delicate Arch viewpoint trail. 

Beneath the landscape of Arches National Park lies a thick bed of salt, which is said to be the main cause of the shape of the rock formations in this area. On top of the salt, sediments compressed the salt into rock layers of sandstone. The layers on the edge of the salt bed eroded and shifted into vertical sandstone walls called fins. The sand collected between the fins together with acidic chemicals in rain and air dissolve the calcium that is keeping the sandstone together. The weaker layers in the sandstone would dissolve first, creating openings in the rock. Gravity caused the stronger rock layer to fall piece by piece into an arch shape. Water and wind are also active participants in the erosion process.

Tall fins in Park Avenue Trailhead. Can you spot the people walking on the trail? 

We have been to this national park before, in 2016 when the kids were younger. We enjoyed the park immensely back then, and we enjoyed it immensely this time again. I believe, no matter how many times we will go there, we will surely enjoy it and find new things to do.

This is only 6 years ago, the kids were so small. My, my how time flies!

This time, as the kids were older, we could go and see up close the Delicate Arch, the most beautiful arch in the park, according to us. This was my favorite hike of all the hikes we did in the park.

Water is a rare thing in these parts.

The trailhead for the Delicate Arch starts at Wolfe's cabin. John Wolfe was a settler, a Civil War veteran, who came here with his older son looking for a drier climate that would be good on his injured leg. He settled in this area, where he could find water and grassland enough for a few cattle, eventually grazing more than 1000 cattle on native grass that once covered the area.  After twelve years living away from most of his family, he sold his ranch and moved back to Ohio from where he came.

Where Wolfe's ranch used to be, you can see the cabin on the left side of the picture. 

Leaving behind the green patch of land where Wolfe's cabin stood, we went on to drier lands of red rock on our path towards the delicate Arch. From place to place on the trail and all over the park we came across junipers which, we thought, were almost dead from the drought based on how they looked. We found out later that it is normal for this sort of junipers which live in such dry areas to have self pruning skills. Utah's juniper can survive for 1000 years, by cutting off the sap to certain branches and by concentrating resources to keep alive at least one of them. So, it is not unusual to see half dead or almost dead junipers surviving on a limb. Maybe that's where “going out on a limb” phrase comes from…

Water break on the path, by a sturdy looking juniper. 

It is not an easy hike, as almost all the time the path leads up to the top of the plateau. In the spring, when we went there, although it is beautiful with the vegetation being greener and blooming, great winds attempt to steal away your hat or knock your lunch off the picnic table. So, a hat that can be tied under your chin is an excellent idea at this time of the year.

Spring blooming trees in the Arches National Park. 

When we got to the Delicate Arch, we were almost blown away by the wind and by the view up there as seen through the portal of the arch.  People who got there before us were resting behind rocks and were waiting in line to take pictures close to the arch. The Delicate Arch looks so tall and impressive up close, like a giant window to the landscape around. The boys mustered enough courage to defy the winds and to go close to it, eventually. I stayed behind and took pictures.

The Delicate Arch and the boys.

Next on my list of favorite things to do was visiting the North Window and the other attractions around it. Arches usually start at the base of a wall of sandstone, very much like the doors of a house, while windows are above ground level. The arches stand alone apart from the original wall of sandstone from which it was carved by the elements, while windows are part of a wall and look like holes in it.

A 2016 picture with us in the North Window.

This particular window, the North Window, pictured above looks very much like an eye; needless to say, it is one of my favorite photos of all times. It reminds me of how God, the Creator of the Universe, sees the people who trust in Him as the apple of His eye. Some say that the phrase “apple of one's eye” comes from a Hebrew expression that literally means “the little man of the eye”. It refers to the tiny reflection of yourself in the pupil of someone who is looking at you.  To be the apple of God's eye is to have His full attention focused on you, just like a child has his father looking at him with great affection and care.  In the Bible, in the book of the prophet Zechariah, God tells His people:

He that touches you, touches the apple of My eye.

Ouch. Poking God in the eye is not the brightest idea because there are consequences for that, and they are grim.

The South Window is high up in the wall, inaccessible to people.

The third in my list of favorites is Park Avenue, a hike which we never did. It is right at the entrance of the park, probably, that's why or perhaps because the fins of sandstone sitting tall on each side of the hike, with balancing rocks on top,  look as if they will collapse any minute. It could also be the feeling that you have explored the place already, since you can see the whole hike from the overlook located at the beginning of the trail.

The overlook to Avenue Park trail.

Mihai, 14

Arches National Park is a spectacular national park near Moab, Utah. It consists of many red sandstone arches and monoliths that are scattered throughout the park.

Courthouse Towers by the road. 

My favorite thing to do there was go on the hike to Delicate Arch, which is the most famous arch in the National Park. It is even featured on the state's license plate! Near the trail leading to the arch, there is an old cabin which belongs to Wolfe's Ranch (Wolfe was a veteran who moved from Ohio, settling in Utah because the dry climate helped with his leg pains). We parked there, and after admiring Wolfe's “amazing living conditions”, we continued on the trail.

On the trail to the Delicate Arch.

First, the trail winded in a small valley filled with bushes and small trees, then up a stone slope which took us to a small stone plateau, which had more shrubs and small trees. Moreover, a sign. A sign with HATS. The hats were tied at the bottom of the sign, as a memorial for all the poor people who lost their head coverings to the wind here.

Hats on the trail sign. We were almost there, behind the wall with the hole in it was the Delicate Arch.

In fact, I ran after someone's hat which had attempted a break, and after tightening the strap on my Indiana Jones hat (to make sure it doesn't escape), we continued on the trail, eventually arriving at an overlook of the famous arch. The wind was so violent, I almost fell over, and would have done so if it wasn't for the outcrop of stone that seemed especially placed there to serve as a shelter.

Taking shelter from the wind. 

We even took a picture in the arch, and I was terrified of falling over, into a ravine.

Another of my favorite things to do was the Balanced Rock trail, which featured an enormous rock balanced on a thin spire. There was a trail going around the base of the spire, and I thought that the rock at the top would fall over.

The Balanced Rock.

Another interesting rock formation was the “Gossips”, which looked somewhat like three old ladies gossiping in the middle of the street. Unfortunately, we couldn't get close to the rocks because they were very far away from the parking lot. And I am lazy.

The Three Gossips with the balanced rocks on top.

Arches National Park is:

The towering monoliths that were looming above us;
The crumbly red sandstone that the arches were made of.
The howling of the wind near Delicate Arch;
The sand shifting near the Sand Dune Arch;
The spiky bushes growing everywhere.

I would go again to visit the Devil's garden, where you can see the park's longest arch.

Petrified dunes in the distance.

Paul, 11

My favorite thing to do at the Arches National Park was hiking to see the Delicate Arch. I liked this hike because of how windy it was when we reached the top of the hill where the arch was.

An older couple on the hike. The wind was blowing hard at this point. 

At the bottom of the hike we saw a small house, part of Wolfe's ranch, which was owned by a Civil War veteran named Wolfe who lived for some years in Utah.

Wolfe's cabin, 100+ years old. 

After we passed this hut, we had to climb for about an hour, but we were rewarded with flat terrain. After a while, we arrived at a smooth upwards incline that led straight to the Delicate Arch. We cowered under it to take a photo, and it was the scariest thing I ever did.

Waiting for the wind to stop. 

Another of my favorite things to do while visiting the arches was going to see the North Window. When we hiked up the small hill to get to it, we arrived to an overlook. This majestic window was one of the biggest in the park. After taking a picture of it, we found another one. At this window, there was a small area where we were shielded from the wind.

Turret Arch opposite to the South and North Windows. 

I also liked the Three Gossips. This rock formation looked like three women who were gossiping. I  learned that the Gossips were once two arches that had broken.

Three Gossips

Arches National Park is for me>

The giant brittle Delicate Arch looming above me;  
The howling wind biting my legs;
The Three Gossips standing straight and tall;
The trail covered in sand leading to the Sand Dune Arch.
The Sand Dune Arch.