Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On the Road: Arches National Park

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
I have been to Arches National Park three times. Two times were with other people and one time was by myself. Some may feel scared to visit a national park alone, but with careful preparation the experience will be a rewarding one.

The National Park Service has a website that details all activities available at the park. The goal of the NPS is to provide a safe and rewarding experience to all who visit. They have looked at all situations and circumstances of the public and have worked hard to inform visitors of all available options. The important aspect for the park visitor is to be well informed. Visiting the National Park Service website is the first step.

A map of Arches National Park is available on its website, so I was able familiarize myself with the layout. I was also able to choose the activities I wanted. I read the descriptions for each trail and noted where they were on the map. The Park Service has classified the trails as Easy, Moderate or Strenuous. In addition to the location, the description also gives the length of the trail and the time hiking it would take. The change in elevation is also noted. This information is important for hikers to know before they start on the trail.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
The easy trails at Arches are Balanced Rock, The Windows, Double Arch, Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, Skyline Arch, Landscape Arch and the Courthouse Wash Rock Art Panel starting point. The Delicate Arch Viewpoint is also an easy trail; however, the Delicate Arch trail itself is strenuous. The viewpoint takes 15 minutes, but the Delicate Arch itself takes 2 to 3 hours. The only moderate trail is Park Avenue. Finally, the strenuous trails are Tower Arch, Delicate Arch, Double O Arch, Devils Garden and Fiery Furnace.

The Park Service also provides suggestions for visitors that take into account those who have limited time. They will suggest the best options for hiking or for driving for those who have only a few hours to devote to the park. Since the position of the sun can greatly affect the quality of photos, the Park Service offers suggestions for the best time of day to photograph the scenery. Summer visitors need to take ample water for their visit. Water is available only at the main entrance and at the end of the main road. Winter visits require adequate clothing since the wind really rips through the area.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Other valuable tools for planning a trip to Arches are the Trip Advisor reviews and YouTube. The reviews give practical suggestions from those who have already made the trip. They provide solutions to problems that may be encountered. The videos give an insight as to whether trails are suitable for particular individuals. For example, we had viewed the video for the Delicate Arch. When we got to the area, we found the conditions extremely windy and cold. We had an hour before the sun started to set, so we knew hiking that trail would not be wise. These trails can be dangerous. The next week someone fell at that location.

The closest interstate to Arches National Park is Interstate 70. For those coming from the west, take Exit 182 for 191 South. Arches will be on the left just before Moab. For travelers driving from the east, take Scenic Byway 128 south from Exit 204. This beautiful road follows the Colorado River for part of its journey and runs along the southern boundary of the park. This road joins 191 and at this point turn right and head north. Soon the entrance to the park will be on the right.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
The entrance is at the southern end of the park and the best option is always to stop at the Visitor Center. Information about the area is available and the rangers are ready to answer any questions. The gift shop at Arches is much larger than the one at Canyonlands. Travelers would be wise to buy their souvenirs and needs at Arches. The rest rooms are also better. The main road travels north with two small connecting roads. The first one travels to the Windows section and the second one goes to the Delicate Arch. This park is not just a collection of arches. The road winds through terrain that contains various types of rock formations and land masses. Visitors in the winter are treated to views of the snow-covered La Sal Mountains. During the summer parking is a problem, but in November we had our pick of places.

Visitors to Arches National Park must be prepared for challenges they may face. Check the weather because the Visitors Center and a restroom at the end of the road are the only shelter available in case bad weather affects the area. Heavy rains can wash out roads. Wear proper clothing because the sun is intense in the summer and the wind will cut through anything in its path in the winter. Also make sure to wear proper hiking shoes. Sandals are not a wise option for the trails and rocky sections on which people must travel. People have been hurt or even killed in this park. Arches is beautiful and the scenery is amazing, but travelers must respect nature.

Moab is the closest city to the park and hotels can be full during the summer. We had no trouble finding a great place to stay when winter was starting, but we did notice many businesses and restaurants were closed. After our visit, I made sure to watch Thelma and Louise again because it is one of many movies to be filmed in this scenic area. Arches provided the location for the scene where the women lock the police officer in the car trunk and the famous ending was filmed near Canyonlands.

We enjoyed our visit to Arches even though it was so cold. In the future we would like to spend at least a week in Moab to continue exploring this spectacular national park.

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