|| utah | southeast utah | arches & canyonlands
Arches National Park
In Arches National Park, 200 million years of red and white sandstone have formed into weird and wonderful cliffs, pinnacles, balanced rocks, "fins," and arches. The park has the largest concentration of natural arches (the product of water and wind erosion), including the famous Delicate Arch (see left). Kids can wonder why the Balanced Rock doesn't fall down, go in and out The Windows, and walk through the Fiery Furnace.
Tip: It's About 20 miles from the Visitor Center to Devils Garden at the end of the road. Allow plenty of time, preferably more than one day, to explore the park.
Visitor Center – Stop into the visitor center to watch a 15 min. movie about the amazing geology of Arches and Canyonlands. Check out exhibits about native peoples, explorers and settlers in the area and dioramas of animals – bobcat, kangaroo rat, grasshopper mouse, coyote, mule deer, jack rabbits, big horn sheep, rattlesnakes – and life in the desert. Touch different kinds of rocks, dinosaur footprints, fossils, petrified wood and learn about the magic of life in a tiny pothole.
|Bighorn sheep – In front of the visitor center are bronze bighorn sheep, kids can climb all over them. And to see the real thing, as you drive into the park. Look for bighorn sheep in the cliffs above the road in the first three miles.
|Balanced Rock – A huge pointy boulder, 55 ft high and weighing about 3,500 tons, sits atop a crumbly rock pedestal. How did the boulder get there? It's always been there; the rock pedestal is a softer layer eroding faster than the boulder layer (and at some point it will topple over). Walk the short .3 mile loop trail around Balanced Rock – it's big when you get up close.
|The Windows – Everyone can hike to the North and South Windows and Turret Arch. These are thick massive arches, like some big Roman construction. The trail goes right up to the North Window (where kids can "go in and out the window"), then continue on to the South Window, and over to the Turret Arch.
|At the South Window, a dirt trail marked by cairns goes around back of the arches. What's nifty about this trail is you can see both the North and South Windows together – they look like giant eyeglasses. Tip: There's one small section on the trail where you scramble up and down a few rocks, but even little kids can manage this with a little help.
|Double Arch – Take the short easy stroll to Double Arch. You can walk right up underneath the arches – the size of the opening of these rocks is impressive!
|Delicate Arch –
|It's well worth the effort to hike up to Delicate Arch, an absolutely magnificent free-standing arch. The trail is 3 miles round trip, wear closed toed shoes and bring lots of drinking water with you. In summer it's best to go early in the morning or late in the day; the hike is mostly in the sun with no shade.
|The trail to Delicate Arch goes up almost 500 ft, much it over slickrock; it's fun to follow the trail over the rock, cairns marking the way. The last section of the trail hugs a steep cliff (no guard rails, but the trail is fairly wide), then you turn the corner, and there's Delicate Arch!
|On the trail up to Delicate Arch, be sure to see:
|Wolfe Ranch – John Wolfe and his son ranched in this valley in the late 1900's. Peek into the weathered-gray ranch building, made out of hand-hewn logs.
|Ute Indian petroglyphs – Just after the ranch house, be sure to take a detour off the main trail to see our favorite rock art. The petroglyphs are a hunting scene, with a lively bunch of bighorn sheep and people on horseback; the carving is dated from 1650 - 1850AD.
|Delicate Arch Viewpoints – Not ready to hike to Delicate Arch? Drive to the viewpoints down below in the valley. The Lower Viewpoint is right at the parking lot, or hike .5 mile to the Upper Viewpoint for a closer look. From both viewpoints Delicate Arch is visible, but it's far in the distance.
|Fiery Furnace – Fiery Furnace is a tangled maze of sandstone pinnacles. The name comes from the intense red colors of the rock formation at sunset. At the Fiery Furnace kids will have fun scrambling through narrow spaces in the rock and climbing on rock ledges, but you'll need to take a guided walk led by national park rangers (March to October). Purchases tickets at the Visitor Center or online.
|Devils Garden –
|Devils Garden is end of the road, and has a super picnic area in the shade (bring lunch).
|Landscape Arch – Landscape Arch is one of the longest natural arches in the world. Everyone in the family, even little kids, can walk to this extraordinary formation. At the start of the trail, walk between two immense red sandstone "fins," freestanding walls of rock. When you reach Landscape Arch, it's boggling – the arch spans the length of a football field, but is incredibly thin. The trail is 1.6 miles roundtrip, and largely level.
|Double O Arch – From Landscape Arch, older kids and teens will enjoy a hike to Double O Arch. This is a "primitive trail" with cairns marking the trail over slickrock, and the trail is an adventure in itself. In the first section of the trail, kids can scramble up the rocks. In another section, the trail goes right along the top of a fin, a narrow sandstone ridge, and there are no guard rails. Tip: This is not a hike for little kids or kids who don't like heights.
|Tips for enjoying Arches
|Water, water, water – It's very dry, and it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially in summer. Even on a short stroll, bring a small day pack with drinking water – you will drink more than you can possibly imagine.
|Footwear – Trails are either soft dirt or go over slickrock. Don't hike in flipflops or sandals, and wear closed toed shoes with a tread.
|Hats and sunscreen – There's not a lot of shade around, so you'll be in the sun all day. Wear hats and slather on the sunscreen.
|Stay on the trail – You don't want to get lost, and you don't want to disturb the fragile desert ecology. Biological soil crusts ("cryptobiotic") are tiny living plants (algae, lichen, moss) that provide moisture and food for bigger plants, and help stop erosion. It might just look like dirt, but stepping on a crust can destroy it, and it takes years to grow back.
|Primitive trails – Some trails in the parks are marked as "primitive trails." This means the trail isn't a wide, well-defined path and is usually just marked with cairns. Hiking on a primitive trail, always hike together and don't lose sight of each other.
|Don't feed the wildlife – Mule deer can be inquisitive and squirrels are lunch mooches, but people food is bad for animals and you don't want to encourage them.
|Thunderstorms – Thunderstorms occur in late summer and early fall in this area. Don't go out hiking if a thunderstorm is brewing. If you are caught in a thunderstorm, park rangers recommend that you get to your car and stay there with the windows closed up until the storm passes.