Southern Utah is a masterpiece. Red rocks are so incredibly striking, that it really draws in the crowds. Especially to Arches National Park. The location, elevation, and environment lead to the perfect concoction to create…. well… arches! The layer of rock that happens to be on the southeast corner of Utah is the prime stuff for creating to natural phenomenon. The ever changing landscape is amazing, and it’s hard to figure out where to start.
This past weekend, Nic and I headed down to the park in search of a quick desert fix before heading towards the snowy mountains of the Tetons for the winter. And we had the perfect weekend of solitude. Yes.. you heard that right. While we definitely didn’t have the whole park to ourselves or anything, it was still a perfect mix of social interaction and a calm weekend getaway. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing, we were only there from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning; that makes only one full day of adventuring.
So let’s get to the good stuff:
Where we camped:
First of all, freecampsites.net saves our lives… and wallets. We opt for BLM Land and National Forest over in-park campsites or RV parks. While most may not have amenities like running water, electricity, or flat surfaces, it’s better than having to plan your camp trips in advance (reservations and such).
Thursday night we slept at the Gemini Bridges campground. This was the most amazing site. One of the best ways to wake up is being surrounds by towering red rock walls with a surprising amount of greenery.
It’s only about 12 miles from the park entrance, but it takes longer because the rough dirt road. Just remember to respect the rules of the BLM land by only camping in designated areas and packing out your trash and waste.
Friday night was spent not as isolated. The Willow Springs campground was a lot more popular due to the fact that it is right off Highway 191. Not to mention, it has an amazing panoramic view of the area. It was a lot more accessible if you are in a smaller vehicle, and some bathrooms (no running water) were scattered around the area. It would be easy to spend multiple nights at this location.
What we did:
Delicate Arch is a staple. It’s literally on -most- Utah cars via the license plate. It would have been an easy hike for sunset, but we opted for the Delicate Arch viewpoint on our first afternoon because we wanted to make it to our campsite before dark (like 6 due to winter approaching!).
Now for the full day… Friday we had a fun day ahead of us. Before doing the Delicate arch viewpoint the day before, we snagged our permits for Fiery Furnace, the main event of the trip (suggested by our good friend, Austin via instagram). It was $6 per person, and it was the best $6 I’ve spent in a National Park… or anywhere. Forget the escape rooms or corn mazes. This was hands down the best way to create a feeling of problem solving… but in nature. Upon purchasing permits, we watched an informative 7-minute movie about preserving the environment to get us ready for the trek.
The Fiery Furnace was absolutely beautiful. It was a way to feel lost and isolated, but also not too lost (it’s only like 1 square mile) due to the small arrows located in the maze. There were vast views, but also small slot canyons to explore. Whether you make your own path or follow the arrows diligently, it’s still incredibly humbling to be at the mercy of the red rock landscape.
Not gonna lie though, we for sure got lost. The arrows were sometimes obvious, but also sometimes were not so obvious. Pro-tip: if you feel lost,(i know it sounds silly) make sure to stay calm and also be able to retrace your steps to the last arrow.
All in all, highly recommend the Fiery Furnace, whether it’s your 1st or 50th time to Arches. Plus, a view like this at the end, is absolutely breathtaking once you’ve been in the maze of walls and hoodoos.
We got up early, and since the Fiery Furnace is only around 2.5 miles, we were able to get done before lunch. So we headed to the Landscape Arch hike for a lunch destination. The more crowded trail was totally worth the multiple arches we saw, such as Landscape Arch, Navajo Arch, and Partition Arch.
It’s easy to hit all of them in a row in under 2 hours. You can also hit a whole 7 mile loop on a primitive trail past Navajo Arch and Partition Arch. However, we are firm believers in leaving a place wanting more, so we decided to start planning the next trip where we do the whole loop.
Not to mention we were pretty beat after getting up early and using our whole bodies in the Furnace. We decided to head to Moab to check out the city life of the desert. We also wanted a well-deserved burrito. Moab Brewery was an all-around good place to grab a bite (great veggie options!!!), a beer (or they now distill and serve homemade root beer) if you’re not a beer drinker.
Overall, it was a great trip. While we may not have done everything that Arches offers, it was a unique way to see a place that I have seen multiple times before. So before you think to yourself “I’ve already been to XYZ park”, ask for suggestions from others and hopefully you’ll get a response to make your perspective change about what it means to explore a National Park.
Cheers and we hope you find your knack for adventure!