Helping you discover your inner traveler

Arches National Park in Utah

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I didn’t travel too much outside of Florida as a child, and my fiancé moved so often that neither of us saw most of the U.S. national parks. We always said that if we had the chance to drive across the country, we would make it a point to see as many national parks as possible. While we loved hiking Zion National Park and spotting wildlife at Yellowstone, some parks you see just to see. Arches National Park in eastern Utah was that kind of park for us.

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On the day, we visited there was a long line to enter the park because there were so many visitors. If this happens when you go, be patient because people leave and park officials are great about getting more travelers in quickly. They are more organized than Disney. From the entrance, pictured above, you can see how large the arches are in comparison to buildings and cars.

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Arches National Park was founded thanks to the work of two men, Loren “Bish” Taylor and John “Doc” Williams. The park is four miles north of Moab, Utah, where both men worked. Taylor wrote editorials for years describing the beauty of Arches, historians say. Williams was the first doctor in Moab and, like Taylor loved Arches. Soon Alexander Ringhoffer joined the cause, and in 1929 much of the land became a national monument. The protected area has grown several times over the years. Read more about the history of Arches here.

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Once inside the park, most of the different arches are easy to reach from the 18-mile scenic road. If you want to view the entire park from your car you can, but you won’t see the view pictured above or below. In total, this national park has 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks, officials say.

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While the hike to this view is short, it is mostly unpaved so visitors should wear sturdy hiking shoes. If you are wearing exercise shoes or anything without enough traction, walk slowly and carefully through the area. Wear sunscreen and bring water as temperatures at Arches are at or exceeding 100°F/38°C during the summer months.

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The full 2-mile hike is labeled Park Avenue and offers spectacular views. If the entire hike seems like too much for you, walk as far as you’d like and loop back. You could also have one traveler stay in the car and pick the group up at the other end of the hike to avoid walking back to the starting point. You’ll mostly see lizards in this area, and flowers like the one pictured above.

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This massive formation can be viewed from the car or up close from the area surrounding it. Balanced Rock, pictured below, can also be seen from your vehicle. If you are looking to stretch your legs, though, get out and walk the short hike around the base of Balanced Rock.

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Probably the most popular and photographed stop at Arches National Park is the Windows spot, pictured below. The hiking area has views of three massive arches. While some of the areas are paved, watch your step as the return route is slightly uneven. I became distracted snapping photos of the view and twisted an ankle. The Windows hike is about 45 minutes long, but it is easy for travelers to spend much more time at this spot. Professional climbers don’t practice here, but visitors can climb through the arches that are close to the ground.

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While not every spot is available for rock climbers, the park does offer a variety of options. We saw a few groups of climbers when we visited. Arches National Park has a long list of rules and regulations for climbers, including only allowing free climbing or clean aid climbing. Climbing spots are also closed temporarily due to weather, so check here first before planning your trip.

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Bike riding is another option for adventure enthusiasts. While roads and pathways are open to bikers, the trails are not. See all the spots you can ride here. Experienced hikers will want to check out the Devils Garden trail, which park officials say is in an old section of the park. The 7.2-mile hike has narrow ledges, steep climbing, and few trail markers. If you are looking to push yourself on a hike, consider a ranger-led tour, which will give you unique views of the park and offer the safety of traveling with an expert.

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If you plan on staying in Moab a few days, consider staying at one of the top hotels or camping in Devils Garden. The Park only has 50 campsites, so booking in advance is recommended. Have you ever been to Arches National Park? What spots did you visit inside? Did you walk, hike, or bike? Tell us in the comments below.

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