I am returning today from speeches in Texas and Utah. As many on the blog know, I tried to use such travel to do some hiking. Utah is one of my favorite places on Earth. You could spend a lifetime hiking this state and only scratch the surface of the natural beauty and wonders. I have hiked all part of this state and expect to do so for many years to come. This trip was tough however because a cold front came in the day I arrived (after 70 degree weather) that dumped more snow on an already heavy snow season. With the rain and snow, most of my selected hikes (and even my backup hikes) were no longer advisable due to slippery rocks and mud. I tried to find a trail on Friday with limited success so I decide to “go big or go home” on Saturday. I decided to drive over three hours to the Moab where snow and rain would not be an issue. While once covered by a prehistoric ocean, this area receives less than 10 inches of rain a year. It proved to be an awesome experience hiking Arches National Park, one of the great gifts of this state to the world. While many of us often hike deciduous forests, these desert hikes hold tremendous beauty and Western parks offer views that can go 100 miles or more.
Arches National Park has more 2,000 sandstone arches in its roughly 120 square miles. The amazing arches are reflect the evaporite layer or salt bed under the park. The salt bed goes down thousands of feet. The geology is fascinating with vivid stone shapes of different colors with towering spires, fins and balanced rocks — and of course the arches.
The drive is long and you should just stay overnight in the area if you have the time. It is an amazing drive however through the snow covered mountains around Provo and Salt Lake City only to break through to the Moab desert.
Getting to the most famous arch — the Delicate Arch — takes about a 3-4 mile hike. It gradually gains in elevation and, if you do not like heights, there are some daunting elements, including a cliff trail. The area around the arch is also slanted which can be troubling to some. However, it is all worth the effort. It has fantastic views and the curve is beautiful.
After the Delicate Arch trail, I drove to the farthest trail in the park, the Devil’s Garden trail. This is roughly a 7-8 mile trail if you take all of the options as I did. It is difficult to express how beautiful this trail is. There are fewer people, particularly on the back end. For hikers, I do not recommend sticks on either of these hikes. I brought a hiking stick but left it in the car. Delicate Arch is largely smooth rock face and Devil’s Garden is often soft sand. Once again, the trail becomes quite challenging and demands some climbing on cliffs. It is not for those in fear of heights. Portions require climbing around around rock fins with sharp drops on both sides. These are pictures of the actual trail at points (you can actually see one of the few trail markets on this hike in one shot):
The hike however reveals some of the most famous arches, which are often remove and can be enjoyed in relative silence. Indeed, the tranquility of some of these spots is overwhelming.
This is one of those experiences that I hope everyone of our readers could enjoy. It is unique and magnificent and transformative. I assure you that you will leave your problems and anxieties on the trail and replace them with lasting memories of the beauty of the Arches.