Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

We stationed ourselves in the small town of Moab for a few days. Moab has become a tourist town based on it’s proximity to the Colorado River and several National Parks. People come here for activity holidays like white water rafting, mountain biking, climbing, hiking and off road motoring – hence it is quite a young persons place with plenty of outdoor clothing, cycle and jeep hire stores and of course bars. It also has a brewery – which does some pretty good beers – that has a restaurant and bar attached so you can conveniently sample their wares. We decided to try a bar come restaurant in town called Eddie McStiffs, which you could imagine gets lively at certain times of year. We called in between lunch and dinner so it was quiet which suited us as we just wanted to try the local micro-beers.

Our main reason for coming here of course was not to drink beer – although this was very pleasurable, but was to visit the National Parks. First up we decided to go out to Arches National Park just a few short miles from Moab. Here the full forces of nature have taken their full toll on the Navajo sandstone, creating a number of large, spectacular arches in the rock. Being Saturday it is very busy but we decided to call into the excellent Visitors Centre to begin with where they have some wonderful displays and orientation film, which was produced by National Geographic so it is of course well done. The park is essentially make up of one long road with a few little side roads, and from this road you can access the main feature arches easily. We decided to drive right to the end of the park and park up, from here this is a relatively 2 mile round walk to the longest arch in the park, Landscape Arch, which is a few hundred feet across but it only about six feet thick in places. It is a wonderful site to behold. The only thing which really spoils our enjoyment is a young, chunky lady who is hiking with a couple of friends who has here iPod playing through speakers as she is walking along. Personally we find this such an ignorant thing to be doing – has she not heard of ear phones!!! And why when some where like this would you want to listen to music anyway! Fortunately we managed to lose her and carry on our peaceful walk. On the way back from Landscape Arch we take a couple of detour paths to visit two more arches; Tunnel Arch and Palm Tree Arch (not quite sure how it got this name). The latter is interesting in as much that you can get underneath the arch and it provides a wonderful frame to the mountains and hills in the background.

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We headed back down the main road towards the Park entrance. A side road takes you down to the access points for Delicate Arch, the signature arch of the National Park and the State symbol of Utah. There are two options here you can take a 4 mile round hike with strenuous uphill sections or the more genteel walk to a view point below the arch. Being pushed for time we decided on the latter, but this still involved a fairly steep climb on to some rocks. The arch at this point is some half mile away across a canyon with steep cliff walls on either side – although the arch is large it seemed small at this distance and in hindsight we wished we had a little more time and had taken the longer walk up to Delicate Arch.

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Still we still had one more place we wished to see before darkness set in and that is the Double Arch, a name that speaks for itself. Again this involves a short detour from the main road (no more than 2 miles). The arch is an easy walk from the car park, not too many big hills involved here. Double arch is a huge structure formed supposedly by the action of water falls – although in this arid environment it is difficult to imagine waterfalls with the carving power to sculpt these magnificent creations. It is possible with a bit of a scramble up the rocks to climb up to a point underneath the arches. Looking up from this vantage point is an awe inspiring site, although for Jack and Emily the climbing up rocks seems to be the more exciting element of the exercise. With evening approaching the moon is faintly appearing in the sky above and is perfectly framed in one of the arches. Unfortunately none of have the photographic skills to capture this effectively.

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Arches National Park is definitely a place worth visiting – but remember to be prepared to do a bit of walking as the best arches are not visible from the road.

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