After Delicate Arch, we went up to another trail head to take a short hike – 1.6 miles round trip – to Landscape Arch. The hike takes you past several fins, which are the intermediate rock formations between a slab of rock and an arch. The stone begins as a solid slab of sandstone, and then over time cracks form in the block of stone. Water erodes the rocks, eventually forming fins and arches. The last stage in the process is when the arch collapses. Of course, this process takes millions of years, but since 1970, 43 arches in Arches National Park have collapsed.
Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park – but very fragile. In fact, it is thought to be the longest arch in the world; measuring 290.1 feet in 2004. In 1991, after several days of unseasonably heavy rains, a large piece of rock, approximately 60 feet long, fell from Landscape Arch and landed below. No one was injured or killed, but the Park Service closed the trail below to prevent the potential for future incidents. Landscape Arch could last another million years, but it could come crashing down at any time.
Landscape Arch is on the Devil’s Garden Trail, which is the longest maintained trail in the park. It is 7.2 miles round trip, and it passes by eight named arches, with many more visible in the distance. If you want, you can hike past Landscape Arch and do a loop on a primitive trail past several more arches.
We set out on a paved path that goes up and down some hills along the way. At the very beginning, you are sheltered from the wind, but early in the hike you step into an area that acts as a wind tunnel if there is any sort of breeze. Unfortunately for us, this area also has quite a bit of loose sand. The wind was really blowing the day we were there, so we both got sandblasting face washes at a couple of points. To add further insult to injury, we both had our hats blown off a couple of times. I guess this is why hikers wear those hats with the chinstrap strings.
A little further up the trail, you reach a fork in the trail that will take you to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. I would have liked to have taken the detour, but we weren’t sure how far away they were and we were already going to be hiking almost five miles for the day as it was. Next time, I will definitely go see them though!
As you get closer to Landscape Arch, the trail turns to soft sand; it made for more difficult hiking for the last little bit. And the loose sand kicked up quite a bit in the wind too. But when we got to the viewpoint, I was impressed with the Arch.
We also saw Partition Arch which is right next to Landscape Arch, and spent a little while just taking in the view. Even though you can no longer hike up underneath Landscape Arch, it is still really impressive. And knowing that in my lifetime, I will never see an arch that is longer than this one… well, that’s pretty neat too.
Have you ever hiked to Landscape Arch? Did you see the other arches on the trail?