Arches National Park

The high desert of the Colorado plateau has had an exceptional geological history, resulting in many different canyons, rock formations, and other features that we have since protected as national parks.  Arches National Park earns a distinction for containing the highest density of natural arches in the world (more than 2000 arches in an area of 120 square miles).  In addition to the famed arches, a the park features variety of rock pillars, petroglyphs from indigenous peoples, and desert wildlife such as the Western Collared Lizard and Midget-faded Rattlesnake.

While we may think of rock formations as static, this is not the case.  Over 43 arches have collapsed in the last 40 years, including the well-known Wall arch. To my knowledge none of these have specifically been linked to human intervention, however, it is understood that foot traffic in the park leads to greater erosion, and ultimately, erosion will cause an arch to collapse.

I visited Arches in the March of 2014, which was an ideal time of year to visit (day time highs around 70 degrees Fahrenheit).  Arches is one of the smaller national parks, which gives it an approachable felling, with the highlights of the park able to be observed on a smaller time frame than many other parks. In addition to visiting many of the park’s main attractions near the road, I hiked the Dark Angel trail including the primitive portion.  This trail was well worth the ~7 exposed, rocky miles, though I did see some people struggling later in the afternoon.  The primitive trail was at times hard to follow due to other unofficial side trails being formed, which is unfortunate as it not only makes the main trail harder to follow, but leads to more erosion of the fragile soil.

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The Three Gossips.
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Balanced Rock.

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Landscape Arch.
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Navajo Arch.

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Double O Arches.

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Dark Angel.
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Hiking along the primitive trail.

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