We stayed on BLM land on Willow Springs Road, about 15 minutes away from the entrance to the park. There are no amenities on most BLM land, but this one did have porta-potties every so often. The roads were fairly easy to drive on, but there was nothing too exciting here. Minimal trees, and the trees that were there were small and different offer much shade. It was super windy, and the sand just blasted into our eyes and skin. We spent a couple hours locked up in our trailer just because we couldn’t do anything in the wind and the heat. The boys loved the flat layers of rock because they made fun bike jumps and ramps for them to ride on.
We woke up early and were on the road to the park before 7am. Because we arrived so early, we didn’t have to wait in line. Later, on our way back out, the line was backed-up halfway to the freeway, which is about a 30 minute wait in line. Not only were we so happy to have skipped the line, but we also were able to hike during the coolest part of the day. The drive into the park was like an old western movie coming alive. Giant, towering rocks blistering red in the sun, all strange shapes and jagged edges, smooth arches and towering spires. Everywhere you looked was a unique shape and size.
Our first stop of the day was Balanced Rock. This is basically just a short loop around the entire rock, but it was a great warm up for us. It was less than a third of a mile, so we left our water bottles and bags in the car and enjoyed the breeze on our backs. Across the street we could see the Double Arch. We did not hike to this one, though it is a popular arch.
Our next stop was turning off the main road and into the Windows area. This hike was my favorite part of our whole trip. It was a quick and easy loop, hitting up three spectacular arches – with Turrets Arch being the best of them all. We climbed out to and under this arch, and loved the view of the sun, still low in the sky, peeking out from behind the arch. This hike was about a half mile loop, so again, because it was still cool out, and the hike was short, we didn’t feel the need to pack our bags with us.
However, after this hike, it was about 10am and the temperature was already heating up. When we started at 7am, it had been 70 degrees out. Three hours later, and it had gained roughly 5 degrees an hour, and was now hitting 85 degrees and counting.
We took a break at this point, and headed to the Visitor Center to pick up our Junior Ranger packets. We watched the video detailing how the arches were formed, and the history of Arches National Park. When we stepped back outside, we were overwhelmed with the blast of heat. Since we had another day scheduled for Arches, we decided to head back to our campsite. HOWEVER, we totally wish we had just planned a little differently, and completed our visit to Arches in ONE day, and then allowed for more time to experience Canyonlands more! We went back to our trailer and the wind made it impossible for us to be outside. Everytime we attempted to, we would get pelted with sand. The next day we made the mistake of NOT getting up early and paid the price of waiting in that 30 minute line.
Adam’s one request was to see Delicate Arch, since that is probably the most popular Arch in Utah (it’s on our license plate!). We chatted with the park ranger about the difficulty of the trail. He mentioned there being a portion of the trail that is very narrow with a steep drop off, and another portion of the trail being very steep (climbing up the side of the boulder). Mostly because of the heat, we decided to not hike the full trail to the base of Delicate Arch. If it had been cooler (if we had gotten up early again like we had the previous day…..), we would have likely attempted this 3-mile hike. We would totally recommend visiting this park in early spring instead of summer, to avoid the heat and intense sun!
Since we didn’t hike it, we did drive to the lower view point. It’s about a 100-foot walk from the parking lot to see Delicate Arch from the bottom of the mountain. It’s far away, but you can see that it’s there. There is also a half mile hike to the Upper View Point, which gets you just a bit closer, but still viewing the arch from below the mountain.
Arches was hot, but so uniquely beautiful! Like I said above, we could have easily spent one full day in Arches and been satisfied. Balanced Rock and the Windows Area were quick and easy hikes, and had it not been so hot, we would have still had plenty of time to hike to Delicate Arch. We wish we had saved that extra day to really be able to enjoy Canyonlands National Park!
Next time: Hike all the way to the Delicate Arch. Drive into Garden of Eden area. Take photos of the Arches at night.
Canyonlands National Park is split by the Colorado River and the Green River, creating 4 different regions: Island in the Sky, The Mazes, The Needles, and the rivers themselves. The easiest one to get to, and the one closest to Arches National Park, is Island in the Sky. The Maze is one of the most remote, most difficult to get to, and challenging hiking areas in the entire United States. The Needles are about a 2 ½ hour drive from the Park’s main entrance at Island in the Sky, so due to our limited time, we were only able to visit Island in the Sky. We drove about 6 miles down the road from the Visitor Center to hike to Mesa Arch. This was a short path that both my kids completed with no whining (a first!). The view of the Arch is pretty, with the Le Sal Mountains peeking through the opening, but what really got my heart racing was the view at the edge of the cliff. It was just sheer drop-off that had me imaging the worst.
Next time: We would plan more time to drive to the Needles. Within the Needles, visit Tower Ruin at Horse Canyon.
Without the kids: Hike into the Mazes.
Enjoy a quick video of our trip. All footage taken by me, and edited by Holden Films.