God is a stonemason…and Utah's Arches National Park is the back room of his workshop. Stone bridges, gossiping monoliths, mountains with windows, city-sized sandstone pipe organs…They look like experiments. Or mistakes. Ambitious, dangerous ones. Read more...
Delicate Arch is the icon,* looping 65 feet out of an orange bluff according to its own invented axes, but every single hike in Arches will show you something that changes your perspective: the metaphysics of Landscape Arch; a Courthouse and a Tower of Babel on Park Avenue; the lost souls in the Fiery Furnace. It’s all waiting, quietly, like an engineering project abandoned as impractical.
Fragility by the ton
It’s Arches’ juxtapositions that stop you in your tracks: height and balance; coarseness and curvature; huge slabs of stone suspended in the air. We’re drawn to the unlikely, and good ventilation is about the last thing you expect from a mountain.
There are 2,000 named arches in the park. (An opening in the rock earns a name and an “arch” designation by stretching 3 feet in one direction.) Forty-three are known to have fallen since 1977 — a little more than one per year. We’re happy to report that humans didn’t cause any of them. (Don’t be the first!) So if you’re lucky (or stupid), you might get the photo of a lifetime (even if it’s your last). Tread lightly, speak softly, and please (please!), stay off the cryptobiotic soil — that crusty stuff off the trail that looks like dead moss is actually quite alive, thank you, and it’s preventing erosion.
Arches National Park is the Holey Land
…for hikers, bikers, drivers and rafters. And photographers and jeepers and climbers. And campers. Whatever your outdoor passion, make room for another.
(Some of those you can’t do in the park proper, but Moab, where you’ll probably stay, is centrally located in a surrounding area with plenty of sandstone to go around. Come for the outdoor adventure and stay for the spas, pizza and dusty luxury down the road. If you want to pack light, just rent all your gear at the outfitters on Main Street.)
See Arches now, before it gets as popular as it ought to. Outside peak seasons it still feels like there are more sights than tourists, and it’s so beautiful you won’t want to tell your friends.
*Though it wasn’t even part of the original area designated a national monument in 1929. A border extension nine years later put Delicate Arch on the Arches National Park map.