The morning breaks over the steep red rock cliffs high above Ivan and me as we scramble out of our sleeping bags to make coffee on the smoldering campfire coals from the night before. Camping in Moab, Utah is always a treat. Especially with a local who’ll show you all the best hiking spots.
Today, Ivan and I are heading to Arches National Park. Moab is a beautiful little tourist town in Southern Utah. Its geography is so unique and awe inspiring, its outlying areas boast of several National and State Parks such as Arches. A few more include Canyonlands National Park and Deadhorse Point State Park. Ivan and I have chosen Arches because the assortment of hiking trails, monoliths, sand stone arches, and modest infrastructure make it very appealing. It is also the closest of the National Parks to Moab.
We begin our ascent into Arches by driving the paved switchback up an enormous red rock bluff. The moment we drive through the gate it like being on another planet, Mars maybe. Ivan is taking us to Devil’s Garden. As we pull into the parking lot at the trailhead and grab our water for the 7.2 mile hike through the Primitive Loop trail, Ivan reminds me that packing extra food, water, and fire supplies are a must. Even 7 miles in country like this can turn hazardous without the proper supplies. With our packs, we set out towards out first arch, Landscape Arch.
The landscape in thirsty and seems to have been molded from clay, except the sand is as soft as any beach in California and the rock as smooth as marble. I could easily scratch my name into any of the sandstone around me but I want to leave this magical place exactly the way I found it, pristine. The hike is relatively easy, climbing in elevation so subtly it remains unnoticeable. The trail is wide in most places and the views are extraordinary. Ivan and I come up on the spectacular view of Landscape Arch. It’s amazing to look upon. It appears to defy gravity and shape much like a surreal Salvador Dali landscape.
The trail breaks here and the Primitive Loop begins. Most people are doubling back, unprepared for the hike and you can see the look of envy on their faces as Ivan Lasater and I head on to the next arch.
Devil’s Garden is the northern most campground and maintained trailhead in Arches. It is also the second most popular destination, boasting more arches for the buck. The most popular destination in Arches by far is world famous Delicate Arch, which we’ll be writing about in the next post.
The trail we take around the loop is much different than the one we started out on. We face a myriad of obstacles. The trail itself seems to be some lunar obstacle course. We have to squeeze down narrow passageways, trudge through deep soft sand pits, and carefully climb up and down slick rock fins. But the sights are worth it. There are so many arches to see along this trail.
Ivan lasater, my tour guide, my friend, and scholar tells me a little about how these arches came to be.
“This area was a great desert once.” He explains, “Over millions of years, a combination of different sandstone, clay, and water created the vast sandstone fins you see all around you. Water will eventually erode those fins and the fins that collect a disproportionate amount of water at their base will ultimately form arches.”
I have to admit, I’m pretty amazed. The geology of Arches National Park is unique to any other geological formation in the world. Just the immensity of it all is breathtaking.
Ivan and I come to the end of our trail having taken the loop and gazed at the arches, our hike lasted only four and half hours. I’m hungry and so is Ivan. We put the packs away and head back to the campground for food and another night of socializing with friendly campground neighbors around the campfire.