Arches National Park in Utah

Located just outside of Moab in Utah is the stunningly beautiful Arches National Park. The geology of the park is quite amazing with many different multicolored bluffs, free standing rock formations, and of course natural arches. The name of Arches National Park is certainly well deserved as there are over 2,000 stone arches located within the park, but the other formations are equally impressive. Although it is possible to simply drive through the park and stop at the many pull-offs and parking areas to see some of the amazing sights, but if you get a chance to hike some of the many trails, it will give you an even better sense of the park.

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Landscape Arch was One of Our Favorites
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Almost Looks Like a Group of People
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The Famous Delicate Arch
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Rugged Scenery

The temperatures in the park can be quite extreme due to the very dry desert air. During our trip, the temperatures started out very moderate in the early mornings, but quickly soared to 100 degrees Fahrenheit as mid-day approached. Because of that, it is important to make sure that you have plenty of water with you when you decide to go hiking and it is also wise to have something with electrolytes to help replenish what your body loses during the day. There are several trails within the park, some of them easy, but many of them are considered moderate to hard, so be sure to wear appropriate clothing and shoes if you plan on hiking. We found even the moderate trails to be strenuous at times with plenty of exposure to the sun and terrain that varied from the faces of boulders to deep sand.

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Skyline Arch
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Balance Rock
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Getting a Sense of the Size at Windows
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Amazing Rock Formations

Needless to say, the geology of Arches National Park steals the show. It varies throughout the park and each different location within the park offers unique and fascinating views. Seeing how nature has carved out the stone from the forces of wind and water into something so beautiful is an amazing experience. It is also important to understand that those forces continue today, although the changes occur slowly, over time the park will be different in the future than it is right now.

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Another Balancing Rock
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Looking Through Pine Tree Arch
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Various Rock Formations
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Broken Arch, Which Isn’t Actually Broken

Many of the more spectacular arches have been given names such as Delicate Arch (the one depicted on the Utah license plate), Broken Arch, Landscape Arch, Skyline Arch, Double Arch, and many more. Each of them are unique and spectacular in their own ways, so just because you’ve seen one arch doesn’t mean that you’ve seen them all. Many people prefer to visit the park at sunrise, but even more at sunset as the scenery can be even more amazing. We chose to get into the park early in the day and try to be done with our hiking by early afternoon when the temperatures started to get unbearable.

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Sand Dune Arch
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Towering Overhead
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Yet Another Balancing Rock
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Natural Beauty Throughout the Park

It is possible to see the park in a single day, but we took two days as we really wanted to make sure that we saw everything that Arches National Park had to offer. Utah has several wonderful parks that feature amazing scenery, such as Zion, Bryce, and Canyonlands, but Arches National Park is certainly one of the most impressive. The type of beauty that is found in the park is something so special that photographs can never truly capture it completely, so we would highly recommend that you visit Arches National Park.

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So Many Interesting Pinnacle Rocks
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Weathered Rocks
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Smooth Cliff Faces
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Various States of Erosion

 

Garden of the Gods

Anyone visiting Colorado should definitely make their way to Colorado Springs to visit the Garden of the Gods.  The rock formations, with their vibrant reddish-orange color, are visually stunning against the back drop of Pikes Peak and the surrounding foothills.  It is hard to imagine that the majestic orange sandstone rocks that are so beautiful today were once sand dunes millions of years ago when an inland sea covered the area.  It is this vast geological history with all of the forces that produced the Rocky Mountains that gave birth to the rock formations that make up the Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods
Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak

Many people are aware that Colorado is an active area for discovering dinosaur fossils, but most people don’t associate that with the Garden of the Gods.  The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center opened an exhibit in 2008 to celebrate the discovery of a new species of dinosaur based on fossils that were found in the park.  The discovery actually occurred in 1878, but the fossil was misidentified as a Camptosaurus and it wasn’t until 2006 that it was reexamined and determined to be a new genus and species.

Dinosaur Exhibit
Dinosaur Exhibit
Fossil Skull
Fossil Skull

The park offers great activities for people of all ages.  There are hiking trails, nature walks, Jeep and Segway tours, rock climbing, or even bird watching as there are many species of birds that make the rocks their home.  Rock Ledge Ranch, located within the park, is also worth a visit as it provides a glimpse into the early settlers and native inhabitants of the Pikes Peak region.  Whether capturing images with a camera or a canvas, Mother Nature has made sure that there is plenty of picture perfect opportunities.

Rock Climber
Rock Climber
Steamboat Rock
Steamboat Rock

Not surprisingly, over time people have given names to many of the formations within the park.  Some are obvious such as Balanced Rock.  Others are more imaginative, such as Three Graces, The Cathedral Spires, Getaway Rock, or Steamboat Rock.  None is probably as famous as the Kissing Camels, which is an often debated conversation amongst the visiting tourists as to whether they really look like camels.  With or without names, each of the different rock formations is inspiring to realize that time, weather, and geological upheaval could reveal something so amazing and beautiful.

Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock
Kissing Camels
Kissing Camels

Fittingly enough, the park got its name from a couple of surveyors who were exploring the local area.  When they came across the park and its natural beauty, M. S. Beach, for whom the story is attributed, stated that it would “be a capital place for a beer garden”.  The other surveyor, named Rufus Cable, replied “Beer Garden!  Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble.  We will call it the Garden of the Gods”.  The name stuck and after a long day hiking and climbing in the park, a beer is the perfect complement to a day outdoors.

Rock Formations
Rock Formations
Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

Obviously there are other attractions in the Colorado Springs area that are all worth a visit as well.  Places like the Cave of the Winds, Pikes Peak Scenic Highway, the Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, Seven Falls, or the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, just to name a few.  But a visit to Garden of the Gods is on the top of our list of sites that need to be seen, not just in Colorado Springs, but in the whole state.

Behind Kissing Camels
Behind Kissing Camels
Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock

Do You Plan Every Minute of a Trip?

We all know that life is very busy and it is hard not to get caught up in the immediate needs that are right in front of you. The same is true when you are traveling, it is easy to be so consumed with what you need to do next that you don’t truly absorb the experience of the country or city that you are visiting. We aren’t suggesting that you don’t read about or investigate the place that you are planning on visiting, but we do suggest that you don’t put yourself on a ridged schedule.

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Weathered Rocks
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Lava Field in Iceland

There are always going to be some things that you have to see or attractions that you have to plan in advance because tickets sell out, but as a rule we try not to have a specific timeline for the things that we want to see. Often we will discover something that wasn’t in the guide books or travel apps by talking to the locals and asking them what things they believe is important to see in the place that they call home. We never know when we might want to stop someplace and grab a quick bite to eat or have a glass of wine and never want to feel like we can’t because we have to rush off to the next place on our list.

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Standing on Top of Pikes Peak
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Rustling Leaves

We didn’t always use to be this way. There was a time when we planned every part of a trip and tried to cram as much into each location as we possibly could. We usually came home from traveling more exhausted than when we left and often everything was a blur until we went back and review photos later. Then one time we packed our bags, put them in the car, and flipped a coin as to whether we would head north or south. We looked at the map, picked a city, and went on our way. No reservations, no idea where we would stay or what we would see. It turned out to be a wonderful trip to Alamosa, Colorado, and the Great Sand Dunes.

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Moon Valley in La Paz
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Andes Mountains

We aren’t recommending that you necessarily head to the airport with no destination in mind or even drive to a city without any plans as it could turn into a disaster, but there is something to be said for spontaneity. During our time in Europe, we usually decided on our weekend destination on Wednesday and then booked the hotel and train or plane that night with no real knowledge of what we would see when we got there. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Textures and, although it may seem a little off-topic for this post, we decided to share some photos of interesting patterns in the foreground and mountains in the distance. Much like not being able to see the forest for the trees, travel is about much more than just the next place on the itinerary.

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Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods
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Vineyards in Spain