My first visit to Arches was in 2006, and since we were only staying a week in the area we stuck to driving the main paved road and the bare minimum of stopping and hiking. Since then the park has opened up more parking areas, graded more roads and made many of the formations more accessible. When we visited in 2008, even though we were here for two weeks, we concentrated on only a few areas of the park: Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch and the Devil's Garden. This is essentially part one of the second visit; Devil's Garden is so extensive that it needs its own post; and we still didn't see all of it yet!
Balanced Rock is about nine miles from the start of your trek on the paved road throughout Arches. The entire formation is 128 feet, but the rock of Entrada sandstone is only 55 feet of it. At one time you could only see the front of Balanced Rock from the small parking lot, or hike around it over the rock and sand to see the sides and back. Now there is a pathway that enables anyone to go entirely around the formation. Carved by the elements, Balanced Rock sits upon stones that could crumble at any time, or stay upright for centuries more.
On to Delicate Arch; now there is a sort of funny story attached to why we never actually made it to Delicate Arch itself, only close enough to take a few decent shots. Before making the hike upward, Roy wanted to smoke a cigarette, stupid, I know; well I wasn't waiting for his cigarette, so started out ahead of him. I did tell him to grab the water bottles, since I was carrying the camera equipment. 3/4s of the way up he finally caught up with me and I was feeling thirsty, so asked for a bottle of water, to which he replied, "Don't you have them?" After a few choices words out of my mouth, I needed to make a decision; continue upward and hope I wouldn't become too dehydrated, or take a couple of photos and go back downward to the car...and water. I chose the latter as being dehydrated up on the hilltop wouldn't have been a smart decision on any one's part. I did, however, buy a small backpack when I got home; room enough for two bottles of water, a camera, snack bars and wallet. Not taking anymore chances, and the lesson learned is: smoking depletes brain function.
Once you park in the small parking area, you'll see the trailhead off to the far right. The paved area of the walkway only goes to the base of the hill, then it's upward the rest of the way over sandstone, slickrock and sand. The entire trail is 1.5 miles one way, so that's three miles round trip with awesome scenery all around you. Before I forget, there are petroglyphs located at Wolfe Ranch which has its entrance near the Delicate Arch parking area. The road was closed the day we were there due to flash floods, so didn't get a chance to see them.
Delicate Arch is the most visited and photographed arch in the park. It's featured on Utah license plates (tags), on a postage stamp in 1996, and in 2002 a runner went through the arch with the Winter Olympic torch. It is also naturally carved from Entrada sandstone; oh, and in the summer months birds nest on the top, so you might want to watch for any falling "gifts".
That finishes the first part of all my visits to Arches National Park. No matter how long you stay in the Moab area, make sure to visit this park; it's a must see!