On the Wild Side
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Arches National Park is easily dwarfed by most U.S. national parks, but it's quickly becoming one of the most popular in the park system. The chief attractions here are the park's puzzling, even gravity defying sandstone arches, numbering more than 2000, making Arches National Park is the greatest concentration of stone arches to be found anywhere in the world.
And of all these arches: one is more recognizable than the others – named for its precarious stature, Delicate Arch has become the unofficial symbol of the state of Utah. Originally called Cowboy Chaps Arch, the parks most famous formation was not included in the original 1929 monument. It would take nine more years before then Arches National Monument, would be expanded to include what has become its most famous feature.
But why has Delicate Arch garnered so much attention? It’s far from the park’s largest Arch, and it’s definitely not the park’s most accessible landmark.
There’s perhaps more than one correct answer, but if you’ve ever hiked the 3-mile trail to Delicate Arch then you know there is something incredibly unique about not just the arch, but the setting as well.
It's easy to imagine Mother Nature put a little extra effort into creating this masterpiece. Combined with the sprawling red rock deserts, forested foothills and 12,000 foot+ La Sal Mountains of the greater Moab landscape, the view of Delicate Arch is as wondrous a sight as any we’ve encountered.
It really has to be seen to be believed. Pictures, no matter how stunning, will simply never do the experience justice. If you want to truly understand why Delicate Arch has become one of the world most recognizable wonders, you'll have to see it for yourself. So here’s what you need to know before hiking to Delicate Arch:
Arches National Park is über popular these days, some might even say too popular. Crowds have become a mainstay of a visit to Delicate Arch, but there is still much you can do to avoid the huddled masses at Delicate Arch.
First, avoid holidays, free days and weekends if possible. A free day may sound like a bargain, but believe me, your much better off planning a visit during the off-season or on a weekday and paying the full $25 entrance fee. Arches National Park is even contemplating offering an off-season discount in order to alleviate the pressure of the summer crowds. If you are able, plan to visit when others can’t. The extra effort will be well worth your time.
The hike to Delicate Arch is far from dangerous, except for when people get careless. Summer temperatures in Arches frequently exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you have adequate water and sun protection.
Ensure you and those in your party are fit enough for this short, albeit moderately challenging hike. From the Delicate Arch trailhead you’ll gain more than 600 feet without a break until shortly before reaching the arch. In high temperatures, 600 feet can feel like a lot more. Make sure to pace yourself.
Along with the elevation gain comes more than a few steep drop offs. The trail offers plenty of space to avoid any perilous cliffs, but you’ll almost certainly want to wander around and get a better view. Just mind your step, stay alert and make sure to watch any children you may be traveling with very closely.
Leave No Trace
Arches faces a number of challenges in the wake of its growing popularity. Vandalism, and environmental degradation are at the top of the list. Do your part to protect this unique place. Report any vandalism you witness to a park ranger, pack everything out, and never stray from official park trails, bare sandstone and dry washes.
The Hike to Delicate Arch is a treat, capped by a truly stunning view. Be courteous to others and enjoy your visit to Arches National Park.
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