Valley of the Gods really triggered our cravings for out-worldly rock formations. But now, erect rocks weren’t going to do the trick. No, the bar had been set too high. Rocks defying gravity? Now we’re talking!
The drive to Arches National Park from Valley of the Gods takes about four hours. From previous research, we knew that it wouldn’t be possible to camp out there the very same night. In order to get a spot at one of the oftentimes overbooked campsites (backcountry camping is not allowed) it’s suggested you get there around 07:00 in the morning. Alas, we still made an attempt to enter the park and did so without any problems (and also avoided the $25 entrance fee that way). We drove for a bit to find a calm spot to set up camp. With tiredness and fear of our cheap Walmart tent blowing away in the ruthless wind, we decide to spend the night in the Prius. Fabulous!
The park has a great visitor center with maps covering all the trails and a water fountain where you can refill your camelback. Be sure to check out some animations showing how, through dissolving salt and sandstone erosion, the arches were formed. Together with the park rangers we put together a one-day itinerary to visit Delicate Arch, Windows, Double O Arch, Dark Angel and the Garden of Eden.
Double O Arch and Dark Angel
Since these two bad boys required the longest hike we started here. The kern-marked trail takes you meandering through a canyon and climbing a 45% rock wall to get to a ridge. You are greeted with generous views of the canyons, ridges, Navajo Arch, Partition Arch and Landscape Arch until the last point where you almost enter a “eureka” moment seeing the Double O Arch. It really is a stunning rock. Many many pictures later, we find ourselves starving so we climb to a highpoint and cook some food. Breakfast with a view.
The results of our photo shoot (we only managed to annoy a handful of people by hogging Double O Arch):
Dark Angel is only about 10 minutes away from Double Arch and definitely worth the walk. In truth, I was more impressed by the landscape surrounding this site rather than the rock itself. Charcoal black dead-looking trees, a rocky hill with dried up bushes all reminded me of the scene in The Lion King where Simba is chased from pride rock by the hyenas following his father’s death (*insert “I just can’t wait to be king” as background music).
The plan was to take the primitive trail back, but as our unpredicted photo shoot took slightly longer than expected we took the same way back to save time (also, the primitive trail doesn’t offer much as far as sights go and plus also you walk in deep sand the entire way).
Garden of Eden
This was more of a one-stop sight. Pretty neat still. Just driving around in this park you get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the rock formations and their versatility. It reminded me a lot of Cappadocia. But even more of Bedrock. The deep reds contrasted with the sharp green vegetation makes the place look man-made: like an enormous park in Disney World. If Bedrock ever were to have existed, it would have been here.
The Windows was a quick walk from the parking lot but stunning nonetheless. The two arches (there’s a south and a north one) look like eyes coming out of the cave from a far distance. Again, you’re reminded of the incredible length in time it takes for these to form. We also walk to Turret Arch, adjacent to the eyes (I wrongly called it Torrets Arch by mistake a few times).
This was the baby. The big bendy baby seated at almost 1,500m. The goal was to get there to see the sunset but unfortunately we underestimated how long the walk would actually take us. The steep climb for 45 minutes after already having walked all day made our calves cry in fury. It’s a gorgeous walk though, and the last part is the best as you need to almost shimmy beside the side of the mountain in order to get to the naturally formed amphitheater where the arch sits in all its glory. Bring headlights though as it gets dark very quickly!
Out of principle to spend minimum amount of money on camping, we decided to simply sleep in our car that night too by Balanced Rock. The wind had started to pick up again and was accompanied with Mr. Rain. So a Prius with an arch-view (no breakfast included though) it was!
“Cool story, bro. But how much did it cost?”
For a total breakdown of the trip cost see this post