Blog 14, Moab and exploring Arches National Park, Utah

Blog 14, Moab/Arches, Utah

The drive from Monument Valley was very colourful and scenic.

Moab is like a long 4 lane wide bustling town, in so much as the main road runs directly through town and the town is built up on either side.  Its’ quite noisy with lots of trucks rumbling through town and thought it was a pity there isn’t a heavy vehicle bypass.

At first glance it seems there is not much of a community outside of the busy main street, but I went for a run around the back streets and there are many nice houses and large schools etc.  It seems all the roads end when they butt up against the red cliffs that surround the town.

Moab is a biblical name meaning ‘a land just short of the promised land’.  The name is mentioned many times in the bible as a person’s name and place name.

Moab is here, and we are here because it’s only about 5 miles from Arches National Park.  This is one of the most visited National Parks in the US with nearly 1.6 million people visiting last year.

Arches National Park and about 10 other National Parks are currently trialing a Timed Entry Ticket (TET) system.  So many people want to visit these parks that there are traffic jams and queues for everything (although we have personally not experience this in the past).  I guess there’s been a lot of complaints so now the NPS are trying to ‘not prevent’ anyone from visiting but trying to stagger the arrival times.  Between 8am and 6pm you need to have bought a ticket on line for an arrival time slot otherwise entry is not possible.

This is a good concept given these parks will only get busier but there were only two kiosk/entry points into the park with over an hour of waiting time just to get in.  Lots of people don’t know they need the TET so they wait in a long queue, which makes for a long wait for the folk that do have the TET.  Without a TET there is no entry.  There were some signs up warning of this new regime but some cars were getting turned around after waiting a long time-so it’s not working very well just yet.  We had to wait over an hour which is a bit frustrating in 100 deg heat.

Anyway, once through the mayhem of getting into the park we drove up a big zigzag road into a very impressive environment.  Again, it’s more red rock but the formations are interesting and so is the history.  Arches is 76,518 acres in size.  We drove out to Wolfe Ranch half way through the park which is the trail head for Delicate Arch.

At the trailhead there is a historic log cabin and information about the man that built it and lived there.  It was in the late 1800’s, John Wesley Wolfe moved there with his son.  They ran some stock by the river.  I can’t begin to imagine what a hard life that would have been-so remote and harsh.


Delicate Arch is about 2.5km out from the carpark but it’s up a gentle rock face with 538 ft in elevation.  It’s not a difficult walk but when it’s nearly 100 deg and at around 5000 feet it makes it harder.  This walk and this arch is one of the most viewed and there was a steady stream of people walking to and from it.  It was a very tough walk for some people.

On our afternoon of hiking and driving we saw about 10 arches, but Delicate Arch was worth the hike, it was quite impressive.  As you approach it you walk towards it on an uneven area of stone.  People arriving would patiently wait while those nearer the arch went into it for a photo, the photo was taken by the next person in line, and so on.  This way everyone moved thorough quickly and got a photo of themselves.  I thought this was great and really considereate.  There were no rules explaining this concept, it just happened.  This is one of the great aspects of all of us using the Iphone as the camera, we all know how to take a photo!

 That’s us in there!

Arches National Park has the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world.  Stuart guessed there would be about 12, and I guessed 15, but there are in fact over 2000!!!  This is the Colorado Plateau and it was once under the sea a few years back, about 300 million.  When the sea evaporated it left a salt bed that was thousands of feet thick in places.  Over the years the salt bed was compressed as rock, sometimes over a mile thick.  When you understand this geography and timeframes it makes you realise our life on this planet is so small, all of our lives are just a speck of dust in time.

The salt bed was unstable under pressure and acted like a tablecloth being pulled at 2 opposing corners creating folds, this buckled and liquified over time.  The folds were eroded by wind and rain, and expanding ice in the winter which broke layers off.  Eventually these folds get worn into arches as different layers of sandstone erode at different speeds.

Just driving through the park is impressive.


Once back to the car we drove out to see the rest of the park.  It was late evening and the light was wonderful.  Lots of painting inspiration for me there!