Arches National Park

In The American West, Travel by Tom @ Abroad American1 Comment

Arches National Park is the second post in my “The American West” series about a National Park-themed camping road trip I took in early summer, 2015.


If Black Canyon was a best supporting actor, Arches National Park would be a co-lead with the Grand Canyon.

Link to the National Park Service page

Arches National Park - The Fins

The Fins of Arches National Park, a veritable geologic beauty pageant.

Troubles Arriving at Arches National Park

We arrived in the early evening, ignorant of the park’s popularity. After a surprisingly gorgeous sunset drive through the park from the entrance allllll the way back to the campgrounds, we were able to easily discern that the park was all booked up.  Thankfully, an eccentric patron from Idaho (forever termed Idaho-bro) stopped us on our way out and brought us enlightenment. The man seemed to be a mine for National Park, BLM, and National Forest knowledge. He knew locations, costs, workarounds, hidden campsites, everything.

My Revelation of The West

In a 10 minute conversation from my car window, my mind was opened to the entirety of the US tax-funded outdoor recreation world. Starting with this chat, and continuing with the rest of the road trip after Arches, I have really come to grasp the sheer magnitude of this relatively small portion of our nation’s budget, and the utterly massive territory most of it is spread over. The West is a figurative mine of these sites. Coming from Chicago, around which everything is developed for a hundred miles, I had not yet thought about how vast and un-populated the West is. I had traveled out there before, to cities mostly. I guess from 30,000 feet above through an airplane’s excuse for a window, you can’t really understand how wide open the land is. Arches National Park was just our first step into the wider world of The West.

The West is a figurative mine of these sites. Coming from Chicago, around which everything is developed for a hundred miles, I had not yet thought about how vast and un-populated the West is. I had traveled out there before, to cities mostly. I guess from 30,000 feet above through an airplane’s excuse for a window, you can’t really understand how wide open the land is. Arches National Park was just our first step into the wider world of The West.

#CheatDay

So, even though meeting Idaho-bro and learning about all the different types of campsites was great, we still needed to find one. We drove all the way back to the entrance of the park while twilight quickly gave way to night. A short drive later, and we were at the entrance to the Colorado Riverway and turned into it. Campsite after campsite, full. At this point, it was completely dark too, so the longer we drove, the longer we felt we were disturbing people. After driving about 20 miles up the Riverway checking every campsite along the road, we gave up, turned around and drove back, leaving the Riverway in search of lodging elsewhere.

Only one or two rooms out of the several large hotels in Moab were actually available. In my first attempt at haggling for a hotel price, I was able to secure the cheapest room (only saving us $10…) in a regular chain hotel for us. After settling in, we took a much-needed half hour break in the hot tub and pool. Great decision. I actually shouldn’t be revealing this since we thought we should just let people believe we were really “roughin’ it”. And we were!… between our nights with friends in the cities and unplanned-but-still-welcome hotel bookings at

I actually shouldn’t be revealing this since we thought we should just let people believe we were really “roughin’ it”. And we were!… between our nights with friends in the cities and unplanned-but-still-welcome hotel bookings at 10:30pm. I don’t regret the hotel stay, people. It was a wonderful contrast with our more regular lifestyle on the road trip: a premade, hot breakfast was pretty wonderful (despite the below-average food quality).

Arches National Park: Round 2

After the breakfast, we drove back into the park to find the trail we had picked out. After re-tracking our steps from the night before, all the way into to Devil’s Garden trailhead, we set out. Or at least, we thought we did. Somehow, between cairns (a primitive-looking pile of stones, used to mark the trail), we got turned onto a different trail than we thought. A 5.5-mile hike turned into 8, and once more we had a longer day than planned.

What a happy mistake it was, however. We saw so many things we wouldn’t have if we had just taken the shorter track. Just look at these absolute vistas. Even captured with my phone, these pictures could easily be postcards. At the very least, desktop backgrounds. Anyway, every inch of this trail was absolutely scenic. A mysterious, spiritual, and awe-inspiring place. Arches National Park is stunningly beautiful of a gallery of striking sandstone formations crafted by water, wind, and time.  I’ll let the photos take it from here.

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