Time for an Update
We at the Lodge are updating our catalogue with more thorough, more in-depth posts about the national parks of Utah. Our goal is to give you a better idea of what you should prioritize when visiting one of them. We’ve already covered Bryce Canyon, so it’s on to the next park! We’ve got more information, and more suggests for you in this post about… Arches National Park!
1. The Visitor Center, Of Course
We always suggest that you visit the Visitor Center. It should be your first stop. And not just because of all the cool displays, educational exhibits, geographical models, and archeological artifacts that are located there, but because you can talk to the rangers face-to-face. They know the park better than anyone, and they can help you plan a perfect trip. So first things first. Go to the Arches Visitor Center. While you’re there, it’s a good idea to pick up a map and a trail guide. And if you’re planning on going into the Fiery Furnace (more on that in a minute) then you’ll also need to grab a permit there too.
2. Arches, Baby!
So the main draw of Arches National Park is – you guessed it – arches. There are a couple thousand arches and natural bridges in the park. And a lot of the best ones are accessible via a developed hiking trail. Which means, it’s time to grab your hiking boots! Here are some of the most popular arches in the park, and a couple other favorites of ours.
Delicate Arch – we’re somewhat obligated to start with Delicate Arch, it’s probably the most famous geological feature in all of Utah. Heck, it’s on our license plates. But even though it’s very popular and very well photographed, we still believe it’s worth the effort to see it in person. There’s a reason it’s so famous, after all. The trail itself is a somewhat strenuous climb over bare slickrock. For a good section of it you will need to follow the cairns (and all the other people). Delicate Arch is best hiked in the cooler times of the day. Bring plenty of water. Roundtrip is three miles.
Landscape Arch – at 306 feet across, this is one of the longest arches in the world. It’s thin too, and as time and weather wear on, it’s bound to get thinner, and eventually break. So if you’re in Arches, do yourself a favor and stop by Landscape Arch, before it’s gone for good. The trail is easy and only a mile-and-a-half roundtrip.
Optional Extra: Devil’s Garden – Landscape Arch is located in a section of the park called “Devil’s Garden.” And there’s a lot more to explore here. Our favorite arch in the area is the Double O Arch, but there are spurs of trails leading to tons of other arches.
Double Arch – this is probably the best arch in the park if you’ve got kids. The trail is very short, only half-a-mile roundtrip, and flat. And the payoff is big! Two massive arches spurs that share the same base. They’re fun to play around. And you can pretend to be young Indiana Jones!
Tower Arch – Tower Arch is one of our favorites. It’s a little more unique in appearance, compared to most of the arches in the park. (It’s got a massive sandstone tower rising from one side, hence the name.) But it’s also a great hike. The trail climbs for a bit, then just short of wanders through a cuts a sandstone valley. It’s also not too difficult, but still a decent hike. It’ll three-and-a-half miles roundtrip.
3. Go Beyond
Hiking the trails and seeing the arches is what this park is all about – for most people. But there is a whole section of the park that too often gets overlooked. We’re talking about the Fiery Furnace – a maze of canyons, narrows, and sandstone fins. There are a couple of ways to explore this vast wilderness area: You can sign up for a ranger-led hike. Or you can explore on your own.
If you’re new to canyoneering, go on one of the guided tours. The Fiery Furnace is a lot of fun to explore, but it’s not a forgiving place. There are tight spaces and sudden, steep drop-offs. You’ll want to know what you’re doing, or be on a tour with a ranger who does. But if you’re an experienced outdoors-person, by all means, go beyond into this remarkable place. Just grab that permit first. And be safe out there.