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?
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