Arches National Park. National Park in Utah, United States

Arches National Park

National Park in Utah, United States

Arches National Park - Moab, UT Photo © Ricky Rodriguez

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Arches National Park

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Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch
Arches National Park is a United States National Park in eastern Utah’s Canyon Country near the town of Moab. It is home to the world’s greatest concentration of natural arches – over 2,000 – including the famous Delicate Arch that became an icon of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The entire park covers 76,359 acres, and its elevation ranges from 1,723 meter1,245 meter above sea level. This breathtaking landscape features sandstone arches, balanced rocks, fins, spires, and eroded monoliths that create a magnificent environment of contrasting colors, shapes, and textures.


Beneath Arches lies an underground salt bed that is thousands of feet thick in some places. It was deposited in the area some 300 million years ago, when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, due to erosion of the landscape that surrounds the park, the salt bed became covered with layers of debris, sandstone deposits, and windblown sediments. The weight of this cover caused the salt bed below it to liquefy, resulting in pressure that thrust layers of rock above the ground to form domes of salt and stone.

As subsurface movement shaped the landscape, erosion removed younger rock layers from the surface and faulting (Wikipedia Article) shifted the earth to reveal millions of years of geological transformation. The stacked layers of rock visibly exposed throughout most of the park are evidence of this seismic activity. Over time, water collected in the surface cracks of these layers and froze to ice, thus expanding the surrounding rock and breaking off bits and pieces that were swept away by the wind.

The remaining collection of free-standing fins were weathered by wind and water until, in some cases, the cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many collapsed entirely but others, with the necessary degree of hardness and balance, survived despite their missing sections. These became the famous arches that can be seen today. Except for isolated remnants, the major formations visible in the park today and most of the arches are made of Entrada and Navajo Sandstone.

 - Park Avenue
Park Avenue. Photo by Rupsha Chaudhuri

What to See

Arches National Park sports the following features.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue is an easy, one-mile trail that winds through the bottom of a steep-walled canyon. Many hikers prefer to be dropped off at one end of the one-way trail and picked up at the other to eliminate the need for a round-trip.

Petrified Dunes

View the petrified dunes from an overlook that lies on the side of the park road between the Courthouse Towers and The Windows. These colorful formations are ancient sand dunes, hardened into stone throughout millions of years of deposition and erosion.

The Organ

The Organ
The Organ
The Organ is located among the Courthouse Towers near the entrance of the park. The Organ is an impressive sandstone fin that towers the landscape.

Delicate Arch

The most famous arch in the park (and perhaps the world), Delicate Arch can be seen two different ways. Choose to either take a 0.8-mile trail from a roadside turnout, or take a three-mile round-trip by way of a trail that starts at Wolfe’s Ranch to view this natural wonder.

The Windows

The North and South Windows are a perfect place to watch and photograph the sunrise. Along with Turret Arch, they are located on an easy one-mile round-trip trail.

Double Arch

Double O
Double O Arch
Located within walking distance of The Windows, this trail is a 0.8-mile round-trip that leads to Double Arch, a landform that comprises two massive, conjoined arches.

Devil's Garden Trail

Devil's Garden is home to some of the most notable geological formations in the park, such as Landscape Arch (the park’s largest), Double O Arch, and many more. They are connected by a series of trails, with Landscape Arch only a 1.6-mile round-trip from the trailhead, and Double O Arch a more challenging 4.2-mile round-trip.

Fiery Furnace

You will be awed by this spectacular maze of sandstone fins and formations. The area is accessible only on ranger-led tours, which can be reserved at the visitor center for a fee. Tours sell out quickly, so book one as early as possible.

 - Devil's Garden
Devil's Garden. Photo by Sanjay Acharya

How to Get There

By Plane

Moab's Canyonland Field Airport is the closest major airport to Arches.

By Car

The entrance to Arches National Park is located 8 kilometers north of Moab along US Highway 191. A car is the most common way of exploring the park; most visitors will drive to sites and then take short walks to view the geologic formations of the park. There are several four-wheel drive roads in the park's backcountry that may appeal to those with appropriate vehicles.

By Foot

There are numerous trails throughout the park, providing an alternative means of travel for those not wanting to explore it by vehicle. Hiking at or around sunrise (5-6 AM) can provide a less crowded experience and easier parking.

By Bike

Although not ideal in the summer heat, in cooler months biking can be a popular option. Though there are no bike lanes and traffic can be heavy at times, biking the scenic drive is a great way to see the park. The Salt Valley and Willow Springs roads are less traveled and the terrain is more suited to mountain bikes. Bicycles are only permitted on roads.

When to Go

The temperate (and most popular) seasons are spring (April through May) and fall (mid-September through October), when daytime highs average between 16 °C to 27 °C (15°C to 27°C) and lows average between -1 °C to 10 °C (-1°C to +10°C). Summer temperatures often exceed 38 °C (38°C), making strenuous exercise difficult. Late summer monsoon season brings violent storms that often cause flash floods. Winters are cold, with highs averaging -1 °C to 10 °C (-1°C to +10°C), and lows averaging -18 °C to -7 °C (-18 to -7°C). Though large snowfalls are uncommon (except in nearby mountains), even small amounts of snow or ice can make local trails and roads impassable.

Rock Arch 1 - Arches National
Rock Arch 1 - Arches National Park. Photo by Fred Moore

Planning Tips

Remember: Stay on the path - footprints erode the soil and destroy years of growth. Do not take rocks or any other type of souvenir from the park. Regulations prohibit slacklining (Wikipedia Article) park-wide. Approved recreational activities include auto-touring, backpacking, biking, camping, and hiking, some of which require permits. Guided commercial tours and ranger programs are also available.

Devil's Garden


Devil’s Garden Campground is the only campground within the park and reservations are highly recommended. Located at the end of the park road, this campground has 52 individual sites and two group sites. Cost per site is $ 10 USD per night. Stop at the visitor center when it opens at 7:30 AM for the best chance at a site.

Rock climbing

Climbing is not allowed on features named on USGS maps, but is allowed on other formations. Many of the formations in the park will easily crumble when disturbed. Know your limitations – many individuals must be rescued each year after they scale a formation only to discover they cannot get back down.


In order to backpack in Arches, you must obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center. The maximum group size is ten, but smaller groups are strongly recommended to reduce impact on the environment. Permits may not be reserved in advance. Summer temperatures can reach or exceed 43 °C (43°C), so it is important to carry (and consume) enough liquid to keep you hydrated.


As the climate indicates, there is extreme heat in the summers and the environment is not conducive to domesticated pets.


Park entrance fees are $ 10 USD for private vehicles and $ 5.00 USD for individuals on foot, bike, or motorcycle.

Dining & Lodging

There is no food or lodging available within the park, but the nearby town of Moab offers numerous options.

Nearby Landmarks

Canyonlands National Park, also near the town of Moab, features a colorful landscape of countless canyons, mesas and buttes that have been carved by the Colorado River and the Green River.

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Author: kristen7225. Last updated: Jun 15, 2015

Pictures of Arches National Park

Arches National Park
Arches National Park. Photo by katsrcool

Arches National Park
Arches National Park. Photo by unknown


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