Layer cakes and windows: Arches National Park, Utah

"Windows on the World" at Arches National Park, Utah.

Layers of red rock and sandstone form “Windows on the World” at Arches National Park, Utah.

If Utah is blessed with one thing, it would certainly be national parks. And one of them, Arches National Park, is known for sandstone layers, wind-and-water erosions, and structures that make you want to park your car and move in for a closer look.

Red rocks and striations at Arches National Park

Red rocks and striations at Arches National Park

Arches National Park lies atop a salt bed on the Colorado Plateau that has endured and changed over the last 300 million years.  As floods and oceans covered the salt bed, rock shifted to form layers, most noticeably salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone.  That shifting, combined with destructive forces of wind and chemical weathering, left over 2,000 freestanding arches and unique structures now protected by the National Park Service.

But even if these red rocks seem to remain stable in form, they change hourly with the sun. And that variation in light stirred our fascination with Arches.  For example, Three Gossips (in the Courthouse Towers section) caught our attention for unique form.

A distant, almost haunting view of Three Gossips in Arches National Park.

A distant, almost haunting view of Three Gossips in Arches National Park.

But in different light, the hues changed. Three Gossips became more distinct as we moved closer.  Black swaths blended into the red.  Layers of pink and salmon and white took shape.  And the gossips themselves seemed ready for conversation.

See how light changes this structure known as Three Gossips?

See how light changes this structure known as Three Gossips?

Balanced Rock changed with light also.  But other factors, like proximity and angle of vision, came into play.  The closer we moved in, the more details we saw — massive height, erosion of the sandstone layer, and differences in overall shape and texture and form.

Balanced Rock at a distance.

Balanced Rock at a distance.

Standing near the base of Balanced rock, Arches National Park

Standing near the base of Balanced rock, Arches National Park

A closer view allows you to see various layers and textures of Balanced Rock.

A closer view allows you to see various layers and textures of Balanced Rock.

Sometimes it was luck that changed our perception.  We chose not to take the long hike to Delicate Arch (the signature rock in brochures about Arches National Park). Instead, we took a shorter path, stood on a distant perch across the canyon, and watched heartier hikers roam ant-like around the well-known window.

The view of Delicate Arch from across the canyon at Arches National Park

The view of Delicate Arch from across the canyon at Arches National Park

But when a fellow photographer offered us his arm-length telephoto lens to get a better view, we never hesitated.  After carefully swapping it out with our smallish lens, we snapped this view of Delicate Arch, giving us a front-row seat that we thought only the hale and hearty had. Oh, the kindness of strangers!

Using a telephoto allows you to see Delicate Arch (and the visitors to the site) in detail.

Using a telephoto allows you to see Delicate Arch (and the visitors to the site) in detail.

North and South Windows stood out on our map as a stop to take.  Even from a distance, the whole of it intrigued us — size, dual windows, and interesting erosion.

North and South Windows, Arches National Park as seen from the parking lot.

North and South Windows, Arches National Park as seen from the parking lot.

But closer looks afforded us details not see from afar: richer color, views through the arch, and interesting twists and turns in the rock, no doubt formed by years of water, wind, rain, and snow.

Moving closer to the North Window at Arches National Park

Moving closer to the North Window at Arches National Park

We waited patiently for opportunities to see “windows” without people.  And finally, we did.  But not without patience and long wait-time. Visitors love these structures, understandably so.  And, thanks to the national park system, pathways and man-made steps make these treasures accessible to all. But if you want a “no-people” view, prepare to wait.

Pathway through a window at Arches National Park

Pathway through a window at Arches National Park

If you haven’t visited Arches, you should.  If you’ve been before, go again.  Each hour, each day, each season is different.  Arches National Park is layer cake and windows heaven.

Bert looks out at the grandeur of Arches National Park.

Bert looks out at the grandeur of Arches National Park.

Check out our next blog on sundown at Double Arch.  And follow our series We Saw Utah for more pictures of  Utah’s amazing national parks.

Early afternoon view of Double Arch, Arches National Park

Early afternoon view of Double Arch, Arches National Park

For more information:

Arches National Parkhttps://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/arches-national-park

Information in this post based upon “Arches,” the brochure and map obtainable at the Arches National Park Visitor Center.

About Oh, the Places We See

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
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15 Responses to Layer cakes and windows: Arches National Park, Utah

  1. Beautiful photos! Love this post about Arches NP.

  2. Alyssa says:

    I traveled to Arches National Park in 2005 while en route to Vegas. A lot of the pictures I took from this trip fueled my high school art class inspiration! I was able to turn many of the photos into assignments. Thanks for sharing. It’s one of my favourite destinations.

  3. Utah is crammed full of gorgeous National Parks and rocks, Rusha. Arches is one of my favorites. I am eager to get back to the Southwest! You are so right about timing. Early morning and sunset are always my favorite, but Arches is special at any time of the day. And I am forever waiting for people to get out of the photo. 🙂 –Curt

  4. We’ve been to Utah but not to Arches NP. Looks incredible. Yet another addition to the bucket list! Thanks for posting.

  5. Jaspa says:

    Stunning shots. The sky is a little bluer than it was when we were there!

  6. Pit says:

    Great post – thanks for sharing, especially the pictures of a region I haven’t (yet) seen myself.

  7. Amy says:

    Remarkable captures, Rusha! The landscape is stunning.
    Reminded me our trip some years ago. 🙂

  8. HesterLeyNel says:

    Breathtaking views. The Three Gossips – a very appropriate description 😀 Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Hester. We couldn’t agree with you more. We knew it would be lovely — so many people visit these parks. But we didn’t expect the changes in scenery to occur the whole day we were there. Would love a return trip!

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