In August of 2021 I finally made it Utah to see some of the National Parks that have been on my bucket list. I knew about the vastness of Canyonlands and that it’s on a scale with the Grand Canyon, but I was not prepared for how unique and beautiful The Arches is. While it is a smaller park, I feel like it had so much more interesting things to see and no mater how much time I had, it would not be enough to experience it all. The red rock formations give you a feeling of being on another planet and does not feel like something you should be experiencing on earth.
I can’t begin to explain the geological phenomena that made this park, but I will try to give you some highlights that I learned during my time there. The park is made of red rock and sandstone and unlike most rock formations, the landscape was not formed by water rushing through it. They were formed by the sand being blown across the landscape and through small holes and crevices, over time. This is actually still happening and accounts for changes in the Arches and even the fall of the Wall Arch that occurred in 2008.
I stayed in Moab for a week and worked during the day. Since my company is on EST I had a lot of time in the evenings to explore and take pictures. The first few pictures are cell phone shots I took on my first night in Moab. I wanted to just drive and see what to expect and plan for the week, but I found amazing views and colors at sunset, thanks to rain, that I did not see the rest of the week.
The only issue with the park is that dogs are only allowed in parking lots and most of the best arches and rock formations require some hiking. I didn’t want to leave Bella out of course, so I took her one evening and did some photography from parking lots and roadside pull offs. Funny enough, that was the only day I saw deer, which she watched, but did not bark at.
All the major arches have names, which I didn’t know till I got there. I did research on some of the most famous ones, with the goal of photographing all of them. Unfortunately, I did not achieve that goal. Some of the most spectacular ones requires a few mile hike that, with the August heat and the fact that I was working in the mornings, just wasn’t possible. I did get to see a lot of the park though and was thrilled with the quality of pictures I was able to achieve. The first Arch I was able to make it to, on my first evening, was Skyline Arch. It is probably the easiest to access from the road, but it still takes a hike.
There are also many other amazing rock formations, that are not Arches. One of of the most famous is of course balanced rock. I am not sure that the red rock formations in the other two pictures below have names, but they are close to the Courthouse Towers and I thought that made for a beautiful picture with the LaSalle mountains in the background.
One other rock formation of interest is a section they call Park Avenue. I was able to capture some great shots at sunset one evening that contrasted the last rays of light shining on one half, while the other side was in shadow. This is one area that can be viewed from the road and parking lot and does not require hiking. I took these pictures with Bella.
One of the most amazing formations of Arches is in the Windows section. I did not have time to hike up to each individual arch but I was happy with this shot of the Turret Arch section with the Lasalle Mountains in the background. The bottom right is the North Window Arch which is in the same area, but I actually shot it on a different day, with more light.
I’m not sure if this formation had a name but I thought it was beautiful and the day I shot it the light was great and made for an amazing blue sky. One of the most striking things about the park is that there are so many different, amazing things to see. Every rock formation is a work of art with it’s shapes, coloring and size.
One of the most amazing arches to see up close is of course Double Arch. It is a little bit of a hike to get to, but definitely worth it. The entire formation that it is a part of is like something you would see in a Scifi movie. The pictures below show the way the angles and perspective change as you take the path to the Arch, leading all the way to the iconic view.
I did some editing in this picture to try to highlight all the details and layers of the rock. It’s very hard to see in pictures how many lines, crevasses and colors there actually are in the rock.
One of the most interesting Arches to get to was Sandstone Arch. The path to it feels like something out of the movie 127 Hours. The Arch is tucked away inside a larger rock formation and you take a narrow path between the rocks to access it. The first picture below is the start and the second is when you get to the opening in the middle of rocks that takes you to the arch.
This area was the only place I regretted my shoe choice. I have had a pair of essentially hiking sandals, for years, that I love during the summer. They have great support and traction but slip on and are cool. They did not work out in this section, which was filled with sand.
Once you get to the first opening, you go around a corner and find another narrow passageway that leads you to the Arch. The formations and coloring of the rocks, as well as their height made for beautiful views and pictures.
The Sandstone Arch is different from other arches, in that it doesn’t appear to be formed out of one rock. It looks like a formation of sand blowing through an opening between two rocks that eventually formed a unique arch.
Of course, the most iconic arch is the Delicate Arch. Not only is it a geological wonder for it’s shape and ability to stand up, it’s pretty amazing where it formed. While other arches were at lower elevations, surrounded by other rocks and landscape that would have funneled sand in a way to form the arches, Delicate Arch, and it’s formation family are high on a plateau, alone.
There are two ways to see Delicate Arch, the up close, iconic view and a distant viewing area, which is considered the “easy” way. To get up close and see the classic view, it’s a 3 mile hike at around a 45 degree incline the whole way. I did not have time in the evening to make that and I was afraid, given the park’s description of the conditions, I was not in shape at the time to do it. However, the path to the viewing area, was not easy. The stairs above show the last section that gets you up and you can see the distance and perspective you get. Luckily I had my zoon lens and was able to get the shots below. My goal on my my next visit is the up close view path.
On my way back from Delicate Arch I was able to capture this beautiful sunset over the park.
The last Arch I was able to see was Broken Arch, but alas, like so many others, I ran out of time and did not make it all the way to the Arch. It doesn’t feel like it’s very far off, but it’s a couple miles all the way and as you can see the sun was setting pretty quickly. I was able to get close enough for some nice shots, but it’s also on my list of places to get closer to next time.
Writing this post it’s hard to believe I was there a week and spent five evenings in the park doing photography. It feels I like only scratched the surface of things to see there. I will say that of the National Parks I have been to, Arches may be my favorite. It has such uniqueness and variety everywhere you look. It’s on my list of places I want to continue to visit and explore. In the meantime, hopefully this has inspired others to go explore it as well.