Utah is home to five (stunning) national parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion). It is truly a stunning state that one can get lost exploring its many outdoor wonders (from deserts to ski resorts, to salt lakes, to temples). One of the most stunning parts of the state is Arches National Park. It is a wonderland of over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and other geologic formations like pinnacles, fins, and balancing rocks.

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Another must-see attraction in Utah is the awe-inspiring Zion National Park (America's 4th most popular national park). While not a national park, when in Salt Lake City, check out the unusual waterway of the Great Salt Lake (it has two state parks).

The Story of How Arches Got Its Arches

The story of Arches stretches back to the end of the Dinosaurs around 65 million years ago. Back then this region was a dry seabed. If one were to travel back in time to then, one would not have seen anything much interesting - the rock seen today was buried thousands of feet below. After that, the slow but relentless geologic forces of time started their work on the landscape. The buried sandstone was folded and wrinkled, as the sandstone warped, fractures tore through it.

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Then the entire region began climbing from being at sea level to thousands of feet above it. After that, came the forces of erosion. As the sandstone layers were exposed they rebounded and expanded - being free from the crushing weight of the thousands of feet of rock that covered them (like a sponge expands after being squeezed). The end result is the formations we see today.

Arches National Park is located adjacent to the Colorado River and just 4 miles north of Moab. It is home to the highest density of arches anywhere in the world.

  • Entrance Fee: $30.000 Per Vehicle (Valid for 7 Days)
  • Park Hours: The Park Itself Is Open 24 Hours A Day, 365 Days a Year

Related: Why You Should Visit Yellowstone Where Bison Roam Freely And Old Faithful Spouts

 Camping In And Around The Park

Camping is one of the best ways to really experience the park. There is no lodging within the park, so if one wants to stay the night, then camping is the way to go.

Devils Garden Campground

The Devils Garden Campground is 18 miles from the park entrance and is open year-round. It is the main campground in the park and is normally full every night in the peak season. Rangers often present evening programs at the campground amphitheater during the holiday season.

  • Open: Year-Round
  • Facilities: Potable Water, Grills, Pit And Flush Toilets (No Showers)
  • RVs: Some Sites Accommodate RVs
  • Reservations: Reservations Can Be Made (Plan In Advance As it Books Out)

Note: The Closest Place To Get Gas, Food, etc. Is Moab - Around A Hour's Drive

There are many other campgrounds in the Moab area. But plan ahead (even first-come, first-served campgrounds can fill by mid-morning). For a full list of campgrounds in the area visit Discover Moab.

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A note on dining: There are no restaurants within the park. The closest restaurants are in Moab or at Dead Horse Point State Park (another option is the dinosaur museum). So if one is planning to stay the day - pack a lunch!

Related: This North Carolina Wilderness Isn't Called 'Yosemite Of The East' For No Reason

Hiking In the Park

While there are scenic drives through the park, nothing quite beats hiking. There are numerous trails of varying difficulty and duration to choose from. Here are some examples:

Delicate Arch Viewpoints

It offers a wheelchair-accessible view of the arch at a distance. The 0.5-mile trail goes closer to the arch but is separated by a steep canyon. One can't reach Delicate Arch on this trail.

  • Grade: Easy
  • Distance: 100 Yard or 0.5 Miles

Park Avenue

Starts at the Park Avenue parking area. It descends steeply into a majestic canyon and arrives at Courthouse Towers. For a roundtrip, return the way one came or one can get picked up by a shuttle driver.

  • Grade: Moderate
  • Distance: 2 Miles
  • Time And Elevation: 1.5 Hours, 320 Feet

Double O Arch At Devils Garden

The footing on this trail is rocky and there are narrow ledges with exposure to heights. A trail guide is available at the trailhead. One can access Partition, Dark Angel, and Navajo arches from this trail and its spurs.

  • Grade: Difficult
  • Length: 4.1 Miles
  • Duration: 2.5 Hours

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is one of the most famous arches in the park. Note that before one gets to Delicate Arch, the trail traverses a narrow rock ledge for about 200 years. The National Park Service advises taking at least 2 quarts or 2 liters of water for each hiker.

  • Grade: Difficult
  • Length: 3 Miles
  • Duration: 2.5 Hours

Like Zion, Arches is one of those national parks that lives up to its hype.

Next: 10 National Parks In The US Worth Visiting Now (And 10 To See Later)