I started my day early in an attempt to beat the crowds at Arches National Park. It was still the weekend so I assumed it would be crowded. I drove about 1 1/2 hours from the BLM Westwater campsite to make it to the Arches entry gate around 8:00. I planned on spending only a few hours here. The main attractions are of course the natural sandstone arches, of which there are over 2,000 inside the park boundaries. It’s about a 45 minute drive to get from the park entrance to the far northern end of the park, the location of Devils Garden, which contains a concentration of arches including the iconic Landscape Arch. Of course there are several places to stop along the way to Devils Garden, so it took around 2 hours for me to get there. There are two major offshoots of the main park road. The first offshoot is just past Balanced Rock, the road is about 2 miles long and takes you to The Windows Section where you can see Turret Arch, the North and South Window, and Double Arch. The second offshoot road is a few miles farther down the main road where the primary attraction is the also iconic Delicate Arch.
The Delicate Arch is about a mile hike one way and it’s crowded. I was unable to find a parking spot, even along the road. I was in disbelief, it was only about 9:00 when I got to the parking lot. Instead of hunting for a parking spot, I continued a short distance on the road to the Delicate Arch Viewpoints which are far less crowded and a shorter hike. If you have a good zoom lens, then you can get a good shot.
From the Delicate Arch viewpoints, I returned to the main road and continued to Devils Garden. There is a loop trail that takes you around several arches in a 3 mile hike. I didn’t complete the entire loop, but I made it easily to the Landscape Arch before turning back.
If you want to enhance the experience, tune your radio to 90.1, they play some traditional but modern Native American-sounding music with flutes and drums. Then at one point the station switched to Reggae which still fit in with the scenery somehow. By 10:30 I was departing Devils Garden and heading for the exit. I was out of the park by 11:30 after a few more stops for photos. I see why the park was crowded so early. Once the sun has been out for a few hours, the temperature goes way up. It was 70F when I got into the park, and 87F by the time I left.
There is an endless supply of photo opportunities in Arches. You could spend weeks hiking around the park finding every last arch and rock formation. Below are what I believe to be my best pictures. If you haven’t been to Arches, I hope this inspires you to go.
Other Rock Formations
The city right next door to the park is Moab, UT. It’s a small city and an outdoor person’s dream. Mountain biking is huge in Moab. People are riding bikes everywhere and there are paths running in every direction out of town which take you to the mountain bike trails around the city. Rock climbing, rafting, and “offroading” are also big. I drove into town for lunch and tried Huevos Rancheros for the first time. I figured they could make them good in the southwest, and I wasn’t disappointed. I think I ate lunch at the Love Muffin Cafe, funny name. I say I think I ate lunch there because there are so many coffee shops in Moab and I had to hunt around for one that was not too crowded. I guess you need a lot of caffiene if you are doing extreme sports all day.
Into the desert
I departed Moab around 12 heading for Great Basin National Park in Nevada. Yep, I was going to drive clear across the state of Utah in a day (and hit two national parks). It was only about 6 hours including my drive to Arches, but after you get out of Delta, UT, the scenery is like being in Kansas again. It’s pancake flat and there are no signs of civilization. Luckily it rained for about an hour after driving out of Delta which helped wash the bugs off of my car and tent cover. Rain was surprising as I thought I was in a desert.
In western Utah, you enter the Great Basin topography where the highway takes you over mountain ridges, proceeded by valleys which gradually become wider and wider with each ridge. The field of view becomes almost unlimited as you head out of Utah. On the final ridge before entering Nevada, you can see Wheeler Peak (the tallest mountain in Nevada) within Great Basin National Park despite being 20 miles from the state line and about 30 miles from the park.
I finally entered Nevada around 4:00. Next I’ll be exploring Great Basin National Park on an abbreviated tour. Following Great Basin, I will be driving across Nevada on Route 50, also known as the lonliest road in America.