Our third park was Arches National Park. We left Mesa Verde on the morning of July 6. Arches is about a 2.5 hour drive from Mesa Verde. I would add another hour for bathroom and gas stops, plus any traffic.
In summer of 2017, there was a lot of construction in the park. This affected our visit. Ideally, we wouldn’t have come when there was so much construction at the park but sometimes these things can’t be avoided.
We arrived at the entrance of Arches National Park around noon. Temps were expected to be well over 100 degrees that day!
People often talk about the difference between dry heat and humidity, but when it’s over 100, it’s hot!!! We almost died walking across the parking lot to the visitor center.
Our first stop at any park is the visitor center. We get our junior ranger books and maps of the park plus list of activities. We also like to talk to the rangers for suggestions of which trails they recommend.
The trick with Arches was that 1. We went in July 2. The hottest part of the day is between 12-4 3. The park closes at 7pm due to construction.
On the other hand, Arches isn’t a large park. One could easily see it in a day. Again because of the construction, there were no tours of the fiery furnace and devils garden was closed as well.
We spent about an hour at the visitor center. There are a lot of interesting exhibits, a gift shop and theater that plays a film about the park and the famous arches that are located there. We looked at the exhibits, watched the film and worked on our ranger books.
I was worried about the kids being out in the heat so long, so I decided we would go to our hotel, eat our sack lunch and wait until 4pm to come back to the park. The hotel we were staying at was a newer hotel, right by the park. I initially had planned to camp at Arches, but the campsite was closed, so we stayed at the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we pulled our cooler out and ate lunch in the sitting area. By the time lunch was finished, our room was ready.
Around 4pm, we headed back to the park. We picked our hikes based on the suggestion of the rangers. First, we went to balance rock. It’s a pretty short loop around the formation. It’s an easy hike, about 20 minutes, and part of it is paved and wheelchair accessible. It was still warm outside, but this was totally doable. We saw a lot of families here.
Next, we went to the Delicate Arch viewpoint. Delicate Arch is the iconic arch that you will see on the Utah license plates. To actually reach the Arch requires a longer hike which starts at Wolfe Ranch. It’s a 3 mile hike, but no shade. You have to give yourself about 2.5 hours and a lot of water. We did not do this hike.
Instead, we did the two viewpoint hikes. The hike was fun, but at the vantage point from the two hikes, the arch is really tiny! If I had to do it again, I would return (not in July) and do the actual Delicate Arch hike. But we were short on time, so we enjoyed this hike and moved on to the next stop.
Next stop was Sand Dune arch. This was our favorite trail. The weather was cooler and you almost feel like you’re visiting another secret world. Where as the other trails are open, this one you are crossing deep sand beds and the arch is secluded among rocks.
So much fun!
By the time we were done with this trail, park rangers started closing parking lots. We headed back to the main road and began driving back. We made one more quick stop at the Fiery Furnace overlook. One day, we’ll come back and take this tour.
Finally, we made it back to the visitor center at the entrance of the park. We went inside so the kids could get their junior ranger badges. The ranger who helped us was super cool. She is a geologist. As she was talking to the kids, she showed them a large salt rock she found driving around earlier that day.
The kids got their ranger badges and we bought our souvenirs at the gift shop.
After that, we decided to go back to the hotel and figure out dinner. On the recommendation of the hotel staff, we ate dinner at Broken Oar restaurant in Moab.
The food at the Broken Oar was delicious. We didn’t have to wait long for a table, but once we ordered, we had to wait a bit for our food. But the service and the food was great. There were some lovely photographs from Arches National Park on the wall next to table. There were some beautiful pictures of the Windows arches. My older son wanted to visit the windows the next day.
The next day, we woke up early, ate breakfast and packed up the car. The kids really wanted to visit the park again. We got there around 9am and the parking lot at the Windows arch was already full. We drove around a bit and found one at Double Arch. There are pretty close to each other and you can actually walk from one to another arch to the other.
We decided to hike up to Double Arch. It was so much fun. The walk up to the arch is fairly easy. Once there, you can climb rocks to get up even higher. This was easy for the kids. Let’s just say I was able to do it, but it was a bit tougher since I’m not as nimble as my children. I would say anyway with mobility issues, would be able to enjoy nice walk, take pictures, but probably not be able to climb to the top.
Afterwards, we walked over to windows, but didn’t hike up to it since we needed to get back on the road. The kids were a little disappointed, but we decided, we’d like to come back here and visit again as well as other parks in the area such as Canyonlands.
Now it is off the Dinosaur National Monument.