My first time to the Arches National Park and it’s safe to say it’s now one of my favorite national parks. There’s so much to see, even just on the way to a trailhead. The park map puts it best saying, “water and ice, extreme temperatures, and underground salt movement are responsible for the sculptured rock scenery of Arches National Park.” My mom, Aunt Frances, and I set out for a day of exploring this amazing landscape. Lucky for us, my Aunt Frances has been here many times, so she showed us the highlights of the park! The following is a guide with insights on two of the hikes we covered.
Quick info: 3 miles in and out. Gain of 480 feet. No shade on trail. Moderate.
This hike is a must if you only have time for one. Why? Well, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks of Utah as it’s displayed on all their license plates. The trail is rated as moderate because of a break in the defined trail to hike up a steep incline of rock. Take your time on the incline and you will be rewarded. The rest of the trail is mostly level, with some portions through sand, and others on more rock-face.
The scenery all around is remarkable, but nothing prepares you for the view once you reach the Delicate Arch. It’s hard to describe, and even these pictures won’t do it justice (though I tried), but the view is insane. You come upon a big bowl, and at the opposite side is the arch sitting on the edge of the cliff. It’s huge. Bigger than pictures will portray. You can walk alongside the bowl and wait your turn for a picture under the arch. It’s epic. One of those views you not only show people pictures of, but beg them to go see for themselves.
Double O Arch
Quick info: 4.2 miles in and out. Some exposure to heights. Many short elevation changes. Difficult.
I wanted to see this cool arch because it’s one of the furthest points you can access in the park. My mom and I did this one right after finishing the Delicate Arch trail, so we were pretty tired by the end of this. The first part of this hike (up to Landscape Arch, pictured below) is easy and well maintained. It’s after this point that it becomes a difficult trail. In my opinion, the hardest parts are the segments of climbing steep rock inclines and the “rock fins” with drops on each side. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, as it certainly makes for a beautiful and unique trail. Just be prepared to scramble up some rocks.
The trail could also use a few more signs to guide, but other hikers have made rock cairns to help show the way, so follow those when the signs fail. They do describe this as a “primitive trail” after all. The Double O Arch is a great view. You have to look closely at the picture but underneath and slightly to the right of the top O arch is a smaller O arch, hence the name. The surrounding landscape looks as though you’ve stepped back in time. I really felt like I was looking into the past.
Where to Stay in Moab:
After a day of hiking almost 8 miles in Arches National Park, we drove through downtown Moab and rewarded ourselves with some pizza. Then we took the beautiful road alongside the Colorado River to the Red Cliffs Lodge. The scenery in this area is stunning, my family and I kept pointing out all the possible future arches and caves we saw in the red canyon walls. Staying at this lodge really added to our experience, since it felt more like a personal cabin rather than a hotel room. We relaxed and settled in after a great day of exploring.