GRAND COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – The red-rock wonderland known as Arches National Park hosts a landscape of contrasting colors, land forms, and textures. In fact, the National Park Service (NPS) states that the park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive rock fins, and giant balanced rocks.
However, there is one spectacle that has become an iconic symbol of Utah: Delicate Arch.
The arch, which appears on the Utah license plate, is a spectacular sight with a number of interesting facts surrounding it.
Firstly, close to 1.4 million people visit Arches National Park each year, and for those that do visit, they will find that the arch’s size is surprisingly large, standing around 60 ft. tall.
When visiting, you’ll likely find a number of people taking in the view, with sunset being a popular time for photographers in particular.
Inversely, sunrise is the least crowded time to see the arch, but the weather will probably be a bit more chilly than usual.
One cool thing about the park is that it’s open to visitors at night, allowing you to get a look at an amazing night sky filled with stars.
The arch is made of Entrada sandstone, described by NPS as red, cross-bedded, arch-forming sandstone. Delicate Arch and many other rock formations at the park get their red color from iron oxide.
Other examples include the Monitor and Merrimac buttes along Highway 313 to the Island in the Sky.
Although Utah’s iconic arch is called the Delicate Arch, named so in a 1934 magazine article describing it as “the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area,” according to NPS, other names include “Cowboy’s Chaps,” “Old Maid’s Bloomers,” and “Salt Wash Arch.”
The arch is stunningly pretty in the snow, however hiking during snowy weather requires caution, as much of the trail leading to the arch will be covered with ice.
See below for photos of Arches National Park.
In the summer, however, temperatures can reach upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
To get to the arch, the trail is 3 miles roundtrip, climbing 480 feet. The trail is steadily uphill, and you’ll pass the Wolfe Ranch cabin as well as a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs.
You do want to stay on the trail, considering that the foundation of high desert plant life in Arches National Park and the surrounding area is a living groundcover called “biological soil crust.”
According to NPS, biological soil crust is made up of living organisms that clump soil together, essentially, making it a living soil.
This soil crust covers much of the ground in southeast Utah, and is dominated by cyanobacteria, also known as green-blue algae, which is believed to be one of the oldest known life forms. In fact, it’s believed that cyanobacteria were among the first organisms to colonize Earth’s early land masses and played an important role in forming Earth’s early soils, NPS states.
Cyanobacteria move through soil particles, leaving behind sticky fibers that clump soil particles together.
But enough about the surrounding area, the “stone icon” that is Delicate Arch is widely recognized as one of the most famous geological features in the world, and if you’re not up for the hike, you can take a short 100-yard walk to the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint.
For more information on the Delicate Arch, click here.