We finally wake up to endless blue skies and sun shining brightly on the morning of the 5th. Although still cool, it seems the best type of weather for a hike and we head out to Arches National Park. The park sits on a salt bed, which is responsible for all the arches, spires, balancing rocks and sandstone fins. The drive to the end of the park road is spectacular as you drive the winding road up and over hills, around outcrops of rock. There is something to see around every corner.
All the parks that we’ve visited in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California seem to have a knack to move people. Although the road is narrow, which I assume is to prevent people from pulling over just anywhere, it has been resurfaced, and wonderful to drive on. There are many viewpoints to stop at along the way and we took advantage of a few. I think this is the perfect time of year to visit this park as I would imagine during tourist season it gets very congested. During our hike both of us commented that during the summer months it would be unbearably hot with temperatures reaching the low 40’s. We elected to hike the Devil’s Garden Trail, which at 11.6 km (7.2 miles) is the longest in the park, and classified as Difficult. It wasn’t so bad. Yes, a little rock scrambling, and yes we did get a little off the trail, but basically an easy go of it. Most of the trails are well marked, and easy to navigate, but as we head onto the section called primitive trail, it is only marked with little rock carons….and some are very small, and difficult to see across the large rock fins, and bolders that you are walking on. Not only that, but there is nothing stopping someone, other than a park ranger, from creating these carons, or of course kicking them away making it difficult to navigate. Yes, we did get off track a couple of times, and probably hiked more than 12 km, but what a beautiful hike it is, I highly recommend this hike to anyone going through this area. The landscape Arch (seen below) is 306 feet long. In 1991 a slab of rock 60ft long, 11ft wide and 4ft thick fell from the underside of this arch. Proving that not all changes occur over hundreds of years, although erosion caused this split, the change occurred quickly, and I am assuming very noisily!
Hiking around all these spires, fins, boulders, and rocks is incredible. Up over a fin, or around a boulder, through a wash…something new to see. Many of the formations have names, which are very obvious, and easy to see. Wall Street, Court House, Balanced Rock, Pot Hole Arch (which is horizontal not vertical) as well as Parade of Elephants are only a few. Many of the scenes feature the snow covered LaSal Mountains in the background.
The morning of the 6th we woke to the bright sunshine and cloudless skies. It was still just above freezing, but hiking yesterday afternoon, we knew it would be another perfect day for a hike. We drove back into the park, to the Delicate Arch trailhead. Having driven to the viewpoints the day before, and walking up the .5 mile trail to the high viewpoint, we knew this hike was going to be an uphill battle.
The hike is clocked at 3miles/4.8 km which they have rated as difficult, simply due to the elevation gains of 480ft/146m with open slick rock and no shade. Again, hiking this trail in the dead of summer would make it very difficult. The last few hundred yards of the trail are carved into the side of a red rock hillside. As you round the corner, the Delicate Arch comes into view, and it’s a stunning site.
We elected to go back a different way…not sure if that was allowed, but others were doing it, so with the idea of not backtracking, we head around the arch, which you want to have really good hiking boots so as not to slip down the steep embankment, and down the rock to the moonscape below.
After following the tourist made trail, we were back on the park trail in no time and back down the hill. A few hundred yards from the parking lot gives way to a couple of spur trails. The first trail takes us past Petroglyphs created by the Ute Indians. These drawings were done between 1650 and1850. The Ute Indians moved into this area around the 13 hundreds – and Utah owes it names to these early settlers.
The next spur trail takes us a short distance off the trail to view the homestead of John Wesley Wolfe. Wolfe moved into the Salt Wash, and with the grassland, and the water built a coral, and a one room cabin which they lived in for over 10 years. At that time his daughter and family moved with them, and she was able to convince her father to build another house, with a wood floor. (pictured below) The whole family lived there for another few years before returning to Ohio. This cabin is small, and basically a table and chair inside, so cannot imagine where 6 people slept!
Upon returning to the truck, we drove a short way and turned onto the road which would take us to the Windows Section of the Park. There we were rewarded with short jaunts to the North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch and Double Arch. The weather still was beautiful, not too hot yet for the uphill climbs to these spectacular views.
Once we returned to the truck we drove back down the road towards the park entrance, pulling out to the viewpoint of “The Garden of Eden”. Not sure why it was named that, but was a good place for lunch, and to watch some rock climbers. There are specific places that you can get free permits to climb and go canyoneering in the park, but we elected to just hike the established trails, although at times, as stated earlier… we did wonder off the trails unexpectedly!
Our hiking in Arches National park over, we head south with our destination being Kayenta, the route which will take us through Monument Valley at sunset. We left Moab, and found a car wash, so took the time to get the dirt and salt off the truck and camper before continuing down the highway through Blanding, Bluff, Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley. We saw some wonderful scenery before reaching Monument valley, and as the sun set, we rounded a bluff to see this spectacular view.