by Thomas Best
This last month, my wife Pam and I embarked on a trip to visit the “Mighty Five” National Parks across southern Utah as well as parks in Arizona and Colorado. We accomplished that goal, and I am now going to share some fascinating information about our western park system. We begin with Arches National Park.
Arches, is located in southeastern Utah next to the city of Moab. While one of our smallest national parks in size, it has become one of our nation’s most popular. Known for it’s approximately 2,000 arches formed by millions of years of geologic forces and more recent erosion from water, ice, and wind, the naturally sculpted rock formations range from an arch just three feet long to the largest, Landscape Arch, which stretches across 306 feet. You will also be astonished at the towering spires and pinnacles, as well as large precariously balancing rocks.
This unique geologic wonderland sits atop an ancient salt bed deposited some 300 million years ago when this area was a vast sea. The salt bed was later compressed into rock formations, as much as a mile thick. The now weathered and eroded salmon-colored sandstone rocks reflect the sun’s light at various times during the day to appear either deep red or orange in bright sunlight to a light brown when backlit. This mecca for hikers was once the home of ancient Puebloans to later the Ute, Hopi, Pauite, Navajo, and Zuni peoples. They survived in this desert environment by hunting animals and gathering and maintaining plants. The evidence of their presence is still present in fascinating petroglyph panels featuring both animals and oddly shaped humans.
For most tourists who come here, the attraction is to hike the scenic and often challenging trails is a main attraction (I hiked 12 miles here in one day). Hiking to the iconic “Delicate Arch,” which originally reminded people of a cowboy’s bow legs (and is now featured on Utah’s license plates) is a challenging 3 mile round-trip difficult hike which my wife and I made at dusk when the arch is beautifully lit by the setting sun. Other popular arches include Double Arch, which was featured in an Indiana Jones film, the ”Windows” complex of arches which resemble a person’s eyes with glasses, and Landscape Arch, which stretches as long as a football field. However, if you want to see these sites and other formations such as “Balanced Rock” and the “Park Avenue” District of massive rock walls, you must now register in advance at “Recreation.gov” to secure a time to even enter the park. But come you must! You would never regret it!
Thank you for your interest.