A Morning in Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a beautiful place, with a unique geology that features crazy rock formations everywhere.  You can see over 2000 monoliths, rock fins, spires, balanced rocks, and natural arches in the park.  Here’s a cool interactive map of the park, from the official park website.

I made two trips to the park: one on Saturday morning, and the other on Sunday evening. I took siestas at the hotel in the early afternoons – noon sunlight isn’t that cool for photography, and it was pretty darn hot in the afternoons! Morning sunlight is quite different from afternoon sunlight. Also, certain landmarks at the park are better oriented for either the morning or evening sunlight. For example, the famous Delicate Arch is shot best at sunset (which I did!). This article covers my morning experience at the park.

Sunrise at the Windows

I have resolved to get up for sunrise photos on many trips in the past.  However, this trip was the first time in which I followed through on the idea.  I woke up at 5am, got my gear ready, and arrived at the park by about 6am, just before the sun rose.  There are several areas of the park.  I went to the Windows area to catch these sunrise photos.

The following shots were taken at the South Window:

Facing the Windows is Turret Arch. Turret Arch is really neat in the morning because the sun shines right on the face of the arch.

Just a short hike away from the Windows is Double Arch. It’s pretty neat because the two arches share a common foundation pillar. Double Arch was in some scenes of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Devil’s Garden Area

The Devil’s Garden Area is located at the end of the 18-mile scenic drive through Arches National Park.  Devil’s Garden contains several trails that lead to a bunch of arches.  The first part of the main trail is about a mile long and is an easy hike.  The scenery on the trail is great, especially with all the large rocks protruding from the ground.

The easy part of the trail ends at Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park and one of the longest natural rock arches in the world. The photo at the beginning of this article is also of Landscape Arch.

Beyond Landscape Arch, the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop begins. The loop itself is about 7 miles long, plus a few side trip hikes to see specific arches. It’s a difficult hike. You have to hike up and down sandstone slabs, and sometimes along high rock ledges. The views are amazing though. Just make sure you bring plenty of water!

Partition Arch is one of the side trips off the Primitive Loop. You can see the arch from afar on the main trail (you can barely see it in the photo above). But the side trip takes you behind the arch, and you can walk under it. You can get a nice view of the Devil’s Garden area from under the arch.

Navajo Arch is another landmark you can see on a side trip from the Primitive Loop.  While the hike around its back side is rather dull, the front side is kind of neat because it looks like you’re hiking in a cave or ravine.

In Conclusion

Arches National Park is a beautiful, unique place.  It’s totally worth it to get there early to enjoy the sunrise and the morning light.  After an early start and over ten miles of hiking, I was hungry for a nice lunch and then a siesta.  I ended my morning adventure at this point and headed back to Moab.  Articles to come: Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Evening in Arches….

Check out this article and others from my blog:
This article
Part 2 of my Arches experience
All articles on Utah 2010 trip
Slideshow of Utah 2010 trip photos on Flickr
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