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Embracing the Arches: Utah national park offers views for hikes, walkers and passengers

MOAB, Utah – There is a whole lot of scenic geology crammed into the 120-square miles of Arches National Park. There are, no surprise, beautiful red sandstone arches. In fact, there are at least 2,000 arches. But there is more.

There’s also a large assortment of massive, colorful geologic features: dramatic spires, fins, pinnacles, pedestals and balanced rocks of various colors and textures. Plus, there’s prehistoric fossils and rock art – petroglyph and pictograph panels.

Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, visited the area and recommended the establishment of a monument. President Herbert C. Hoover did so in 1929. President Richard Nixon signed a law making it a national park in 1971.

Visitors can drive the park’s paved roads in a 1/2 day, including time to stop at all the overlooks. However, staying in Moab, just 4 miles away, for several days and returning to Arches provides a much better sense of the park.

Access to the arches and other features was designed for visitors to get out and walk or hike. However, those having mobility problems, the elderly or families with young children can still experience some of the features up close. Level, hard-surface trails are available, some as short as 0.3 to 0.5 mile round trip. This park is family friendly. Also available are challenging trails that require scrambling over slick rocks, narrow ledges with steep drop-offs with extended lengths of up to 7.2 miles. Back country hiking is allowed with a permit.

Arches is in the dry, hot Utah desert with summer temperatures often hotter than 100 degrees. The park is open all year, but the best time for exploring is spring and fall. But no matter the date, it’s recommended that each person carry a gallon of water each day.

The region around the park is popular, with myriad outdoor activities including biking trails, rock climbing, boating, rafting and fishing. Consequently, the park can become very crowded. It’s best to enter the park before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m., midday the entrance road becomes a long line of cars and parking at various trail heads becomes difficult.

There is a campground open year-round in the park, with 52 sites, water and flush toilets. Online reservations must be made six months in advance. The same is strongly recommended for accommodations found in Moab.

This is a park for active families with various geologic features that can be accessed depending on the age and ability of their children. For example, Sand Dune Arch is only 0.3-mile round trip from the parking lot. The trail follows a level, shady, sandy path while walking between towering pillars and fins. Young children may not be impressed with view while still having fun in the sand, but you will be.

Park entrance fee is $25 with a vehicle, $15 for motorcycle and $10 without a vehicle. Free for 15 and younger. Find more information at www.moabguestguide.com or www.nps.gov/arch.


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