Arches National Park

Written by Glow

Last Updated: January 18, 2011, 05:47 am (UTC)
Originally created on January 18, 2011



You wouldn't know it in the daytime but Arches National Park, with its world-famous natural arches, is among the darkest of places in the country.

Although anywhere in the park is great for viewing the heavens, certain parts are more favorable than others. The most accessible area of the park is long its main winding scenic road. Because of the city of Moab near the park entrance to the south, the sky is darker the farther north on the road you go. At the end of the road is Devils Garden trailhead next to which is the campground. The Devils Garden campground is an excellent place to stay for the night for those looking for dark skies.

Note that the soil in the area is alive and fragile. It is known as cryptobiotic crust and consists of various living things which create a life-sustaining mat on the desert floor. It takes decades for the damage caused by a single footstep to heal. When heading off the trail, keep to wash bottoms and rock surfaces to avoid crushing the crust.

This applies especially to those wanting to set up telescopes who want to a clear view. However, where you step is difficult to tell in the dark. That often leads to either restricting a telescope to an unsuitable spot or risking destroying the crust. An alternative is setting it up in the middle of a large empty parking lot.

That parking lot is the Klondike Bluffs trailhead in the northwestern section of the park accessed by the Salt Valley Road which leaves the main park road immediately before Devils Garden. The road is unpaved and, though maintained, may be impassable at times. The parking lot is the second road on the left for Klondike Bluffs. It is also the trailhead for Tower Arch which, because of its location, sees very few if any people at night. (If time allows, take the 3.4 mile round-trip hike to the arch!)

For services, visit the city of Moab, UT just two miles south of the park entrance. With a population of over 4000 and its strong tourism-based economy, it should have everything necessary to make a trip enjoyable. The nearest major city is Salt Lake City, UT about 200 miles away.

Arches National Park is located in the eastern Utah desert giving it an arid, desert climate. Summer highs average around 90 degrees (F) and lows around 70 degrees (F). Winter is much colder with highs around 40 (F) and lows around 20 (F). Averages should not be used to predict the weather. Always check the local forecast for what conditions will actually be. Be prepared for summer thunderstorms which may bring flash floods and lightning. Winter storms may bring snow and/or rain. Leave the Klondike Bluffs area if heavy rain threatens or risk being stranded by an impassable road.

Arches National Park charges a $25 entrance fee good for 7 days.

Official website of Arches National Park: http://www.nps.gov/arch
Night sky page for Arches: http://www.nps.gov/arch/naturescience/lightscape.htm

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