Friday, April 11, 2014

Best trails for seeing Arches' many wonders

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
Among the best ways to see Arches National Park’s best sights is via a day hike. Just four short trails will allow you to enjoy each of the park’s highlights – sandstone arches, spires and towers, petroglyphs, and smooth, slippery slickrock.

Sandstone arches
With more than 2000 arches in the national park, the one must-see is Delicate Arch. At 80 feet high, it’s virtually synonymous with the park if not Utah. Formed out of red sediment deposited by streams and wind some 140 million years ago, the geological wonder can be seen via the 3-mile round trip Delicate Arch Trail. The trail also crosses slickrock and passes the remains of the John Wesley Wolfe Ranch. A spur trail allows hikers to see Ute petroglyphs depicting a bighorn sheep hunt and horses.

Sandstone spires
The Balanced Rock Trail leads to an astounding 55-foot tall block of dinosaur-era rock that looks like a ball atop a pedestal. After taking in the geological wonder on the quarter-mile loop, visitors can continue via The Windows Trail to see The Windows arches.

Sandstone towers
The 1.5-miles round trip Park Avenue Trail heads down a gulch named to massive, skyscraper-sized formations, most notably The Organ. The towers are built from buff-colored Navajo sandstone deposits set down when the region was a desert during the Jurassic some 210 million years ago.

Devils Garden
The Devils Garden Trail rambles through a series of otherworldly rock fins and spires. You’ll pass several arches along the way as well. The trail is long, though, at little more than 7 miles one-way.

Learn about other great national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.