Mesa Verde had been the first “must” of this family vacation.

Arches was the second.

I’m not sure what has always drawn me to visiting Arches, but I’m sure it had to do with the pictures I’ve seen over the years of red rocks, natural arches towering over visitors, and the mountains in the distance. I’ve wanted to see it in person for years and I was finally getting my chance.

I woke up early and filled all the water bottles, made sure the family ate breakfast, and had plenty of snacks to keep us well fed until we were able to leave the park for a lunch in Moab. I was far from patient while waiting for everyone else to be up and ready to go, mostly because I knew that if we wanted to get any hiking in, we were on a limited time budget before the heat of the day got to be too much for us.

We managed to leave before 9:00 and made our first stop the visitor center where Jeff and I added to our family water bottle holder collection. We had purchased the same style for the kids when we were in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and noticed how well they worked for them. Jeff and I had tried to find similar holders in Mesa Verde but they didn’t have them. Now we decided we weren’t going to pass up the chance again. I could ditch the backpack and just carry my camera and RTIC water bottle with ease. Bonus? The Chico Bag is made from recycled materials.

We were now ready to drive through the entire park to get to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead and work our way back towards the park entrance. Jeff, the kids, and I struggled to take in the rugged beauty of Arches National Park as we traveled to the trailhead. There was so much to see and such a contrast: desert, colorful rocks, and mountains merged together into stunning landscapes that took my breath away. The kids imaginatively described what each rock formation looked like, coming up with different stories for each one while also pointing out every arch we passed.

We finally got to the parking lot, found a parking spot far from the trail, and made sure water bottles were once more full. Then we prepared to hike.

We had been warned. There are signs everywhere telling visitors to drink plenty of water and reminding hikers that heat is dangerous. For over a week we had been bragging about how we could handle the desert heat because it was better than the humidity that we had left behind in Houston.

But that was before Moab.

By the time we hit the trail, we were nearing the 11-3 window that all of the tour guides say to avoid. We started on the Landscape Arch trail, 0.8 miles to where the trail branches off in longer and more difficult trails. It was beautiful and yet we struggled. Our son, who is used to leading the charge, complained of being warm and said his foot hurt from when he fell playing catch with a football the day before. By the time we reached the perfect picture spot for the arch, we were all ready to head back.

On the way back, the trail branched off to our left to both Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch (0.9 miles roundtrip). By the time we finished the short trails at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead, we had hiked nearly 2.5 miles in significant heat. It was time for a break.

As we drove back towards the visitor center, we made a detour towards Wolfe Ranch so we could take a picture of Delicate Arch. We had two options: we could take the 3-mile hike to go directly to Delicate Arch or we could take the 0.5-mile hike to the Upper Viewpoint. We opted for the viewpoint with a zoom lens.

Delicate Arch
This was at Zax. Of course, our kids decided it needed a hug, making them literal tree huggers.

We were past time for lunch and decided to look for a good place to eat on Moab’s main drag. We were all ready for something significantly different from sandwiches. We drove past Zax, where the kids saw signs for pizza and pasta and Jeff and I thought pizza sounded good. We showed up in time to see the women’s soccer team play against England (with a family from England eating at the table behind us) and Jeff and I opted for the salad and pizza bar, finally getting some fresh veggies into our system, besides the ones I had jammed into our fridge.

We headed back to the campground for swimming and relaxation so that we could cool off from the hot morning and early afternoon of exploring. By the time dinner rolled around, I was ready to see what we missed in the park and attempt to catch the sunset from one of the arches. Since the French dip had been cooking all day in the Crock pot, dinner was easy, but I was anxious to leave before everyone else, wanting to hike up to Windows before we ran out of natural light.

Jeff knows me as well as a husband should know his wife. He scarfed down his sandwich and then said, “Grab my socks and boots. We’re leaving.”

So we left our happy kids with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law and took off for the park. With the sun going down, the 90-degree temperatures were downright pleasant, and we rolled down our windows down to take in the growing shadows that changed the entire appearance of Arches.

We arrived to a packed parking lot of fellow visitors also trying to take in the arches in the cooler temperatures. The hike around the North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch is only one-mile round trip, and visitors can pick just how far they want to hike and how much they want to climb to see each one. We opted to climb the North Window, making it just in time to enjoy the view before watching the sunset over the Double Arch on the other side of the parking lot.

God’s creation is beautiful, and peacefully sitting under the arch with my best friend while the sky changed to dusk was the perfect end to a beautiful day. In visiting another dream park, I learned that one week wouldn’t be enough to see everything that Arches National Park has to offer, but I had seen enough to be satisfied. And my husband, my best friend, knew that this was how I needed to end my day. For that I will forever be grateful.

We met up with the rest of our family in Moab. They were on a quest to find ice cream, a quest we gladly joined. We finally found one ice cream shop that was open after 9:00 and then dragged the whole family home to go to bed. We had another park to explore the next day, and we all needed our rest before that was going to happen.

Arches was everything I had dreamed it would be and more. Now I was ready to take on Canyonlands.

8 Replies to “Arches National Park: Nature’s Architectural Masterpiece – Vacation 2019”

  1. Arches is fantastic. We first visited there in 1988. I have very strong memories of being there.

    Fast forward to 2001 and I drove cross country with my sister. She insisted on stopping at Arches so we could do the hike up to Delicate arch. 10+ years later and she was still peeved that she had been deemed “too little” at the time. Having hiked it as an adult, I think my parents were right- it’s a tough hike!

Thoughtful and nuanced responses welcome!