At the park's Double Arch. Photo by John M. Smith

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Utah’s Arches National Park has the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. More than 2,000 arches, along with many other fascinating geological formations, are to be found in this one park, and this destination is certainly a photographer’s delight.

Located Near Moab

Arches National Park is located a mere 5 miles from Moab, so I used this as my base (staying at the Moab Valley Inn), and a short drive north led me to this incredible park. I first stopped at the Visitor Center – for the viewing of an introductory film and some interactive exhibits.

Then I proceeded to drive the entire 18 mile paved road (one way), but I found that this wasn’t particularly easy to do, for I kept wanting to stop for photos and short hikes and small detours. The spectacular geologic wonders just seemed to be everywhere! Some of these not-to-be- missed pullouts included the Park Avenue Viewpoint, , La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, Courthouse Towers Viewpoint , Petrified Dunes Viewpoint, Fiery Furnace Viewpoint, Balanced Rock, Panorama Point, and the Devil’s Garden.

One of my short paved detours from this main route brought me to the Delicate Arch and another led me to the Double Arch and the North and South Window. I also passed by a plethora of arches along the route, including Pothole Arch, Turret Arch, Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, Tapestry Arch, Tunnel Arch, Skyline Arch. and Landscape Arch.

Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip

A Plethora of Arches

This road cuts through the rugged landscape and leads the visitor into Utah's Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith
This road cuts through the rugged landscape and leads the visitor into Utah’s Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith

Of all these incredible arches, Landscape Arch is the longest (longer than a football field) and Delicate Arch seems to be the most popular and most photographed. It’s the one usually found in the park brochures and ads.

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Therefore, if you’re only doing one hike, this is probably the one to do, but it’s a somewhat challenging 3 mile round trip. If you simply want to get a decent photo without that hike, there’s both a Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint and an Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint (the latter is the better of the two).

Hiking in the Park

At the park's Delicate Arch. Photo by John M. Smith
At the park’s Delicate Arch. Photo by John M. Smith

Having said that, I believe that it would be a real shame to visit this exquisite area and only do a single hike, for the park just has so many wonderful options. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the Windows section of the park (with its North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch) or the Double Arch (where two large arch spans are joined together at one end), Sand Dune Arch, Skyline Arch, or the Park Avenue Trail (which descends into a canyon).

And if you’re a bit of a daredevil, and have the time, a challenging addition would be the 4.2 mile Double O Arch Trail at Devil’s Garden, for it involves climbing over sandstone slabs and navigating some narrow ledges.

Yet another worthwhile challenge for the adventurer would be in the Fiery Furnace, a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons, but you must get a permit to do this, and it’s best to pay the extra money and join a ranger-led hike in this area; these somewhat strenuous 3-hour guided hikes are offered most days, spring through fall, and they involve scrambling up and through narrow cracks and across high ledges.

Photography in the Park

At The Windows, in Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith
At The Windows, in Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith

If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll want to catch at least a park sunrise or sunset, for these special moments can add brilliance to the red rocks; after all, the Fiery Furnace, for example, gets its name from the reddish glow that often appears here at sunset. And if you have some cloud cover during the day, or experience a sudden storm while in the park, these can add depth and dramatic lighting, too.

Entering the Park

In 2021, entrance to the park is $30.00 per vehicle, $25.00 per motorcycle, and $15.00 per bicycle. There are no paved shoulders or bike lanes for cyclists within the park, and cyclists must stay on the roads (not on the hiking trails), but there’s a great paved bike path from Moab to the park.

Overnight stays

Another balanced rock that's located within Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith
Another balanced rock that’s located within Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith

Camping is available at the Devil’s Garden Campground, but it’s often full, and there are no lodges in this park. Therefore, nearby Moab is the logical place to stay while visiting Arches National Park – and this awesome destination offers many opportunities for tours into not only Arches National Park but also to the other two nearby parks: Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. What an incredible area!

Arches Galore

Entering Utah's Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith
Entering Utah’s Arches National Park. Photo by John M. Smith

Several years ago, the park literature stated that Arches National Park was home to “almost 90 arches”, but a group of “arch hunters” have now found more than 2,000. That’s quite a change! Have they located them all?

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Author’s Bio: John is a freelance travel writer and photographer who enjoys travelling the world and writing about his adventures. He has written weekly travel features for a group of community newspapers, presented several travelogues, and is the author of two major cycling books: “Cycling Canada” and “Cycling the USA”.

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