There are many incredible spots in the Utah canyon country. These may some of the country's best-kept outdoor secrets. There are none nicer than the spot found a short drive south of I-70, just north of the town of Moab. It was a national monument when Edward Abbey wrote about it in Desert Solitaire. Now it is a national park- a relatively small one, with a spectacular concentration of the sandstone arches that give the park its name.
Arches is a desert park. It gets most of its visitors in the fiery heat of summer, as they detour on their way to elsewhere. It is best visited, though, in spring and fall, when the weather is more forgiving and the crowds are smaller. The park is relatively small and is more suited to short hikes than long marathons. In summer, the weather is more suited to short hikes, too. But stay in the area for a longer time, even if not in this park, and visit some of the Utah state parks, Canyonlands National Park, and the town of Moab.
There is a small cabin on the trail to Delicate Arch that was once the home of a family. It is an interesting excercise to stand in the doorway looking into the small interior on a hot summer day and think about what it must have been like for a family to live here.
Nearby there is a small stream shaded by shrubbery. A look at the tracks in the sand will give you an idea of just how much wildlife can live even in this apparently inhospitable place. The insect life bears mentioning, too. Early in the summer, the gnats are absolute maneaters and seem to be able to eat chunks of skin larger than themselves. When spending time near streams, long pants and shirt are useful to keep the cowflies from taking substantial bites.
Sandstone arches are formed when the soft limestone erodes beneath the harder caprock.
Visit the official site.
Favorite place to stay: There is one campground (Devil's Garden), pleasantly placed among the sandstone arches. It seems extremely popular and fills up quickly, even in the blazing summer. There are lots of places to stay just a couple of miles away in Moab.
Favorite place to sit for hours: In a small arch that provides shade along the trail to Delicate arch. It provides a shady overlook to see the park's most spectacular arch.
While in the area visit: This could be a REALLY long list. Canyonlands National Park, to the south. Bring your jeep. Rafting the Colorado- a short trip to Westwater or a longer one down Cataract Canyon. Deadhorse Point state park. Newspaper Rock state park. And more.
Best Hike: The hike to Delicate Arch is a classic and should not be missed. One of the best all-day hikes in the National Park system is the Arches Primitive Loop in the northern part of the park.
Read: Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey. Actually many of Abbey's books concern this part of the country. If you're in an anti-establishment mood, read The Monkey Wrench Gang.
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