Friday, April 11, 2008


We got to Arches around 10:30 in the morning on Thursday, April 3. At Arches, the campground often fills early, and it’s close to 20 miles from the entrance to the campground, so you register for a campsite when you enter. This way, you don’t drive all the way out to the campground, only to find out that it’s full. Well, when we entered, the ranger at the entrance told us she only had one campsite left, so we took it. We lucked out! The only catch was that our site was only available for one night, so we’d have to move the next day. Oh well, you take what you can get when there’s only one site left!

At the entrance, you get campground space allocated to you, but you pick your specific site when you get to the campground. Since it sounded like the campground was pretty full, we decided to go straight there in the hopes of having some selection of sites. We wound up getting to choose from four or five sites, and we got a great one, on a little side loop, backing up to some pretty rock formations. The only possible problem was that the site next to us was a group site occupied by about two dozen young kids, but as it turned out, they weren’t very loud.

After hanging out in the campsite for a little while, we decided to do a three-mile hike that started right from the campground. Right from the beginning, we got beautiful views of red-orange rocks, set against bright blue sky:

Here’s Brian, happy to be on the trail again:

In the distance beyond the rock formations, there were some pretty mountains, too:

We reached the turnoff for a side trail to Tapestry Arch, so we took it. After a short walk, we were at the first arch of our visit:

Here’s Brian standing next to it – that’s one big arch!

We took one last photo of it looking back as we headed down the trail:

Along the trail, there were lots of little rocks to climb up on for great viewpoints. Just don’t get too close to the edge – in places, it’s a long way down!

The trail went right under Broken Arch. Based on the name, we were expecting maybe a former arch where the top had fallen in. Nope, this one’s still an arch. Not sure what’s broken about it.

Next was Sand Dune Arch. This one was in a narrow canyon filled with sand, so it was a big hit with the kids, who were playing under it.

Right at the end of the hike, we got a nice view of Devil’s Garden Campground, where we were staying. It’s in a very picturesque spot, surrounded by rock formations.

We hung out in the campground for a while and made dinner. While we were hanging out, the campground host came by and gave us the rundown on what sites were opening up tomorrow. He said site 21 had the best view in the whole place. After dinner, we set out again for another hike, and on the way we checked out the available sites. Sure enough, 21 had a drop-dead gorgeous view, so we signed up for that one and headed out.

This time, we were going out to catch sunset at Delicate Arch. To get there, you hike 1.5 miles, much of it up some exposed rock. You climb over the last set of rocks, and then suddenly you’re in this huge amphitheater, filled with other people who came out to catch sunset. Delicate Arch is really in a great location, with this huge viewing area in front and snow-capped mountains in back. As the sun sets, the colors become better and better – the arch gets redder, and the mountain backdrop becomes more and more purple. We took dozens of pictures, but here are our favorites:

The next morning, we made breakfast and moved into our new campsite. Then we headed out on another hike, the Devil’s Garden trail, which also leaves from near the campground. This one goes by all sorts of arches, starting with Landscape Arch. This one looks way more delicate than Delicate Arch. Apparently, a huge chunk of rock fell out of the arch a few years ago, while hikers were watching, greatly expanding the arch span. One guy from Fort Collins, Colorado, got a great shot of the rock in mid-fall – his picture is now on an interpretive sign below the arch.

Next up was Partition Arch, actually two arches side by side, affording great views as you look through:

Then there’s this section of rock fins – long blades of rock sticking up. We hiked along one of them and got a good view of the mountains:

Facing the other way, we got a view of more fins:

Aside from the arches that the park is known for, there are all sorts of different interesting rock formations. Some of them occur in large landscapes, like the fins. And others are one-offs, like this giant’s hand, resting on an armrest:

Here’s another double arch, called Double O:

Shortly after that, we reached the farthest point on the hike, so we found a scenic spot and stopped for a snack.

We could go back the way we came, or we could take what they call the primitive trail, which is a little longer. We decided on that. Soon we found a side trail to Private Arch, which indeed was sort of hiding around a corner:

On the way back, we got a different view of the rock fins:

Toward the end, we took a side trail to Pine Tree Arch:

By the end of the hike, we had gone a little over seven miles, so we stopped for some Gatorade before driving to another trailhead for a short hike to Skyline Arch:

By now we were pooped, so we headed back to our campsite. We built a campfire, which was a bit of a struggle. While we were at Arches, the wind was highly variable – it would blow really hard for hours, and then completely die down and be perfectly still. Well, while we were trying to build the fire, the wind was blowing hard. After having half a dozen matches go out on us, we used a lighter. Since we were already cheating, we threw a fire log into the mix. Once we got the fire log going with a few little splinters of wood on top for kindling, we didn’t have to do much else – the wind kept a constant flow of oxygen going, and the fire raged. We had some cheese and crackers and drank a bottle of wine – yet another pickup from Evan’s family when they left us all that food a couple weeks ago. It was quite relaxing. We were going to go to the ranger presentation on astronomy, but it clouded up, and in our wine-induced bliss, we weren’t interested in walking the hundred yards to the amphitheater, so we continued to enjoy our fire.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the amazing views from our campsite:

The next day, we packed up and headed out. Balanced Rock was right on the main park road, though, so we had to stop to take a picture of this boulder impossibly perched on a narrow pedestal:

And then we were off to Arizona!

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