North America

Arches National Park & Dead Horse Point

posted by Stuart Wilson 0 comments

Just 4 miles north of Moab in Eastern Utah, Arches National park has been attracting visitors to its bizarre, and often unfathomable rock formations for a century. The geology of the park is boring, I could sit and reel off how the arches were created and how the freaky rock structures were formed and you would give up on this post. It’s probably best just to say they are the result of erosion, and gorgeous to look at. With that in mind I will shoot straight forward to the hike.

Delicate Arch Hike

Trail Head: Wolfe Ranch

Trail End: Wolfe Ranch

Distance: 3 mile round trip

Time taken: 2 hours, including 30 min relaxing at the arch

It is of course important that I first of all point out that this hike is completely exposed and that temperatures on the trail regularly exceed 100 degrees F (38C) in the summer months. Hikes should be started early in the day and preferably concluded by 10am. Water is a necessity, with the national park advising a minimum of 1 litre per person.

To get to the trail-head simply drive on through Arches NP and look for the delicate arch turn off. Less than a mile down this road you will see a car park, there is supposed to b e a sign for Wolfe Creek but I didn’t see it. We arrived at 7.30am and the car park was about half full, and when we finished by around 9.30am it was about 2/3 full.

The hike begins on a paved trail, crosses an iron bridge and immediately forks to some petroglyphs, though tiny, they are worth the five minute detour. From there it is a gradual uphill still on paved trail until you reach a large rock which takes up the entire landscape. In good weather you can see in the distance the direction of where you must go. In poor visibility, or darkness there are cairns placed on the trail, keep these to your left as you hike up. Occasionally the ground becomes sand, but generally it is good ground. The kids and I paved our own way as I saw some great photo opportunities, I would not recommend this at night as there are some steep drop offs that though won’t kill you, may injure you.

I was powering up the hike, and within no time we were all sweating, the kids complained it was a bit difficult but it is perfect gradient for getting the blood flowing. I would say the hike in terms of difficulty is probably a 2/10 – Combined with my speed, the kids gave it a 5/10. In any case, after about 30 minutes you reach to top of the rock and the trail starts to wind around before opening up into a large area. Oddly, it seemed a lot of people were giving up at this point, but the reality is that you are just 5 minutes from delicate arch. The trail follows a ridge which is easy enough for two people to pass, so not nearly as hyped as other trail reports have claimed. At the end of the ridge is the reason you began the hike in the first place.

Most people don’t seem bothered about going over to the arch and are content with just photographing it from a distance, there was of course the obligatory individual who existed just to photobomb everyone’s pictures and was seemingly oblivious to people firing off poses.

Just set back from the arch is most perfect place to relax and have a snack, you can see all those that had driven to view point in the distance, the occasional distant flash was a warm reminder of how much more spectacular seeing the arch close up really was.

The return hike is exactly the same way as the hike up.

I have to say, you could probably do this hike within an hour if you are pushed for time, but for a morning walk and to get the heart pumping it was perfect. Definitely worth doing if you are in the Arches National Park.

Dead Horse Point

This unfortunately named state park costs $10 per vehicle and, being a State Park is not included in the Interagency Park Pass. Feeling miffed, we drove straight to the visitor centre just a couple of miles from the entrance. I felt even more miffed when I realized that we were in a miniscule state park.

Pulling into the car park there was just one vehicle there, I instantly felt like we had been sold a dud one. The visitor centre was snide, and about 20 years past investment, feeling jibbed we decided to go look out at the observation point. Well, my jaw hit the floor. The kid’s jaws hit the floor and we stood in amazement at the absolutely spectacular view before us.

With a revitalized enthusiasm we set about loving the park, and I dispatched the kids to go figure out why it was called dead horse point. Turns out, or rather, legend has it, it is all to do with the location. Essentially the state park is an area of land with 6000ft foot cliffs around 2/3 of it. Back in the day, cowboys would herd wild horses onto the land and then chase them towards the cliffs where the horses would realise their imminent deaths and suddenly start eating grass like they weren’t even running in the first place. Cowboys would then round them up. Job done. There was however always a couple of horses that thought they were unicorns and would just fly off to safety. They tended to meet their death on a ledge on their way down to terra firma. And, due to the simplicity of man, what better name to give a point where there are dead horses, other than dead horse point.

The vista is stunning. In my opinion it rivals that of the Grand Canyon and has probably less than 1% of the visitors. There really aren’t any superlatives to give the view the justice it deserves and I cannot imagine anywhere in Utah other than Zion that come even remotely close to matching the views. It really is that good.

Being such a small place you can walk the trim trails (east and west) relatively quickly, with each corner offering up something different. I would love to know what the turquoise lakes are in the distance (if anyone knows) but a combination of pretty much having the place to ourselves and gorgeous views makes this one of our favourite places in the West and easily the best State Park we have ever been to.


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