The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide To Arches National Park

Wispy strands of cotton candy-colored clouds smear the sky high above the ancient rock formations discussed in this visitor’s guide to Arches National Park.

Arches National Park
Photo by Ronald Diel on Unsplash

One of Utah’s four national parks, Arches is a desert wonderland where solid red rocks seem to defy gravity, gracefully spiraling into an endless variety of loops and swirls which soar hundreds of feet in the air. The sturdy stone structures accent the barren region, punctuating the otherwise-desolate terrain with flaming red-orange semicircles that tower over plunging valleys. From soaring buttes to ginger-hued gorges, here is your ultimate visitor’s guide to Arches National Park.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch
Facebook: Madhu Shesharam on Pixeo

Start your trip at Delicate Arch, a massive free-standing arch perched on the edge of a cliff. Gaze on the auburn arch from a while away from your perch at the Lower Viewpoint or take a quick 0.5 mile walk to the Upper Viewpoint for a clearer glimpse. If you are in the mood for a longer hike, consider walking three miles along an uphill trail for the best view of the Arch.

Check out the Wolfe Ranch Cabin, a weathered log hut close to the Delicate Arch trailhead whose faded white exterior blends in with the bland hill of bleached-white rocks behind. Another attraction near the Delicate Arch hiking trail is a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs where tiny sketches of stick figures on horseback dot the red-orange sandstone. Take time to examine the detailed drawings — evidence of the Ute people who settled this area long ago.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock
Facebook: CWBerish Photography

One of the most awe-inspiring attractions in the park, Balanced Rock is a wonder of nature: an enormous orange boulder rests precariously atop a massive sandstone slab, somehow resting with perfect ease in a position which appears totally unstable. This colossal chunk of sandstone will not stay balanced forever, though — the eroding forces of wind and rain relentlessly chip away at the rock-and-mudstone bond currently supporting Balanced Rock, so stop by before the 3,600-ton stone slab plummets from its perilous position.

Fiery Furnace

Fiery Furnace
Facebook: This World Is Beautiful Place To Live In

After seeing Balanced Rock, head to the Fiery Furnace trail, a demanding trek where hikers squeeze between rocks, clamber over boulders and walk down narrow passageways framed by towering canyon walls on either side. Prepare to tiptoe across ledges above drop-offs far below, pull yourself through sandstone crevices and leap over wide spaces between rocks.

Keep in mind that the Fiery Furnace is a labyrinthine maze and since the rock walls cut off GPS and cell phone reception, it is best to go with a hiking party who has visited the attraction before. If you want to explore the Fiery Furnace on your own instead of taking a ranger-led hike, you will need to purchase a mandatory permit up to seven days prior to your excursion.

La Sal Mountains Viewpoint

La Sal Mountains
La Sal Mountains. Facebook: The American Southwest

Thick storm clouds gather over the tan sandstone slabs seen from the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, veiling the golden formations in a haze of silver and shrouding the landscape in shadow. Dense fog blankets the arid terrain, stifling the sunlight from shining on the sparse greenery which manages to grow in this hostile environment which seems more suited to dry gray tumbleweeds than lush vegetation. The darkened sky and suffocating cloud layer smother the grand mountain range, wrapping its peaks in an eerie stillness which invites the visitor to pause, behold and reflect on La Sal’s awe-inspiring beauty.

Enjoy the beauty of Arches National Park when you visit these four must-see attractions.

Hannah Larson

Contributing Editor

A southern California native, Hannah is a traveler and thrill seeker whose love of writing is matched only by her passion for adventure. From ziplining alongside Niagara Falls to paddleboarding in Lake Itasca, she is always on the lookout for exciting experiences in beautiful places. Her favorite national parks include the Great Smokies, Sequoia and Glacier because of the spectacular mountain views.

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