As most people are well aware at this point, the vast majority of the parks within the national park system are closed due to the government shutdown. A few states have worked with the government and they have decided to reopened a few parks with state funds. It’s important to note that just because a state has decided to reopen some parks within their state, that doesn’t mean that all of the national parks sites within their state are open. The number of sites open is still only a small percentage of the 401 sites that make up the national park system. Below is the current list of sites that are currently open, along with the dates that they are scheduled to remain open:
Grand Canyon National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)
Rocky Mountain National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 11 to 20)
Statue of Liberty National Monument (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)
North Carolina / Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 16 to 20)
Mount Rushmore National Memorial (currently scheduled to be open from October 14 to 23)
All Utah parks are currently scheduled to be open from October 11 – 20
Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Natural Bridges National Monument
Zion National Park
It seems that nature lovers are doing more than admiring nature at our national parks, at least according to a press release survey from MissTravel.com which claims that 1 in 5 travelers have enjoyed sex on America’s public lands. Zion National Park was crowned the top place where couples have done more than explore nature based on the survey of 8,500 traveling singles.
Brandon Wade, Founder & CEO of the website that conducted the survey notes in the press release that “Mother Nature inspires people to shed their inhibitions and give in to their primal urges. At a National Park, there are lots of secluded areas off the beaten path, and it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a quiet, romantic spot for two people to be alone together.”
While the one in five number may at first appear rather high, it’s important to remember that there are some national parks that have hotel lodging and camping within the park. Below are the top 10 parks where people are having sex according to the survey:
Number 1: Zion (Utah)
Photo: Jeffrey Strain
Number 2: Dry Tortugas (Florida)
Photo: Richard Lopez
Number 3: Redwood (California)
Photo: Jeffrey Strain
Number 4: Mammoth Cave (Kentucky)
Photo: Jeff Kubina
Number 5: Arches (Utah)
Photo: Jeffrey Strain
Number 6: American Samoa (American Samoa)
Number 7: Biscayne (Florida)
Photo: Bruce Tuten
Number 8:Big Bend (Texas)
Photo: Robert Hensley
Number 9: Congaree (South Carolina)
Photo: Hunter Desportes
Number 10: Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee)
Photo: Carl Wycoff
When you take the side trail off the main Devils Garden trail to hike to Partition Arch at Arches National Park, this side trail splits. A left takes you to Partition Arch while continuing straight will take you to Navajo Arch.
It’s really not much of an effort to visit both and it’s certainly worth doing. Although not very far apart, they give two completely different views of Arches that are each beautiful in their own way.
Much like the trail to Partition Arch, as you hike toward Navajo Arch you will reach a wall which you walk along. The main difference is that this one happens to be filled with hundreds of interesting, weather-worn holes.
As you reach Navajo Arch, the first thing you notice is a small pine growing directly under the arch:
Due to the arch’s thickness and surrounding trees, Navajo Arch has a lot more shade than other arches in Arches giving it a completely different feel:
It’s possible to walk completely through the Navajo Arch into a shady, sandy cove area that gives a completely different perspective of the arch:
This happens to be one of my favorite arches at Arches National Park simply because the feel of it is so different from many of the others arches there. It’s almost like a little oasis under the hot desert sun. Again, Navajo Arch is not one to skip if you decide to hike the entire Devils Garden trail.
After reaching Landscape Arch along the Devils Garden trail at Arches National Park, the trail becomes a lot more difficult. It isn’t anything that a fit hiker can’t do, but those with mobility issues will have trouble as there is some scrambling necessary to get up parts of the trail. Despite the difficulty of the trail from this point, it’s well worth continuing to see some other magnificent arches along the trail. The first side trail you will reach after Landscape Arch will take you to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch.
The side trail to Partition Arch has a small pine tree that has inexplicably decided to grow in the middle of the trail. Those not wanting to see it trampled have placed rocks around it to help protect it:
Not much further on you reach a rock wall to your left that you will follow until you reach Partition Arch:
At the end of the rock wall you will reach Partition Arch which will make you stop in your tracks and gawk for a bit (it’s actually fun to sit on some rocks and watch the reaction people have when they reach the arch). Partition Arch gives a beautiful window view of the landscape below with a smaller window arch to the right:
It’s a perfect place to stop for a short rest and simply bask in the beauty all around. It’s definitely one of the arches to make sure to visit if you decide to hike the entire Devils Garden trail.
Probably the most famous arch along the Devils Garden trail at Arches National Park is Landscape Arch. Unlike Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch is on the main Devils Garden trail and there is no need to take a side trail to see it (although there is a short side trail to get a bit closer to it). It’s the longest natural bridge at Arches national park and also considered to be so in the world.
While it was once possible to hike under Landscape Arch, the park service has closed the trail that once passed under it because there have been three instances since 1991 when large slabs of stone have fallen from the thinnest section of the arch. This section can easily be identified as the color under the arch is much a brighter red than other areas of the arch.
This is the goal of most people taking the Devils Garden trail. It’s 1.6 miles round trip from the trailhead to Landscape Arch and the trail is considered easy terrain. There are more (beautiful) arches beyond Landscape Arch that are definitely worth seeing, but the terrain does get significantly more difficult from this point and requires rock scrambling is some sections.
There’s an informational sign on the which says the following about the 1991 Landscape Arch rockfall:
September 1, 1991 — Hikers thought they heard cracks of thunder from distant clouds. Visitors resting under Landscape Arch noticed loud cracking and popping noises overhead. They fled as small rocks tumbled from the slender 306-foot-long span. Moments later, a 60-foot-long slab peeled away from the arch’s right side. When the dust settled, 180 tons of fresh rock debris lay scattered on the ground.
What caused this cataclysmic event? Water had been slowly shaping the arch for countless centuries, dissolving cement between sand grains, seeping into tiny cracks, freezing and expanding. What had finally upset the delicate balance?
Unseasonably heavy rains the preceding ten days may have filled pore spaces within the sandstone. The added weight may have finally overwhelmed the rock slab in its timeless struggle with gravity.
Immediately after the 1991 rockfall even, the National Park Service closed the trail which took visitors up and under the arch. The trail under the arch remains closed today.
It is a dilemma! The longer time passes without a rockfall, the more stable the rock formation may seem. On the other hand the passage of time takes Landscape Arch closer to ultimate collapse. So, in the interest of visitor safety and preservation of the landscape beneath this fabulous arch, the longer trail under the arch remains closed. Please respect this closure by staying on designated trails.
Pine Tree Arch is an arch at the end of a side trail off the Devils Garden trail at Arches National Park. This side trail leads to both Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch. Pine Tree Arch is to the left where the side trail splits, and is around a bend so can’t be readily seen. It’s a relatively short and level walk to the arch from the split (the somewhat steep hill comes before the split) so it’s definitely worth going to if you have already made it to Tunnel Arch.
As would be expected, Pine Tree Arch has a pine tree in the middle of the arch as well as in various places around it. It’s a much larger arch than Tunnel Arch and you can walk under and through it unlike at Tunnel Arch:
While it really doesn’t make sense not to visit both arches once you have visited one since they are so close together, I happen to think that Pine Tree Arch is the nicer of the two. Because of its size and location to the trail, it gives an opportunity for a wider variety of photos.
The Devils Garden trail at Arches National Park is a wonderful hike that is well worth taking. It can be made into a number of different hiking levels depending on how far you want to hike, and has a number of opportunities to wander off the main trail to see various named arches. The first of these side trails leads to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. When the side trail splits, it’s a right to Tunnel Arch or a left to Pine Tree Arch. Most people choose to go right first since Tunnel Arch can be seen from the trail at the split:
Since it’s a short hike off the main Devils Garden trail, it’s worthwhile to make the trip to both Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. If, however, you are really pressed for time, these two arches aren’t quite as spectacular as several others on the trail that you certainly won’t want to miss. The viewing spot for Tunnel Arch also usually supports a crowd of people since it is the first arch on the trail and easily accessible for most (there is one slightly steep hill to reach it), so it can get overly full at times.
As people hurry to make their way to the ever popular Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, they often skip a short quarter mile loop on the left near the beginning of the Delicate Arch trail that takes hikers to some beautiful Ute rock art:
This is what the information sign at the rock art says:
The stylized horse and rider surrounded by bighorn sheep and dog-like animals is typical of Ute rock art, Carved sometime between A.D. 1650 and 1850, these petroglyphs are visible along the vertical wall ahead,
Today, this rock art panel is important to many Native Americans of this region because it was created by their ancestors. Help protect the rock art by not touching it. Oils from your skin hasten deterioration of these fragile and irreplaceable cultural resources.
It’s a huge mistake to skip this little gem because you are too focused on making your way up to Delicate Arch. It really isn’t much of a hike and is well worth making the short detour.
When you travel to see Arches National Park, you make the logical assumption that you are going to see a lot of arches. While that is certainly true, there are also a lot of other geological wonders to surprise you at this park. As you head away from Park Avenue toward Balanced Rock, there is a small turnout that most cars drive right on by. It’s worth a stop because you get to see the remnants of ancient sand dunes that have been petrified:
This is what the information sign at the turn-out had to say:
Ancient Sand Dunes: This vast area was once covered by extensive sand dunes. Some 200 million years ago, winds from the northwest carried tons of fine-grained sand into this area, creating an immense desert. Over time, the sand drifts were covered by other layers of sediment, compressed and cemented by quartz and calcite into Navajo Sandstone.
To the left of the Park Avenue Viewpoint at Arches National Park there is a medium steep trail that is the beginning of the Park Avenue trail hike.
Even if you aren’t really into hiking, it’s worthwhile to hike down the trail steps to the bottom if you are physically able. While the steps are a little steep, you get an entirely new (and gorgeous) view of Park Avenue from the bottom compared to the viewpoint at the top.
If you do enjoy hiking, the Park Avenue trail hike is 1 mile each way and has beautiful scenery. If you are in a group with some who like to hike and others that don’t, there’s a hiker pick-up at The Organ at the end of the the trail so some can drive while others hike (or you can turn around making the hike 2 miles round trip)
Once down the steps, much of the trail is along a dry riverbed and across amazing water worn sandstone:
A lot of people skip this hike at Arches National Park as they head to more popular areas of the park. I found it to be the least crowded trail I hiked at Arches which gave me some solitude which was difficult to find on other trails in the park. Being as short as it is, I would definitely make an effort to hike it if you have the time.
More Park Avenue trail photos