These Famous Features Make Arches National Park an American Icon
Even among the many impressive features within America’s public lands, Arches National Park has some of the most iconic.
But Arches often doesn’t get the attention of big names like Yellowstone or fellow Utah parks like Zion.
Today we’ll take a closer look at the eye-popping natural sights that make Arches a one-of-a-kind American destination.
About Arches National Park
Arches National Park lies in east-central Utah, just north of the town of Moab. The area has been protected since 1929, first as a national monument. It was officially made a national park in 1971.
Native American history in the area dates back as far as 10,000 years. Little is known about whether any groups permanently settled the land that later became Arches. Local newspaper editor Loren “Bish” Taylor, who wrote extensively about the area’s beauty, led early efforts to preserve Arches.
These days, Arches hosts more than a million and a half visitors each year. Many are drawn by the unique hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities.
Pro Tip: Consider camping in Moab just north of Arches National Park. We found the 11 Best Moab Camping Spots for you.
What Is Arches National Park Famous For?
As you might expect, Arches National Park is best known for, well, its arches! These natural stone formations range from very small to more than 300 feet tall. Complex geological processes over millions of years create these structures.
Differences in composition between sandstone layers result in different erosion rates, creating the spectacular arches you see today.
This process is continuing even today, slowly changing the shape and size of park formations.
How Many Arches Are in Arches National Park?
You’ll find more than 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of stone pinnacles spread across the park’s nearly 120-square miles. However, about 10 of the most impressive or easily accessible tend to get the most visits and attention.
Famous Features in Arches National Park
There’s no need to worry about figuring out which of the park’s thousands of options you should visit. We’ve rounded up our list of the most notable features that define this incredible park.
1. Delicate Arch
What made Delicate Arch so famous? The answer becomes immediately clear once you set your eyes upon it. It’s the largest free-standing arch in the park at 46 feet high and 32 feet wide.
Since it first acquired the name in the 1930s, it’s become one of the most famous geological formations in the world. Visitors need to hop out of the car and walk a short path to get a glimpse of Delicate Arch.
Hikers can tackle a three-mile trail for an up-close look at this natural marvel. Delicate Arch is one of the park’s busiest attractions and is especially popular at sunset.
Pro Tip: Delicate Arch is a must see for anyone exploring Arches National Park. Don’t know where to begin? Check out: The Delicate Arch Guide for Hikers & Campers.
2. Arches Scenic Drive
For one of the easiest ways to see the famous sights, head down Arches Scenic Drive. This paved road is the main thoroughfare through Arches National Park. It stretches approximately 17 miles from the visitor center.
The road connects the park’s major formations and trails and provides scenic viewpoints along the way. Among the can’t-miss stops are the Delicate Arch viewpoint, the Windows section, and Wolfe Ranch, a former homestead.
Driving the entire route and making all the stops will take about four and a half hours.
3. Balanced Rock
Arches National Park is full of amazing and improbable rock features, and Balanced Rock is one of the more striking examples. A massive, 3,600-ton boulder appears to defy gravity as it sits atop a column of stone.
The difference in erosion between types of stone that created the park’s arches is also responsible for this geological wonder.
Balanced Rock is also one of the closer formations to the Scenic Drive. You can see it from your car. Those who want a more intimate look can take a 0.3-mile round trip hike around the base of the rock. Balanced Rock is especially popular at sunset and is one of the park’s best stargazing spots as well.
4. Devils Garden
Devils Garden is a paradise for sightseers, hikers, campers, and other Arches National Park visitors despite its sinister name. Located at the very end of Arches Scenic Drive, the area is home to highlights like Landscape Arch and the park’s only campground.
In addition to the short trail to Landscape Arch, experienced hikers can tackle the difficult trail to Double O Arch. It’s a 4.1-mile round trip out-and-back hike.
Or try the Primitive Trail, which includes about two miles of rock scrambling, steep slopes, and narrow drop-offs.
5. Fiery Furnace
One of the best hikes in Arches National Park heads to the Fiery Furnace. This challenging hike weaves through rocky, maze-like terrain along a sometimes steep route with almost no trail markers.
The towering sandstone walls can even defeat GPS, so it’s crucial to keep your bearings. Those who brave the strenuous two-mile route get a once-in-a-lifetime immersive experience in one of America’s most unique landscapes.
Know Before You Go: You’ll need to either join a ranger-led tour or secure an individual permit to explore this part of the park.
6. Arches National Park Petroglyphs
The Native American history of the Arches area stretches back as far as 10,000 years. Evidence of this lies on many of the rock walls throughout the park. Arches sits at the northern edge of territory settled by a group known as ancestral Puebloans.
There’s no evidence of permanent habitation of the area. However, these groups left behind plenty of drawings on the walls of caves or other rock structures. You can see these in various locations around the park, including along the Delicate Arch trail and at Courthouse Wash.
7. Landscape Arch
Located in the Devils Garden section of Arches, Landscape Arch is the longest arch in North America. It measures more than 300 feet, barely holding together through a narrow section of rock. An easy, 1.9-mile round trip hike takes you from the trailhead to a scenic view of this incredible feature.
Due to the precarious nature of the arch and the potential for rockfalls, you can’t access the trail underneath. Still, it’s a must-see attraction even among Arches’ many distinctive formations.
8. Double Arch
From Arches National Park’s widest arch, we now head to its tallest. This giant formation soars 112 feet, stretching more than 140 feet across. It’s viewable from the parking lot.
However, those willing to make a half-mile walk along a gravel path can see the arch up close and personal. Park officials recommend stopping here in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat and potentially big crowds.
9. The Windows Section
Called “the beating heart” of Arches National Park, the Windows Section contains some of the park’s most iconic formations. That includes Double Arch, North Window, and Turret Arch.
You’ll need to leave the Arches Scenic Drive and head down Windows Road to access this area. With two hikes of a mile or less, it’s a great place to visit if you’re short on time.
How Many Days Do You Need for Arches National Park?
One of the best aspects of Arches National Park is that no matter how much time you have, you can see a lot. Those with only a half-day or less can simply drive the Scenic Drive, stopping at an occasional viewpoint.
If you can dedicate a full day, take the drive and potentially a hike. Those willing to dedicate multiple days to Arches could camp inside the park and explore more trails and formations up-close.
Explore Arches Unique Beauty
Arches may not be as famous other national parks, but it offers unique natural beauty and iconic geological formations. With dozens of arches and trails, there’s something for everyone at this treasure of a park. What would you be most excited to see?
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