Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, only half an hour apart by driving, are located in eastern Utah near to the Colorado River. The two parks are just a few miles away from the small town Moab, an excellent choice as a base for exploration.

Arches National Park is a relatively small park, but it's the home to over 2000 sandstone arches. There is an 18-mile scenic road that provides direct access many famous arches or trail heads leading to those arches. Of course, the majority of visitors will not have time or energy to explore all arches, so I compiled a list of them that I think should be on your bucket list in the Google Maps below.

The Organ and Tower of Babel

The Organ and Tower of Babel can't be missed while you drive the scenic road crossing the park. It's only 5 miles from the entrance, where you can find a parking area with educational signage. The sheer size is simply amazing and impressive. It makes a great photo when there are clouds in the background. A polarize filter would be very useful here.

 The Organ and Tower of Babel

 The Organ and Tower of Babel
In above picture, you can see Three Gossips on the left side. There are really a lot of photographic opportunities in this area. You can shoot sunrise, sunset, as well as do night photography such as star trails or milky way. I only spent limited time there so didn't have a chance to do any of that unfortunately.

Ancient Petrified Dunes

The Ancient Petrified Dunes are a series of rocks formed when ancient sandstones hardened into stones and then later eroded away in the past 200 million years. There is a small overlook on the same scenic road after passing the Tower of Babel. There are no formal trails. To really explore this unique landscape, just take a short walk (0.5 miles max) to the east on any path.

Petrified Dunes

Balanced Rock

Continuing on the Arches Scenic drive, there is a small parking lot to the right that leads to the Balanced Rock Trail.  This is a trail I highly recommend. It's an easy 0.3 mile loop trail that takes you to a very well know rock formation called Balanced Rock. It stands a 128 feet tall, and has a 3,600 ton boulder on the top. It looks different in different angles. What else can you ask from a still subject that is so magnificent and delicate from a photographer's point of view! This will also be an excellent location for shooting some night photographs (e.g., milky way) when the time is right.

Balanced Rock - Arches National Park

Balanced Rock - Arches National Park

The Windows Road

Heading further north, turning right on The Windows Road, you can find quite a few famous arches there , including North Window, South Window, Double Arch, Turret Arch, etc. 

Sunset at Turret Arch

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is the undeniably the most famous arch in the Southwest US. It is the recognized symbol of the state of Utah. There are two main ways to see this arch. Both Lower and Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoints provide a distant view of the grand arch. A telescope lens will be required to take good photos from these viewpoints. The best way, perhaps, is up close in person. There is a 3-mile round trip trail with 480 feet elevation gain leading to the arch. The hike takes about an hour. Of course, it totally worth the effort, especially to watch the sunset!

Sand Dune Arch

Sand Dune Arch is located near the end of the Arches Scenic Drive. There is a small parking space at the beginning of the trail. The Arch has a lot of sand around it, so we didn't hike to the arch. 

Skyline Arch

On the end of the Arches Scenic Drive, the beginning of Devil's Garden Road, a short trail leads to the Skyline Arch. Despite millions of years old, the arches are changing as time passes. In 1940, a big chunk of rock fell from this arch that doubled the size of the opening as we see today!

Devil's Garden Trail

Devil's Garden Loop Trail is a 7.8-mile loop trail located at the end of Devil's Garden Road. The trail has some of the best arches in the park, including the famous Landscape Arch.

Entrance of the Trail
Pine Tree Arch
Landscape Arch in Late Afternoon

Landscape Arch before Sunset

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch is probably the second most famous arch after the Delicate Arch in this area. It's a pothole arch located within the Canyonlands National Park. A 0.7-mile loop trail brings you right up to Mesa Arch. During the sunrise hour, there is always a line of tripods standing in front of the arch. So if you want to take the classic sunrise photo when the bottom of the arch is lit up by sunlight, get there early!

Canyonlands National Park Grand View Overlook

This vast and astonishing overlook is a must visit in Canyonlands National Park!

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