The first major stopping area once you have entered Arches National Park is at Park Avenue. There is a short walk to the Park Avenue viewpoint (accessible to all) which gives a spectacular view that you don’t want to miss. While other areas of Arches National Park are more famous, I found this to be one of my favorite spots. The view gives you a wide enough perspective to take in a number of large formations, but the valley limits what you can see so it’s not overwhelming. I also found that because there are no major arches along Park Avenue, it’s less crowded than other areas of the park:
The information sign at park Avenue viewpoint gives the following information:
The sheer walls of this narrow canyon reminded early visitors of buildings lining a big city street. Rising majestically, these geological “skyscrapers” tell the story of three important rock layers.
These layers began forming more than 150 million years ago as tidal flats, desert, and beach deposits. Over time, more layers of rock, perhaps a mile thick, covered these deposits. Tremendous pressure from this rock compressed the buried sand into sandstone and cracked it. As erosion removed the overlying rock, the layers now exposed began to weather.
Within the past two million years, erosion of the cracks in the Entrada has left vertical slabs like the rock wall to your right. These slabs, called fins, are the first step in arch formation.
Here is a beautiful night sky timelapse video taken at Park Avenue viewpoint:
With over 2000 arches at Arches National Park, you might think that arches is all the park has to offer. You would be wrong. The first paved turnout that you will come across once you have entered Arches National Park is one that describes Moab Fault. The pull-out gives a wonderful view of the highway you drove in on to reach Arches which also shows in detail the Moab Fault:
Your instinct will be to pass on by and most cars do, but it’s well worth stopping simply to get a better understanding of how Arches National Park was formed. It will only take 5 minutes of your time and the plentiful arches waiting on the other side of the ridge will still be there. If you think that you will stop on your way back, you may have great intentions of doing so, but the reality is that you likely won’t. The turnout is much easier to see on the way into Arches and by the end of the day of hiking you won’t have the energy to do so.
There is an informational sign at the turnout that gives the following description:
A dramatic break in the earth’s surface occurred here about six million years ago. Under intense pressure, unable to stretch, the crust cracked and shifted. Today, the highway (below) parallels this fracture line, called the Moab Fault.
After rock layers shifted, the east wall of the canyon where you are standing ended up more than 2,600 feet (792 meters) lower than the west side (across the highway).
Individual rock layers no longer line up horizontally here because of the faulting. The cliff across the highway looks much like the Entrada sandstone, but is actually composed of Wingate Sandstone — rock deposited about forty million years before the Entrada.
If the sole purpose of visiting Arches National Park is to see as many arches as you can, then the Moab fault information will be of little interest to you, but if you are there to learn, this five minute pull out is well worth the time.
Although I have been to a lot of National Parks in the west, one that I have not yet been to is Arches National Park. Hopefully that will no longer be the case by the end of this year. I am planning a trip this September that should allow me to spend a few days there, and while I was doing a bit of research on it, I came across this video showing many of the arches and landmarks to be seen there:
For anyone still not convinced that Arches National Park is worth a visit, take a look at this absolutely stunning set of Arches photos taken by james.gordon6108. Here is just one of them to wet your appetite:
I can’t even tell you how excited I am to see this National Park.