Arches National Park in 2 days
Spending 2 days in Arches National Park to celebrate my birthday is one of the best things I did for myself. It not only ended up being one of my best birthdays ever but it happened to be one of those perfect days in life, when things just fall into place and you feel so much loved by the people in your life, and blessed by the Nature and the Goddess of good fortune. Such days are pure treasure and I pen them down here with the hope that, when I look back at some point in the future, I can still feel at least a portion of the gratitude that I feel now.
Arches National Park is like Nature's own sculpture garden and it gave me immense joy to witness some of its best artwork. The beauty, grandeur and splendor of the various arches and rock formations throughout the Park was almost overwhelming. The fascinating landscape of the Park was made even more magical on the day we visited by the snow from the previous night. The beauty of the bright red rocks sprinkled with the magical white snow is one for the dreams.
We braced a snowstorm the previous evening but it was totally worth it for all the snow covered scenic rocks the next morning. Thick fog and ice on the roads made it difficult to drive at night, but the snow covered trees lining the road made for a lovely drive in the evening :)
We stayed at 'Scenic View Inn', which is at a very convenient 15 minute drive from the National Park. We left the hotel after breakfast, around 9 am in the morning and picked up our permit from the Visitor Center for the 'Fiery Furnace hike' next day (more on that later). And then, we began our exploration of the Park.
Our first stop in the Park was at the 'Balanced Rock' (0.3 mile RT), where the snow covered pathways made it feel like we were entering a wonderland to witness a magnificent piece of art.
Our next stop was at the 'Double Arch' (0.6 mile RT), where the design of the entire area was so fascinating that it was hard to believe that water, ice and wind are the architects of this amazing landscape.
There was some rock scrambling involved to get directly under the arch, but we were then treated to this beautiful view.
We then visited the 'Windows Arch' (1 mile RT) and I couldn't think of a more apt name to describe it. The 2 large eye-shaped openings in a sandstone fin were like the windows into the soul of the Park. One of my favorite moments in the Park was sitting in the North Window and looking at the otherworldly view on the other side and exclaiming to myself - What an ode to Planet Earth, this National Park is! And how lucky I am to have had a chance to visit this, when covered in snow. I could imagine myself sitting there on end for hours with a book in my hand and a broad smile on my face. Hopefully, next time...
Right opposite to the Windows Arch is the 'Turret Arch' and all of the above combined make this one of the most beautiful areas to visit in the Park.
The next concentration of beautiful arches is near the Devils Garden and that is where we were headed next. We began our 4-mile round trip hike at the Devils Garden Trailhead to visit 2 arches - 'Landscape Arch' and 'Double O Arch'. The first 1-mile of the hike was relatively flat and it took us to the 'Landscape Arch,' which is the longest arch in North America.
After this point, the hike got pretty interesting and involved some bouldering, a bit of traversing on the ledges, and side angle walking before we got to the 'Double O Arch'. We spent some time here and had lunch, before we headed back to the trailhead. The hike back seemed a bit intimidating at certain points, but wasn't difficult or dangerous as long as we trusted our foot grip and kept moving. Some momentum always seems to help.
There are a few other arches in this area which involved some quick detours, but we skipped those as we wanted to spend more time at the landmark arch of the Park - the 'Delicate Arch'.
The Delicate Arch is a giant freestanding natural arch, that is perhaps, the grandest of all arches in the Park, both in design and location. It can be accessed by a 3-mile round trip hike, which is highly recommended for jaw dropping views of this arch. We reached there around 4:45 pm and spent 30 minutes enjoying the vistas, the stature and the elegance of this arch. Luckily, it wasn't crowded and we spent some beautiful time here. Though our plan was to watch the sunset from here, it was getting cold and we didn't want to wait an extra hour and hike back in the dark. So we headed down and went to the viewpoint instead to watch the arch in the sunset. Sunsets, like sunrises, illuminate the red rocks and are extra special in the desert sky.
We then called it a day and headed to 'Sultan' Mediterranean grill for dinner, which was great.
The next morning was my birthday and it began in the best way possible with lovely birthday wishes from my husband and best friends. I then cut my favorite cake (Dark Chocolate Mousse from Costco :)) with a view of the picture perfect La Sal mountains and the enchanting red rocks. Just as I was thinking that I couldn't have asked for a better start to the day, my lovely 2.5 year old niece called me to wish as well.
The special plan for my birthday was to do the 'Fiery furnace hike,' which is a natural maze of narrow passageways amidst the most fascinating landscape of sandstone rock formations that we have ever seen. It requires a permit that can be booked online, a week in advance. It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to traverse this maze and it had to be one of the most fun things we ever did in a National Park - and this is our 32nd National Park in the US! For more details on this adventure, click here.
After this amazing experience, we headed to the 'Skyline Arch' and then the 'Broken Arch'. It is a flat 1.2 mile round trip to get to the 'Broken Arch' from the parking lot. It is heartwarming to see anything that is broken yet standing tall - be it a heart or an arch, and this was no less. We enjoyed lunch with a view of this beautiful arch and then headed to the 'Sand Dune Arch'.
The Sand Dune Arch is located in a small slot canyon that captures light in a playful way and glows in the afternoon sun. The boulders and the sand in this area seemed to be a magnet for kids. We were lucky to catch it in silence for a minute before the place was flooded with kids rolling in the sand and jumping on the boulders. It was fun to watch them have so much fun, though it felt crowded.
Our last stop of the day was at the Park Avenue trail. It is a 1-mile trail that goes through a spectacular canyon and has some of the best views of the Park's gigantic monoliths. It was an awe inspiring trail, to say the least, and a fitting end to our wonderful 2 days in the Park.
This trip would be remiss if I did not mention the beautiful-snow-covered-picture-perfect 'La Sal Mountains' that kept us company throughout the trip. I love mountains and these just looked like a dreamy painting! There is a view point in the Park dedicated to these but we could see them almost every minute of our trip and still couldn't get enough of them...
We spent some time in a bookstore that night (which is kind of my birthday ritual) and then ended the day with a delicious mushroom soup at '98 Center' in downtown. The next morning, we went for a coffee date at 'Moab Coffee Roasters'. It was my attempt to squeeze as much as I can from this beautiful trip. But I also needed some time for it all to sink in, and how else than with an aromatic coffee...
Arches National Park stole my heart, leaving me mesmerized and wanting for more. The picture below summarizes me in Arches National Park - as happy as a kid in a candy store :)
Needless to say, I need to go back again. But then, would it be this wonderful the second time? Only time can tell...