Modern life grants us many comforts, but it also robs us of some of life’s simplest, most beautiful pleasures. Perhaps that’s why so many people seek out the natural grandeur of national parks: to reconnect with a more primitive version of ourselves, to feel awed at the sublimity of nature once again.
At Arches National Park, it’s not hard to get absorbed in the beauty of the high desert during the day. But at night, there’s even more to behold. The thin, moisture-sparse desert air and relative lack of light pollution in and around Arches makes for excellent stargazing. Nearby Dead Horse Point state park and Canyonlands National Park also offer great opportunities for watching the night sky.
Hiking, Climbing and Canyoneering
Arches has a plethora of hiking trails for a range of skill levels. These trails will let visitors get very close to the park’s awesome rock formations. If you bring a camera on your hike, be sure to take advantage of prime lighting times in the early morning and late afternoon, when the sandstone will appear aflame with amazing hues of red. Just remember to stay on the marked path, and observe conditions and safety regulations.
Easy trails include short loops to Delicate Arch, Double Arch, the Windows and other popular vistas, which are great for families. Moderate trails get a little steeper, and can wash out after rainfalls. Long trails trek over sandstone slabs and other rugged terrain through Devils Garden and Fiery Furnace. If you’re not taking a ranger-led tour of Fiery Furnace, you’ll need a backcountry permit.
Due to the sandy desert soil, rock climbing in Arches National Park can be quite challenging. Knowledge of advanced techniques are requisite for scaling a number of the park’s most popular ascents. There are important restrictions that apply to climbing in the park. Some are seasonal, some are permanent. For instance, climbing of any kind on any arch or natural bridge named in the USGS 7.5 minute topographical maps of Arches National Park is strictly prohibited. Similar restrictions apply to canyoneering in the park. Dragonfly and Tierdrop are two popular technical (involving the use of climbing and rappelling equipment) canyoneering areas in Arches National Park.
Auto Touring and Biking
Auto touring is a convenient way to take in the scenic vistas of Arches National Park, but since the park’s seen a recent uptick in visitation — reaching 1 million visitors for the first time in 2010 — traffic can be an issue, particularly on weekends and holidays. The park’s website provides common-sense tips on avoiding crowds and traffic. Parking in at trailheads is limited, so it’s a good idea to have a backup plan. Biking is a great alternative to car travel, provided you’re in good shape. Since bikers and cars must share the road, it’s a good idea for cyclists to set out earlier in the day, when traffic is lighter.