With thousands of stone arches, towering pinnacles, and huge balanced rocks, Arches National Park is home to some of the most incredible rock formations in the world. But there’s much more to Arches than what meets the eye. To help you learn more about this natural wonder, we’ve put together a list of 10 facts that might surprise you.
There are 2,000 natural stone arches.
Sculpted over millions of years, this red rock landscape is nature’s masterpiece. Its collection of thousands of arches attracts curious visitors from all over the world. There are four different categories of arches to look for: cliff wall arches, free-standing arches, pothole arches, and natural bridges. Some of the most famous arches in Arches National Park are free-standing or classic arches. Delicate Arch is the most popular (it’s even on the Utah license plate!) and is a favorite place to watch the sunset. The three-mile round trip hike is well worth the views of the Colorado River and La Sal Mountains perfectly framed by the arch.
Rock art tells stories of the past.
Enchanting pictographs and petroglyphs on rock walls tell the tales of ancient inhabitants of the land. The Courthouse Wash Panel is a large, colorful display of human figures, sheep, shields, birds, dogs, and spirals carved and painted on the rock. There are also some smaller petroglyphs carved into rock boulders at the base of the cliffs nearby.
It used to be underwater.
Believe it or not, Arches National Park was once covered by a shallow inland sea. When the water retreated, it left behind sand that the wind formed into dunes that over time petrified and turned into the massive red rock formations you see today.
The soil lives and breathes.
Biological soil crust is the glue that holds the desert together. It’s made up of living organisms like mosses, green algae, fungi, and cyanobacteria that protect the earth below from washing away during the rain. They also generate oxygen. It’s important not to step off of marked trails to protect this fragile desert ecosystem.
Temperatures can fluctuate 40 degrees in a day.
Located in the high desert of the Colorado Plateau, Arches National Park weather can range from 0º F to over 100º F depending on the season. These extreme fluctuations in temperature are one of the erosive forces that shape the rock formations in the park. There’s even snow in the winter! The best time to go to Arches National Park is during spring and fall when daytime highs average a comfortable 60º to 80º F and lows average 30º to 50º F.
Landscape Arch is the longest in the world.
Landscape Arch is a must-see feature in Arches National Park. The impressive gravity-defying ribbon of rock spans 306-feet across and the narrowest point is only six feet thick. The hike to Landscape Arch is an easy two-mile out-and-back trail in the Devil’s Garden section of the park.
There are 700+ plant and animal species.
Surprisingly, the desert is full of life. Even though Arches only gets 8-10 inches of rainfall each year, over 483 plant species survive there. Most wildlife in Arches National Park is nocturnal, being most active at night. However, mule deer, bighorn sheep, cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, and numerous birds of prey can be spotted during the daytime.
At least 11 movies were filmed here.
Famous flicks like Thelma & Louise, Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, and most recently Hulk, have used scenes filmed in Arches for their blockbuster backdrops. Visit the Park Avenue Trail to walk where young Indiana Jones learned his craft before he became a legendary archaeologist.
Dinosaurs once roamed here.
Millions of years ago, dinosaurs would have wandered what is now Arches National Park. During the Jurassic period, the climate would have been desert-like, with sand forming solid sandstone cliffs and plateaus. There are traces of dinosaurs in and around the park including a track site near Delicate Arch.
See some of the darkest night skies in the U.S.
Be dazzled by the Milky Way and a wealth of stars when you go stargazing in Arches National Park. Designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2019, the park takes active steps to limit light pollution so visitors can enjoy clear starry nights for years to come.
No trip to Moab, Utah is complete without a visit to Arches National Park. Under Canvas Moab is conveniently located just 7-miles from the park’s entrance so you can explore geological wonders by day and relax beneath a star-filled sky by night.