Dan with Molly, Tip, and Max Hike to Sand Dune and Broken Arches in Arches National Park, Utah

Throughout the morning Owen (9) has given his all rock scrambling and climbing the sandstone monoliths on the eight mile trail to and from Double O Arch.  Four hours later he is whooped.  He chooses to hang back in the car with his Omi while we four (Max, Molly, Tip, and moi) hike the two final arches.

Molly’s family loves to capture “jump photos” whenever they travel. Here is Max at Broken Arch.

With this being our last day in Arches National Park, we find a parking spot across the road from the trailhead, which leads first to the nearby Sand Dune Arch and then out across the prairie to the Broken Arch.   

Mid-day at 6000’ in mid-April 2022, I join the other three on the side trail up a slot canyon (a narrow gorge amid sandstone walls) to the sandy beach of a trail to the Sand Dune Arch. 

George Mason U Molly at the slot canyon to the Sand Dune Arch

Wading through luxurious sand, we very quickly find ourselves in front of the aptly named Sand Dune Arch.

With Molly under the Sand Dune Arch, the guys always appreciate her enthusiasm
Molly and Tip at Sand Dune Arch mid-afternoon

On a day going to the mid-80s and with the condo association pool awaiting us 30 minutes away in Moab, we four have a winding one mile trail across a prairie of greening tumbleweed to the Broken Arch.

The prairie trail to the Broken Arch

The Broken Arch isn’t really broken, but a large crack at its top gives it that name.  We add this final arch jewel to our charm bracelet of rusty red stone landscapes.

The Broken Arch is so named for the crack at the top center of the arch
The crack that gives the Broken Arch its name.

By 2PM we are whooped.  Even so, we make one last stop at the Balancing Rock.

Balancing Rock

Returning to our sweet VRBO for a late lunch, we have a chill afternoon ahead.  For my part, I enter first drafts of each of today’s two hikes into my laptop, edit the pictures from my iPhone 12, and then surrender to a quiet bedroom in our now quiet condo.

The others have the Rim Village pool to cool their jets on a mid-80s afternoon.  The warm pool and then the even warmer hot tub are therapeutic for what ails Owen and a joy for Max. 

A travel tip if you are looking for wine in Moab.  There is one small liquor store with hours Monday through Saturday from noon to 6 PM.  Snaring a fine Black Box, I was 12th in line at the one cash register open.  When I finish on this mid-afternoon Monday, there were 16 others behind me. 

With our “grapes,” the adults toast another day in paradise.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Landscape Arch and Double O Arches in Arches National Park, Utah

Our VRBO condo in south Moab, Utah is just fifteen minutes from the entrance to Arches National Park.  With a timed reservation (we must enter between 7-8A), we have an uncrowded park morning ahead of us in mid-April 2022 in search of more magnificent arches of eastern Utah.

Arches NP in east central Utah

Driving to the end of the park at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead, Hannah and I with our daughter Molly’s family of Tip, Owen, and Max will soon have an Avenue of Arches for our viewing pleasure. 

Hannah and I first came here in 1992 with our three kids (Molly [then 12}, Robyn [10], and Will [8] on the first of our four consecutive family cross-country trips (1992-1995).  She and I have returned again and again as we love the outdoor vibe of Moab, the warmer weather, and the being-away-ness of the place.  The at-home “to do” lists just dissolve. Today we get to share our love of this uber-popular national park with Molly’s family (she is now 42) that includes hubby Tip, and our grandsons Owen (nearly 10) and Max (nearly 8). 

All the sandstone climbing you could want. Max with his Omi.
Owen, the rock scrambler.

As we set out at 8A, we six have a mission to hike the two mile winding, slightly ascending trail to Double O Arches.  Along the way, we’ll have side trails to multiple other arches, including the Granddaddy of them all – Landscape Arch. Though temperatures will go to the 80s this mid-April afternoon, this morning we all start out in long sleeve tee-shirts or sweatshirts.

Almost immediately, we have a side trail the Pine Tree Arch. 

Early morning Molly and Tip at the Pine Tree Arch

Taking the sandstone trail northward, Owen and Max get more Fitbit steps than Hannah and I do as they haven’t met a rock side or sandstone summit they couldn’t climb.

Owen, the sandstone scamperer

Our next focus is the classic Landscape Arch that stretches some 300’ from side to side though is only 11’ wide at its center.  All rock formations at Arches National Park are temporary as water shapes and transforms the sandstone.  They will eventually all crumble. In fact, in 1991, a 60 ton slab of stone fell from the center of the arch when visitors were allowed under the arch. As you might imagine, no one is allowed under this arch anymore. My pictures are taken behind a fence some 300′ from the arch itself.

Landscape Arch accentuated by the deep blue Utah sky
Brothers Forever, Max and Owen

We then find side trails to Navajo and Partition Arches.  Our what we thought we might be a simple four-mile roundtrip hike to Double O stalls as we celebrate two more arches.

Tucked away but oh so accessible Navajo Arch
Our traveling party of six at the Partition Arch (Owen, Max, Hannah, Tip, Molly, and the blogger)

After walking though the Partition Arch, we have ourselves a modest climb
Max and Owen tucked into the sandstone with their Omi

Our destination is the Double O top and bottom arches which we arrive at three hours later.  Peanut butter and jelly, salted almonds, granola bars and lots of water sustain as we quickly stow our long sleeves for summer’s short sleeves.

Within two months of our 50th Anniversary on July 1, 2022, Hannah and I celebrate at the Double O Arch
With the Double O Arch in the background, Dan, Hannah, Molly, Owen, Tip, and Max have reached their morning destination.
I told you Owen was quite the rock scrambler.

As we return to the trailhead, we hike all the sandstone fins back to the trailhead from the Double O Arch.

By 1230 PM, we are back at our rented Toyota Sienna mini-van for nourishment.  Our hiking day of nearly eight miles is not quite done.  With this being our last day in Arches National Park, we want one more fix of arches. We’ll hike first the Sand Dune Arch and then out into the fields to the Broken Arch.  That’s next week’s blog.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Windows and Double Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

After a morning hiking to the Delicate Arch (click here for that blog from last week), Hannah and I drive with Molly’s family to the parking lot that serves as the trailhead for both the Windows Arches and the Turret Arch as well as the Double Arch Trail in mid-April 2022.

We start off on what is called the primitive trail (by that I mean poorly marked).  It’s a longer route to the Windows and Turret Arch, but as you may know, Hannah and I rarely pass up a chance at more Fitbit steps.  Counseling has not helped our neurosis. By the way, arched windows have square bottoms and an arch or half-circle on top. 

From “You Are Here” we hiked the primitive trail to the South and North Windows, then to the Turret Arch, back to “You Are Here” to the Double Arch.

Predictably we lose our way on the primitive trail but are always within a few hundred feet of the backside of the window arches themselves. We never are lost lost.

Owen on the primitive trail
Owen again with the windows in the background from the back side

Eventually back on the Windows trail we climb to the rock beneath the arch for pictures.  Agile-lite at the age of 74, I remember days gone by when I, too, could scamper up and down the sandstone rock as Owen and Max do today.

The high desert of Arches National Park
Molly complements the natural beauty of the window arch
Turret Arch with its own turret to the left

Five hours into our day, we then hike the half mile to one more arch, the Double Arch.

One half of the Double Arch in the distance
Approaching Double Arch with Molly, Max, and Tip in the foreground
The bluest of blue skies accentuates that earth tone beauty of the Double Arch

Foolishly I follow the others 35′ up to the ledge beneath the Double Arch.  Definitely not my best choice.  And the thing is, I know it as I soon as I am mid-way up the rock wall that trouble awaits on my descent.   Yet I continue. Pride goeth before the fall.

Looking out from high above the desert floor from the base of the Broken Arch.

More than ready to return to terra firma, I need all the support our son-in-law Tip can give me.  Facing the rock, knowing at any moment I can slide 35′ down the rock wall, I use Tip’s offered foot as a toehold. My whole body tightens as I somehow inch down the rock wall finding the smallest of “Free Solo” cracks in the stone.  I make multiple promises to the Universe that I will not be so foolish again. There is enough fear in my heart to make that a believable pledge.

At last, I’m off the ledge. I will live to hike another day.

After a day on the trail at 77F, Owen and Max head to the pool while Molly and Tip “chill” in the hot tub with Hannah.  Moi?  Oh, I’m back at the condo doing what I love – writing a first draft of each of our two hikes, editing my pictures for the blog, and, yes, napping.  Later I join them in the hot tub. I am no fool.

If I am to guess, I won’t be surprised it the pool and the hot tub will be the highlight of our time in Utah for Owen and Max.  It would be for me if I were eight or ten.

It’s a 77F afternoon in Moab, Utah on April 17, 2022 for Owen and his Omi.
The poolside hot tub for cooling our jets (Tip, Owen, Max, and Molly)

Dan and Hannah Hike the Delicate Arch Trail in Arches National Park, Utah

As Hannah and I wait with our daughter Molly’s family (Tip, Owen, and Max) at Logan Airport in Boston on this first Saturday morning of April school vacation week, it’s not a good sign when Delta announces that our jet won’t have enough fuel to make the non-stop flight to Salt Lake City.  We hear that we’ll have to refuel in Minneapolis.  WTF!  What do you mean that our schedule flight doesn’t have enough fuel when you knew it was going to Salt Lake City six months ago when we bought our tickets!

Delta wasn’t exactly ready when we were!

Using all my Zen Namaste Peace and Love-ness, I settle in and think of Doris Day (i.e. que sera sera).  We then get the explanation that it’s a fuel pump that is not working.  Then, twenty minutes later we learn that the ground crew has worked their magic and got it up and running.  Though two hours late, we are appreciatively in the air for our 5.5 hour flight to Utah.

Enterprise Car Rental comes through as they always have.  From the landing, taxiing to the terminal, and walking to the on-site Car Rental cluster, we are driving south on I-15 through Salt Lake City within 30 minutes.

Stocking up for seven days on the road at the Trader Joe’s in Orem, near Provo, we then choose wisely to feast on two large Mountain Mike’s pizzas in the car as Molly drives us 200+ miles over four hours to Moab for the night.

Our three bedroom VRBO condo at the Rim Village in Moab blows us away. It has a deluxe master bedroom for Hannah and me, another queen bedroom for Molly and Tip, and a third room with twin beds for Owen and Max. There is a pool and hot tub in the complex. We rest easy after sitting for ten hours in a plane and a car.

The Rim Village master bedroom with Owen between us.
Our three bedroom condo in Moab, Utah

Before the others awake on Easter Sunday morning, I walk the Rim Village neighborhood in the dark and find the moon setting over the mountains.

Full moon setting over Moab

Our first of five days hiking in the national parks of Utah begins at Arches National Park.  To deal with the overcrowding of the popular national parks, the park service requires that visitors from May through October at the Arches obtain a timed entry reservation to enter the park at all. Our reservation allows us to enter this morning between seven to eight AM. 

Dan, Owen, Max, Hannah, and Molly

We begin our hiking morning with the park’s signature trail to the Delicate Arch. Though there are many folks on the 1.5 mile trail with nearly 500′ of elevation gain over sandstone slick rock, there is a festive rather than overcrowded feel to our hike. 

Max nearly 8 and Owen nearly 10 keep up admirably as we climb to the arch that is on many Utah license plates.

The trail just before the Delicate Arch
Our first view of the Delicate Arch (Owen, Hannah, Dan, and Max)
You can walk to the base of the Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch gets its red color from iron oxide. Although there is a rumor that the names of Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch were inadvertently exchanged due to a signage mix-up by the National Park Service, this is false. (See at the end of the blog the Landscape Arch and you tell me if the names were misapplied!)

Some of the nicknames for this iconic arch include “Cowboy’s Chaps” and “Old Maid’s Bloomers.” The first time the arch was called “Delicate” was in a magazine article in 1934. The writer noted that the arch was “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area.” Summer temperatures here often exceed 100 degrees. Our temps were hiking-delightful in the low 60s on this mid-April morning.

On the return trip we six pair off, with Owen and me trailing behind eventually walking nearly a mile with Lakota and Elena from Nashville.  They are engaging folks and interested in us, too.  Elena walks a half mile chit chatting with Owen while I talk college football and traveling the country with Lakota. 

Elena, Lakota, and Owen

With our big morning hike in the books, we drive to the parking area for the Windows Trail and the Double Arch.  Our hiking day has just begun.

The much more delicate Landscape Arch

Dan and Hannah Hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park (Utah)

Can map of five parks

Utah’s National Parks

How hard is it to google the name of a national park before you visit to find out the latest conditions?  This is an easy one – it’s not hard at all.  If you are now guessing that I didn’t google “Arches National Park” before our hiking trip to Utah, you pass go and get $200!  We got quite the surprise when we arrived thanks to my little omission!

Arches 3A Tapestry Arch 2

Tapestry Arch in the Arches National Park

Having five days ago gone to my physical therapist Stephane wondering if I would even go on this hiking trip, I continue to follow his advice to stretch my hammies, take Tylenol, sport a compression sleeve for my left knee, and always use a whopping big bag of motel ice on my knee after hiking.

Arches 6A DA 2

Delicate Arch mid-day

Pulling through the entrance to Arches National Park, just minutes from Moab, a little before 8A, we see no one is there collecting fees from the steady stream of vehicles entering the park.  WTF!
Even though we don’t pay because of our $10 lifetime Senior Pass (soon going to $80 – still a helluva deal), lots of greenbacks are whistling by as we are among 40 cars and RVs winding our way through the entrance and up the switchbacks above the visitor center this late May morning.

Arches 1A ANP sign

Unfortunately for us, since the visitor center doesn’t open till 9A, we have no map for the hiking trails; we do have memories of being here 11 years ago.  As such, we have no idea what awaits at the end of the park!   Winding our way up the mountainside, we reach 5000’ on our way to Delicate Arch, the iconic arch that has been on Utah license plates as long as I can remember.

Arches license plate

Being a part of a caravan of now 50 vehicles, we decide to skip following the horde turning right onto the road to Delicate Arch and head directly for the Devils Gardens with its eight-mile trail passing seven distinctive arches.  Can’t wait!

Arches 1 closed road signs

Much to our surprise, we find that the Sand Dune Arch parking area is literally the end of the road.  No Devils Garden!  Who knew?   Well, all those people that googled “Current conditions in Arches National Park” knew.  Later we learn from the signage that anyone going into the forbidden area will be prosecuted.  Whoa, the feds are thinking we might be some sort of latter day Butch Cassidy and Sundance Woman in hiking shorts.

Arches 2A Broken Arch 2

Broken Arch

Life is how you deal with Plan B, and deal with it we will.  Not hard to pull out your Zen, when you have few choices.  (Of course, there is the choice of whining, bitching, and reminding oneself how unfair life is. – And tell me, How is that working out for you?)

Taking the sandy trail through the shadeless high desert, I hardly notice my left knee in a compression sleeve on its maiden voyage.  The hope is building that I might just make it hiking through four national parks and playing pickleball in the coming week.

Arches 2 Broken Arch

Broken Arch

As you can imagine with the unexpected road closure, it’s busy on the trail.  Not Disneyland busy, but lots of people have been funneled into hiking to Broken Arch on a day going to 90F.

Arches 3 Tapestry Arch

Tapestry Arch

Fortunately, the Tapestry Arch lies beyond Broken Arch making our 2+ hours under the relentless sun a good morning of arch hiking.

Arches 6 DA

Delicate Arch

With the aforementioned monster bag of motel ice at the ready, I ice my left knee while Hannah drives us back to Delicate Arch.  Expecting a mob scene of cars, what with the road closure, we are committed to trolling the parking lot for a spot for as long as it takes!  We’ll even park down a side road not made for parking so we can hike the trail to Delicate Arch today.

Surprisingly, the ranger waves us into the Delicate Arch trailhead parking, saying there are plenty of spaces.  It’s just about 1130A and 92 degrees.  Let me tell you, that here in May and June (as it was in the Phoenix area when we lived there for ten years in the 1970s), there is such low humidity that 90F is the new 70F, well, okay 75F.

Arches 5 Bathrooms before DA

Welcome relief in 90F

Waiting in line behind ten others to do our duty in the three available port-a-potties, we know this is a very doable three-mile round-trip hike to Delicate Arch with just 500’+ elevation gain.  Summery, there are many people on the trail, a joyous mix of senior couples, younger, spunkier dating couples, and families (school ends in late May in much of the West and South).

Arches 5A trail to DA with H

On the trail to Delicate Arch with the sloping stone mountainside in the distance

The trail begins with red rock paving, which eventually leads to switchbacks; we then ascend onto a sloping stone mountainside climbing to Delicate Arch.  It’s not a walk in the park, dry heat or not, but a workout for a left knee with already five miles on its tread.

Arches 5B trail to DA w Da

Closing in on the Delicate Arch

Never perilous, the trail is without cliff edges until the final 300 yards; carved into the sandstone, the trail is safe for families and seniors, as long as you apply even the smallest amount of common sense.   As we hike, we ask parents how old their young kids are and how the hiking has been.  Looking forward to the day when Molly and Tip and our grandsons, Owen and Max, can come to the Arches with us, we find a family with a six-year-old who has rocked this heart-of-the-high-desert climb without complaint.

There is nothing like the visual of first coming around the bend and seeing the Delicate Arch.  With 50-60 people in the area, it’s happy people, pleased with their accomplishment.  It’s easy enough to get within 100 feet of the Arch and get a picture that is not cluttered with other people.

Arches 6B D and H preview

The rockin’ Delicate Arch

High desert hiking with a balky left knee in 90 degrees for eight miles is something I wouldn’t have thought possible five days ago.  Here’s one vote for stretching, Tylenol, and a compression sleeve; all of which give me a shot at hiking in Canyonlands National Park manana.  Merci beaucoup, Stephane.