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Arches National Park, Utah

natural arch

Arches National Park, Utah is a red, arid desert. It is one of the least terrestrial places on this planet. Massive fins of red and golden sandstone stand to attention out of this bare desert, and over 1800 natural arches have been cut into the rocks by centuries of erosive weathering. Watching under a full moon, you could be excused for imagining that the landscape has a life of its own.

To do Arches justice, you should plan to spend a full day here at least. The visitor center sells brochures explaining the simple process by which the arches are formed and points out some of the more photogenic examples. The first possible stop is Park Avenue, an easy trail. If you stay on the road, the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint provides a grand-stand look at the distant peaks rising over 12,000 ft above the surrounding desert.

From Balanced Rock, a 50 ft boulder atop a slender pedestal, you can enter the Windows section. From here, a half mile trail leads through a dense concentration of massive arches, some over 100 ft high and 150 ft across. A second trail, fifty yards beyond, leads to Double Arch, a par of arches that together support another arch overhead. There are a few trails into remote areas and they are extremely rewarding.

Permits for backcountry camping, allowed anywhere that's a mile from the road and half a mile from any trail, are issued at the visitor center. Arches' only campground is a first come, first served site, and tends to be occupied by early morning in season.

 
 
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