Behold The Majesty Of The Arches

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.

19 thoughts on “Behold The Majesty Of The Arches”

  1. Glad you enjoyed Arches, Jonathan! On your next visit, we’ll try to get you down to Escalante! Less-distant from Provo is the San Rafael canyon and the Wedge formation.

  2. Thanks for the photos. Never made it out to Moab only St George and Zion. What are the accommodations like in Moab?

    Also want to mention that the slick rock has very good grip so with decent vibram soles you have very good footing on these trails meaning they are not as scary as they look. The great footing also reduces the need for poles.

  3. JT, nice photos. I’ve been there. JT states, “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.

    I would suggest a 3 month sabbatical trip. No news, TV, Internet or phone calls. I did it for less than $5000. 2 week raft trip in the Grand Canyon, Teton climb in Wyoming, Angels Landing Zion park in Utah, Gallatin Primitive Area in Montana, San Juan mountains in Colorado & Lava Beds in California.

    My legs looked like tree trunks, had close to zero body fat & a six pack of abs.

  4. Lovely photos.

    The arches do seem vaguely menacing. They are eroded for millennia, but all it takes is a moment for structural failure. When will that leg in the arch so chipped away, fail?

    The desert is, indeed, very quiet.

  5. I was there back in 1996, I didn’t go to every place that you did, but I did get to see most of it, you are correct, it is beautiful. Sir I am going to reblog this article for you. Thank you for the kindness of putting these pictures up for other folks to get to see.

  6. Thank you, Professor. I always enjoy your hiking photos.
    The West is the best!! That red, dusty earth has a distinct natural “aroma” it emits when the sun beats down on it.
    There’s nothing like it………and it does seem to have a healing effect, psychologically.

  7. I think it, and places like it (I am thinking of the Grand Canyon) cuts us down to size. It’s truly awesome to have the privilege.

  8. The landscape in Ontario County, NY is an order of magnitude better. And you can take tours of the wineries.

  9. Utah is one of my favorite places on Earth.

    There are five cities in Utah. Outside of those five cities, the population density is about 10 persons per sq mile. Excluding the dense tract development of a certain size, the density of the population of the whole country is about 35 persons per square miles. The rural and small town portions of New York have densities around 89 persons per sq mil. The only places in New York where you see density levels like Utah’s is within the boundaries of the state parks. Hardly anyone wants to live in the Utah countryside for a reason, and the reason isn’t that the land’s been sequestered.

  10. “ Indeed, the tranquility of some of these spots is overwhelming.”


    “God’s Grandeur”
    – by Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ

    “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

    Happy Palm Sunday, JT.

    – Estovir

  11. Several of those photos are frame-worthy. Good work!
    I once tried the bike trail at Slick Rock near Moab. Just the test area – the area to try out your natural-rock-formations-bicycling skills. It’s a challenge, but worth the effort.

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