Where to Stay and Hike in Arches National Park
· 10 min. read
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Arches National Park in Utah is world-renowned for their stone archways, dynamic terrain and breath-taking sights. However, this park is only one of the many incredible parks in southeast Utah, belonging to the Southeast Utah Group (SEUG) of attractions. The park can be entered for $30 per vehicle or $25 per motorcycle, with access for seven days. However, if you're looking to visit other nearby parts of the state, including other national parks, it would be more economical to get the SEUG Annual Pass for $55.
If you want to visit national parks in other states, or outside of the SEUG, it would be best to get the "America the Beautiful National Park Pass" which is $80 a year, or $20 a year if you're a senior. Seniors can also get the "America the Beautiful National Park" lifetime pass for $80.
There are several options on where to stay near Arches as well, with Moab only about ten minutes outside the park. Although it has a population of around 5,500, the town has everything you need, from restaurants to gas stations to hotels to museums and even a variety of outdoor hiking trails.
If you are the type that wants to camp, you're in luck too. Arches National Park is home to Devils Garden Campground, which is located on the far north side of the park. There are only 51 campsites available and they are usually full, so the park recommends booking in advance. There is also accessible camping for those who need it, but those spots are limited.
If you're visiting the park in the winter, many of the water-bottle filling stations will be shut off for the season. Devils Garden Campground, however, has water year-round. This is the perfect place to stop and refresh before or after any hike.
While camping at the park is an experience like no other, it is important to remember that the weather in the park is also very volatile. The park's temperature goes down to -17 C (0 F) in the winter and up to 37 C (100 F) in the summer. Monsoon season can also bring flash floods to the area, something that is almost impossible to prepare for. Various signs throughout the park tell peoplewhere to hide in case of a flash flood.
If you're looking to sightsee while in the park, there are several bucket-list destinations you can easily get to. Balanced Rock, for example, is right off the main road that winds through the park, and you can circle the towering stone structure in a smaller, mile-long walking trail too. You can also hike to the Delicate Arch, but as it's a very challenging hike I only encourage you to attempt it during the day.
The Fiery Furnace is also just off the main road, while the Double Arch is accessible via a short, half-mile hike. Between these two locations are a lot of other spots to visit too, such as The Windows, the Parade of Elephants and the Elephant Butte.
However, most sights are near the Devils Garden Campground, on the Devils Garden Trailhead. This trail is the longest hike in the park and takes you through some of the most dynamic landscapes the park has to offer.
This trail is broken into three parts, with each part having a primary destination to visit. The first is the Green Trail, which leads to the Landscape Arch. This hike is very easy and is usually full of people, families and their children. The second part of the trail is the Blue Trail, which is less maintained and starts off by hiking vertically up a stone incline ? the steepest climb in the entire park. The Blue Trail starts here, immediately after the Landscape Arch. It includes the nearby Partition and Navajo Arches, as well as the Double O Arch which is located at the end of the trail. This area of the trail is not recommended for people who are afraid of heights.
From that point on, the trail fades into the desert and becomes the Red Trail, also known as the Primitive Trail. Few people explore this far onto the trail as it can be difficult to follow. If you go west on the trail, you can arrive at the Dark Angel stone obelisk, but if you go east, you will visit the Private Arch and eventually circle around back to the Green Trail and the Landscape Arch.
I hiked to Dark Angel when I was in the park, but due to time I chose to go back the way I came, instead of going back on the Primitive Trail.
Much like the trail to the Delicate Arch, the trail starts off well marked at the beginning but then fades into obscurity about half-way in. I joined a group of hikers at one point and we wandered the wrong way to a cliffside, only to see a small trail to the left of us, winding down a quarter-mile back the way we came. When we walked back, we found a small sign, with an arrow about the size of a business-card telling us which way to go.
Another part of the trail goes straight into a six-foot-high stone wall, with the only way to proceed is to climb over it. From that point on the trail is pretty much gone and you'll find people wandering all sorts of directions, on different rock croppings, all looking for signs that they are going the right way. It was at this point that about four different groups of hikers asked me if I had come from the parking lot, as they were so lost.
Although the area is beautiful to get lost in, it is very fragile. The iconic Landscape Arch was once much bigger, but the water had begun eroding part of the arch and pieces fell off it in 1991 and 1995. After that, the trail to the arch was closed. Eyewitnesses said that the stone breaking off cracked like thunder in the sky. The trail is blocked and impassable, but people still wander past the fence to walk beneath it.
After my earlier experiences in the park, I chose to stay on the trail the best I could.
But I still go lost a few times. More than once I followed a pair of footprints down into a valley, only to have them fade away into the sand. Once I was certain I was going the right way, only to find myself mid-way down a canyon, with a fifty-foot drop ahead of me.
It can be disorientating hiking in the park, so I recommend you download an offline map of the park onto your smartphone before you leave so that you can use the GPS without an Internet connection. I also recommend you fill up two water bottles per person while in the park. The hike is a 5 mile or 8 km round-trip, assuming you don't go off the main trail to explore other arches or you get lost, so it'll take you about 3-5 hours.
The Devils Garden Trailhead is a beautiful hike and the perfect way to explore Arches National Park.
Have you ever explored Arches, or visited the Devils Garden Trailhead? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
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Categories: Hiking, USA, Utah