Located in Eastern Utah just South of the Colorado River. Another corner of sunbaked earth, that typically receives only 10 inches of rain fall annually. In 1971 was declared a National Park. Approximately 1.5 million people flow through the gates annually.
A red rock wonderland, with over 2,000 natural stone arches and hundreds of massive rock fins, pinnacles and balanced rocks. It’s no wonder there is a mile long line up, three lanes wide, to get in at 8am.
We join the slow drive through the park, but I’m feeling impatient, secretly wishing all these people would get out of my way. It’s a gorgeous morning, towards the end of the pandemic, so of course its busy.
Every vista point carpark is full. Visitors march along pathways, like ants on a two lane highway, to see the arch and snap that iconic photo. We decide to drive out to the far end in hopes of avoiding the crowds and work our way back. As it turns out, many others have that same strategy & is just as busy. That’ll teach us for not coming in at dawn!
We snag the last available carpark and hike up to Delicate Arch, the most popular and photographed of all the parks arches. Joining the ranks we make our way past the Wolfe Farm homestead, and up & along the 2.5km sandstone face, thankfully not in a line, as there is not ‘set path’, but an ant all the same.
I hiked up to the arch with a girlfriend 15 years ago while on a bike trip to Moab, but don’t remember walking this exposed, natural and narrow rock ledge. Talk about ‘law suit waiting to happen’, one slip and you be calling for a recovery not rescue team.
The view beacons, below, more pretty, twists and turns in the time worn rock, incrementally growing deeper, baby arches in the making.
The kids are like spider monkeys, clambering along the rock on all fours, making my heart race. Rounding the last corner we’re above a massive amphitheatre like bowl, standing strong on the far side is Delicate Arch.
People are lined around the edges, recovering, resting and photographing. Every kind of camera is snapping, from Polaroid to the Cannon with mega lense. It’s quiet, there is a stiff wind blowing, ravens ride the thermals overhead keeping a watchful eye incase someone drops a tasty snack.
Traversing around to find ourselves a quiet spot on our own. Jaxon accidentally drops a nut from his trail mix, immediately a large, jet black raven swoops down for it. Against our better judgement, we ‘accidently’ drop a few more, and our raven cautiously joins us for lunch. The kids pay more attention to him than the arch, “the raven is cool, the arch is just rock” I’m told.
We snap our own photos before making our way back down. Stopping by to see some more petroglyphs and read about how difficult homestead life was at the Wolfe ranch.
Rejoining the auto procession once more, still a little disenchanted with the hoards of people, we enjoy the rest of the park from the truck as we drive out. The afternoon became the kids geography lesson. We learn about how the arches and the Great Salt Valley we’re formed. Again the kids completed their Junior Ranger workbook so they can earn their 5th badge.
From Arches we make our way to Dinosaur National Monument to look through a window into the past…