Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, copyright Tom Till, Tom Till Photography

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Arches is one of the world's, not just one of the United States', most incredible national parks.

When you gaze at Balanced Rock, climb up into the Windows, or walk under Delicate Arch, it's hard to argue against that claim. The park's rock-itecture -- windows cut from stone, spindly arches longer than a football field, thin fins of rock -- and desertscape are otherworldly.

While Yellowstone National Park lays claim the world's largest collection of geothermal features, with some 10,000, Arches National Park holds the record for most nature-carved sandstone arches, with more than 2,000. Among them is Delicate Arch, which graces Utah license plates, and Landscape Arch, which somehow, despite its thin profile and 306-foot base-to-base span, continues to defy gravity.

Though blistering hot during the height of summer, Arches is a great stop in the fall and spring, and for those who don't mind winter's cold -- with little snow -- the solitude can be exquisite!

A park that those in a hurry can tour the highlights in half-a-day, Arches is much more rewarding to those who take the time to explore its nooks and crannies and savor its nuances. There are short, and long, hikes that cast this redrock desertscape in a variety of moods, a preserved log cabin built by a Civil War veteran to peer into, and Native American rock art that tells stories of earlier cultures that traipsed this redrock setting.

And here is where a chapter of American environmentalism was written, as the late Edward Abbey spent a season here as a ranger and worked on Desert Solitaire in a trailer not far from Balanced Rock.

The park is a gigantic playground for kids. It's rock outcrops are perfect for games of hide and seek, and there's even an official sandbox ... under, of course, Sand Dune Arch.

Traveler's Choice For: Families, kids, photography, hiking, geology

Discriminating Explorer: Two Incredible National Parks, One Great Town

Sandstone so porous it absorbs the sun's rays?

It certainly seems that way as I head into Arches National Park, where the iron-rich sandstone stands stained red against the sky, a three-dimensional pleine air art gallery of earth tones.

Park History: Arches National Park

How would you describe Arches to someone who had never been to the Southwest? You could try to explain the landscape by comparing it to the old Flintstones cartoons, but what if they weren't familiar with the Flintstones? Do you think they'd believe you if you said Arches was a cathedral of rocks, where gravity doesn't always work, where the sunsets stain the cliffs?

Seasons in Arches

Seasons do change in Arches, but not as drastically as those in parks farther north. Of course, those parks don't endure the high heat that can make Arches feel like an oven in July and August.

Lodging in Arches

There is no lodging inside Arches, although nearby Moab offers a wide range and variety of options for where to end the day.

Camping in Arches

There is only one front-country campground in Arches, but it's located in a spectacular setting.

Hiking in Arches

Keeping, perhaps, with its "pocket park" size, 76,519-acre Arches specializes in short- to medium-length hikes. But they all have big payoffs.

Traveler's Checklist For Arches

May without question is one of the best two or three months of the year to visit Arches. It's not too hot, the spring rebirth is evident in the vegetation, and the crowds haven't yet arrived. With that in mind, here's Traveler's checklist for a May visit to Arches.

Wildlife in Arches

As with its neighbor, Canyonlands National Park, the landscape of Arches National Park conceals most of its wildlife from human visitors. That said, lizards are easily spotted, and mule deer at cool times of day can be spotted browsing the vegetation.

Geology of Arches

Cut from the same geologic cloth as its neighbor, Canyonlands National Park, Arches' geology tells tales of long ago, when inland seas inundated this part of North America.

Resources for Visiting Arches

This is where you can find websites, helpful phone numbers, friends groups and cooperating associations, and, sometimes, books related to the park.

Arches National Park News

Reader Participation Day: Where Is The Best Microbrew In The National Park System?

After a long day in a national park, it's nice to sit back and enjoy one of the local microbrews. Which raises the question: Where is the best-tasting microbrew with a park connection located?

Polling Shows Most Westerners Approve Of Federal Land-Management Agencies, Oppose Giving Lands Over To The States

A public opinion poll of key Western states has produced somewhat contradictory results when it comes to federal lands in those states. While strong numbers voiced positive views of agencies such as the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, strong numbers held their state governments in higher esteem than the federal government. Overall, though, a slight majority opposes proposals to turn those federal lands over to the states.

UPDATED: Patagonia Stung First At Arches National Park, Stung Again At Capitol Reef National Park

It seemed like the perfect photo shoot: Two climbers making a "first ascent" on a route in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. Unfortunately for the climbers, not only did they install bolts into the rockface, which is against park system regulations, and also roll rocks down the slope, but they were recognizeable.

Arches National Park Images