Next time you’re in Utah, make a beeline for the spectacular 76,000 acre Arches National Park. Here, amidst a surreal wonderland of stone towers, fins and hoodoos you’ll discover over 2,000 naturally occurring sandstone arches, the largest concentration on the planet.
Drive and hike
If you’ve only a few hours to spare, take the park’s 19 mile scenic drive to the Devil’s Garden trailhead. En route you’ll pass many of the major sights of this amazing natural gallery. You can pull over to get out and gawp at the topography. Park in one of the car parks and get up close to the monuments on foot, where you’ll get a true appreciation of their astonishing scale.
Camp out and stargaze
The sole campsite within Arches National Park, Devil’s Garden Campground offers basic facilities and stunning scenery. There are toilets but no showers, and you’ll need to bring food and cooking fuel with you. The campsite is approximately an hour’s drive from Moab, in the heart of the park. Once you’ve pitched up, sit back and drink in the remarkable views. After night falls, enjoy fantastic stargazing beneath pitch black skies, which are amongst the darkest in the United States.
The unofficial symbol of Utah, this iconic structure is Arches most visited monument. At 46 feet high and 32 feet wide it is the largest free standing arch in the park. It hovers on the brink of a deep canyon, and is a great spot to watch the sunset. You can hike to the arch via a challenging three mile round trip, passing an exposed steep drop on the way. The trail has no shade, so make sure you bring plenty of drinking water.
On your hike to Delicate Arch you’ll encounter an isolated wooden cabin. Wolfe Ranch is a rustic dwelling built in the 1890s by John Wesley Wolfe, a settler from Ohio who established a cattle ranch in the barren sandstone terrain. For decades, up to six members of the Wolfe family co-existed in the single room abode.
La Sal Mountains viewpoint
Close to the park entrance, you’ll be rewarded by superb panoramic views that stretch across the park’s rocky terrain and into the distance. On the horizon loom the imposing La Sal Mountains, a picturesque backdrop.
The 128 feet high edifice is named after its 55 foot high pillar, which appears to be defying gravity as it teeters perilously on its rocky pedestal. It’s a dramatic spectacle, and one of the most visited sights in the park. From the road it’s a short half mile trek to the base of the pinnacle. There’s a shaded picnic area and toilet in the vicinity.
This labyrinth of narrow sandstone passageways is a must for adventurous and energetic types. As it’s easy to get lost in this maze of rock, you’ll need a permit or to join a ranger guided tour to explore the nooks and crannies. A head for heights is desirable for this physically challenging exploit, where you’ll be jumping across fissures, navigating uneven ledges and squeezing through slender gaps in the boulders.
This distinctive and delicate skein of rock stretches 306 feet across, making it the widest arch on the planet, and measures a slender 11 feet at its central point. Over the years the structure has undergone some dramatic streamlining; in 1991 a 60 foot long slab fell from the bottom of the arch. You can hike to Landscape Arch on an easy one mile trek from the Devil’s Garden trailhead.
The Windows Section
A two square mile area proliferation of arches, and one of the most photogenic areas within the park. A short walk brings you to the huge parallel formations of North Window and South Window. A little further on you’ll discover Turret Arch, and the two giant adjoining arcs of majestic Double Arch.
Park Avenue Trailhead
Apparently named after the skyscrapers on NYC’s Park Avenue, this mile long trail weaves across the floor of a vast canyon. On the way you’ll pass amongst an impressive group of mammoth rock formations. Among the must-sees are the 600 feet high Courthouse Towers, the Tower of Babel and the engagingly named Three Gossips, whose blocky composition is distinctively Picasso-esque.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com