Day 32 – Arches And The Island In The Sky

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Miles To Date: 
4 684

We woke this morning to bright sunshine, which couldn’t have been better after the weather yesterday. As soon as we were ready we headed straight back to Arches national park to see it properly. Our first stop was a 1.6mile round-trip hike to Landscape Arch. This arch is one of the longest in the world and is extremely thin. Rangers say it could break any moment so its forbidden to walk underneath it which is a shame.

Next we drove down to Delicate Arch to take pictures from a distance. This arch is probably the most famous and is considered an unofficial state sign for Utah. On the way we passed several panorama points and got to take in the amazing scenery. All around are sandstone towers which are created from millions of years of weather erosion. There was so much to take in, and each piece of sandstone seemed to take a different form. Our last major stop in the park was the Windows Arch and Double Arch area. We decided to take the short hike to the Double Arch, which as the name suggests is two arches linked together.

As for the landscape, the areas with the arches are covered in red (sandstone) sand, and apparently the whole ground is alive with bacteria which takes decades to grow. We also saw our first cactuses of the trip, signalling we are now truly in the desert.

The second national park of the day was Canyonlands. The park consists of three distinct areas; Island In The Sky, Needles and Maze. The areas aren’t connected by roads since canyons separate them all, and Maze cannot even be accessed except by 4x4 vehicles on dirt tracks. Since getting to Needles from Moab is around 70 miles, we decided to go to the Island In The Sky (around 25 miles). The whole national park is based around the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. At one time the whole area was a plateau at 6000ft, but the rivers eroded it down so now only the Island In The Sky remains at that level.

Our first stop in the park was Mesa Arch, which is a sandstone arch suspended at the top of a cliff overlooking vast canyons. This was potentially even better than any of the arches in Arches park itself, mainly because of the setting. Next we went to Upheaval Dome which looks like a huge crater, over a mile in diameter. Scientists think it was created by a meteorite, and it was a definite highlight of the park. Finally we visited the Grand Viewpoint, which overlooks all three sections of the park. The views were quite incredible, and we could see canyon layers up to 2000ft below us and as far as the eye can see. Overall I’d say Canyonlands was better than Arches, since most of what can be seen in Arches is found in Canyonlands (except specific arch formations).

Photo(s) of the day: us in front of the Double Arches, and the view from above Mesa Arch with the vast canyons behind it.