Moab, Utah » Arches National Park
|Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other in the world. The entrance to the park is found 5 miles north of the town of Moab, Utah via US 191. Visitors can see many of these geologic wonders from a distance or up close. Arches is truly one of the most unique places on earth.||
Hiking in Arches National Park
two most popular ways to see
Arches National Park are by driving or hiking. Driving the main road
through the park allows you to see several incredible sites right from
your vehicle. Hiking Arches
National Park offers an unparalleled experience as you can see up-close
hundreds of gravity-defying sandstone arches, breathtaking fins, and towering
rock structures. Arches offers plenty of hiking trails for all levels.
The list below covers some of Arches National Park's most popular hikes.
|Balanced Rock||.3 mi/ .5 km||15-30 min||Easy||Rock formation, loop|
|Broken Arch||1.3 mi/ 2.1 km||30-60 min||Easy||Arch|
|Broken Arch with Loop||2 mi/ 3.2 km||30-60 min||Easy||Arch, sand dunes, slickrock|
|Delicate Arch Viewpoint||100 yards||10-15 min||Easy||Viewpoint of Delicate Arch|
|Desert Nature Trail||.2 mi/ .3 km||10-15 min||Easy||Nature Walk, Trail Guide|
|Double Arch||.5 mi/.8 km||15-30 min||Easy||Two giant arches|
|Landscape Arch||2 mi/3.2 km||30-60 min||Easy||Spectacular ribbon of rock|
|Sand Dune Arch||.4 mi/ .6 km||15-30 min||Easy||Secluded arch/sandstone fins|
|Skyline Arch||.4 mi/ .6km||10-20 min||Easy||Arch|
|1 mi/ 1.6 km||30-60 min||Easy||North, South Windows, Turret Arch|
|Park Avenue||1 mi/ 1.6 km||30-60 min||Moderate||Canyon, Courthouse Towers|
|3.4 mi/ 5.6 km||2-3 hours||Moderate||Rock wall, dunes, sandstone fins|
|Delicate Arch||3 mi/ 4.8 km||2-3 hours||Strenuous||Slickrock, arch|
|Devils Garden||7.2 mi/ 11.5 km||3-5 hours||Strenuous||Eight arches|
|Double O Arch||4 mi/ 6.4 km||2-3 hours||Strenuous||Scenic, Navajo Arches|
|Fiery Furnace||No marked trails, permit required, guided tour available|
General Hiking Tips:» Always carry a topographical map
» Small rock piles called cairns mark the trails.
» Remote trails may not be well marked or maintained.
» Pets are NOT allowed along any trails.
» Bring plenty of water. Most trails provide little shade.
» Trail guides may be available. Check with the visitor center.
» Permits are required for backcountry or overnight hiking, but cannot be reserved in advance.
» Maximum group size is twelve for backcountry groups. Smaller groups are strongly recommended.
Visitor’s Center and Entrance FeesThe Visitor Center is open year-round. Visitors are encouraged to stop by and learn how to visit the park with minimal impact to the fragile desert environment. Maps, brochures and books are available for purchase. A slide orientation program, geology museum, and history exhibit are also on display.
The entrance fee for Arches National Park is $10 per vehicle, or $5 per person. (These fees are included in the Moab Adventure Center Arches National Park Sunset Bus Tour and as part of the Arches Hike & Scenic Tour. Frequent visitors may be interested in the annual pass, which can be purchased for $25 per person (good for entrance into Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges) 52 campground sites are available for $10 per night on a first-come, first-serve basis. The nearest accommodations are in Moab.
Nature and ScienceThe forces of nature have acted in concert to create the landscape of Arches, which contains the greatest density of natural arches in the world. Throughout the park, rock layers reveal millions of years of deposition, erosion and other geologic events. These layers continue to shape life in Arches today, as their erosion influences elemental features like soil chemistry and where water flows when it rains.
Arches is located in a "high desert," with elevations ranging from 4,085 to 5,653 feet above sea level. The climate is one of very hot summers, cold winters and very little rainfall. Even on a daily basis, temperatures may fluctuate as much as 50 degrees.
The plants and animals in Arches National Park have many adaptations that enable them to survive these conditions. Some species are found only in this area. The diversity of organisms reflects the variety of available habitat, which includes lush riparian areas, ephemeral pools, dry arroyos, mixed grasslands and large expanses of bare rock.
PrehistoryRocks have attracted visitors to Arches National Park for thousands of years. However, sightseeing has not been the main activity for very long. Hunter-gatherers migrated into the area about 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. As they explored Courthouse Wash and other areas in what is now Arches, they found pockets of chert and chalcedony, microcrystalline quartz perfect for making stone tools. Chipping or knapping these rocks into dart points, knives, and scrapers, they created debris piles that are still visible to the trained eye.
Then, roughly two thousand years ago, the nomadic hunters and gatherers began cultivating certain plants and settled into the Four Corners region. These early agriculturalists, known as the ancestral Puebloan and Fremont people, raised domesticated maize, beans, and squash, and lived in villages like those preserved at Mesa Verde National Park.
While no dwellings have been found in Arches, the northern edge of ancestral Puebloan territory, there are rock inscription panels. Like earlier people, the ancestral Puebloans left lithic scatters, often overlooking waterholes where someone may have shaped tools while watching for game. People living in modern-day pueblos like Acoma, Cochiti, Santa Clara, Taos, and the Hopi Mesas are descendants of the ancestral Puebloans.
The Fremont were contemporaries of the ancestral Puebloans and lived in the same general area, so distinctions between the two cultures are blurry. However, Fremont rock inscriptions, pottery and other artifacts clearly demonstrate the existence of different technologies and traditions. Both the Fremont and the ancestral Puebloans left the region about 700 years ago.
As the ancestral Puebloan and Fremont peoples were leaving, nomadic Shoshonean peoples such as the Ute and Paiute entered the area and were here to meet the first Europeans in 1776. The petroglyph panel near Wolfe Ranch is believed to have some Ute images since it shows people on horseback, and horses were adopted by the Utes only after they were introduced by the Spanish.
European HistoryThe first Europeans to explore the Southwest were Spaniards. As Spain’s New World empire expanded, they searched for travel routes across the deserts to their California missions. In fact, the Old Spanish Trail linking Santa Fe and Los Angeles ran along the same route, past the park visitor center, that the highway does today.
The first reliable date within Arches is an interesting one. Denis Julien, a French-American trapper with a habit of chiseling his name and the date onto rocks throughout the Southwest, left an inscription in this area: Denis Julien, June 9, 1844. If we only knew what he thought of the wonders he saw!
The first European settlement of Southern Utah arose from the colonizing efforts of the Mormon Church. The Mormons attempted to establish the Elk Mountain Mission in what is now Moab in June of 1855, but conflicts with the Utes caused them to abandon the effort. In the 1880s and 1890s, Moab was settled permanently by ranchers, prospectors, and farmers. One settler even found a beautiful spot within what is now Arches National Park. John Wesley Wolfe, a veteran of the Civil War, built the homestead known as Wolfe Ranch around 1898, seeking good fortune in the newly established State of Utah. It is located on Salt Wash, at the beginning of the Delicate Arch Trail. Wolfe and his family lived there a decade or more, then moved back to Ohio. The cabin remains, an echo of what must have been a remarkable experience.
One of the earliest settlers to describe the beauty of the red rock country around Arches was Loren “Bish” Taylor, who took over the Moab newspaper in 1911 when he was eighteen years old. Bish editorialized for years about the marvels of Moab, and loved exploring and describing the rock wonderland just north of the frontier town. Some of his journeys were with John “Doc” Williams, Moab’s first doctor. As Doc rode his horse north to ranches and other settlements, he often climbed out of Salt Valley to the spot now called Doc Williams Point, stopped to let his horse rest and looked back over the fabulously colored rock fins.
Word spread. Alexander Ringhoffer, a prospector, wrote the Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1923 in an effort to publicize the area and gain support for creating a national park. Ringhoffer led railroad executives interested in attracting more rail passengers into the formations; they were impressed, and the campaign began. The government sent research teams to investigate and gather evidence. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation creating Arches National Monument, to protect the arches, spires, balanced rocks, and other sandstone formations. In 1971 Congress changed the status of Arches to a National Park, recognizing over 10,000 years of cultural history that flourished in this now famous landscape of sandstone arches and canyons.