When I arrived in Utah last November, I did not know what to expect. I did not know about the incredible Rocky Mountains that surround Salt Lake City or the dry desert climate that occupies the state. I also did not know about its world class ski resorts or reputation for amazing outdoor recreation.
Finally, I definitely did not know about Utah’s INCREDIBLE National Parks!
But now that I know about them, I am determined to explore them all!
As I mentioned in my last post, Kevin and I have decided to tour through Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta and British Columbia this summer to explore some of the best National Parks our countries have to offer. So while we explored through Arches National Park last December, I felt like I needed to include it with our upcoming posts as this place is too amazing not to share!
Once you see the photos, you will be planning a trip to Utah for sure.
Arches National Park is approximately 3.5 hours Southeast of Salt Lake City. Located outside of the beautiful town of Moab, the park is famous for having the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. But the park is more than its arches. Every piece of scenery and geological formation found along its 36 mile (58 kilometre) Scenic Drive will take your breath away.
You may come for the arches, but you will quickly fall in love with the entire park!
We spent two days in Arches National Park in mid-December last year. While mid-December brought cooler temperatures, it also turned out to be the best time of year to visit!
When we arrived at the park, we drove right up to the Visitor Centre to purchase our pass and head on in! Kevin tried to explain to me that this process in the summer would have taken HOURS.
As I did more research, I learned that 1.4 million people visited Arches in 2015! So yeah…I guess the lineups would be insane during peak summer season! Not to mention, it would be brutally hot..
On our first day, we drove along the park’s Scenic Drive. Here we got to soak in the true beauty that is Utah. Lightly dusted with snow, the red rock and its formations were unlike anything I have ever seen.
We spent our day pulling over to the side of the road capturing pictures of the unbelievable structures formed in the sandstone over millions of years.
Seas covered this region 300 million years ago, and when they dried up, thousands of feet of salt remained. Eventually, layers of sand and other sediments covered the salt and compressed it into sedimentary rock. Over time, water, ice, and very hot and cold temperatures caused erosion in the rock. What is left today are some of the most amazing sandstone sculptures and arches in the world.
The Three Gossips (centred above) was one of the first major features in the park we stopped to enjoy. I couldn’t get over how amazing these red rock structures looked against the perfect blue sky. We were so lucky to be here with practically no one else around!
It felt like it was here just for us.
Balanced rock was another formation we stopped to appreciate. Other than the actual arches, it is one of the most popular features found in the park. Its total height is 128 feet (39 metres), with the huge balanced rock rising 55 feet (17 metres) above its base.
After spending some time along the Scenic Drive and enjoying the landscape, we were ready for our first hike in the park up to Delicate Arch!
There are two Delicate Arch hikes in the park. The first one is a short and easy hike leading to the viewpoint only. The second one is a much longer and strenuous hike leading right up to the arch. While short, in the summer this is considered a difficult hike as there is no shade along the 3 mile (4.8 km) path.
But in the winter, it sounded perfect!
We parked at the Wolfe Ranch parking area, loaded up our day packs with water, and headed out. The crisp air was invigorating as we set off to explore this famous landmark.
Even in mid-December, it didn’t take long for us to warm up hiking in the direct sunlight. Before we knew it, we had climbed most of the elevation and were making our way around the sandstone to reach Delicate Arch.
As soon as I saw it, I recognized it as the iconic Utah symbol I have seen around Salt Lake City. It was amazing!
What was even more amazing was how fortunate we were to view and photograph Delicate Arch with hardly anyone around. In the summer, hundreds of people would be surrounding the arch.
Once we finished the hike, we headed back towards Moab for dinner. As we left the park, the sun started to set and we were rewarded with even more gorgeous views.
It was a perfect way to end our first day!
The next morning, we headed back out on the trail to view Landscape Arch which has one of the longest natural rock spans in the world. The trail to view the arch was an easy 2 mi (3.2 km) hike round trip.
Early in the morning, it was a beautiful walk and once again we were lucky to have the trail essentially to ourselves.
Previously, the Landscape Arch included a loop trail that led underneath the arch. Following two massive rock falls in June 1995, the loop trail was closed.
We spent the remainder of the morning driving through the park enjoying its views. We loved the backdrop of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains this time of year. I couldn’t imagine coming any other time.
Arches National Park was my first real taste of the beauty that Utah has to offer. It sparked a desire in me to further explore this incredible state.
So Utah, let’s see what else you’ve got!