Arches National Park is just outside of Moab, in the US state of Utah and is just over 310 km2 (119.6 sq mi) in area. Originally marked out as a National Monument in 1929, it was designated as a National Park in 1971.
It’s a remarkable site which was established to preserve over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, one of the largest concentrations of such features in the world. These arches range from a mere three feet to the huge Landscape Arch, which stretches a whole 93.2 m (306 ft) from base to base. The area also contains a breath-taking range of other sandstone structures such as fins and pinnacles, and balanced rocks. The prime example of this latter feature is appropriately called Balanced Rock, a 39 m (128 ft) landform with its top stone rising some 16.75 m (55 ft) above the base. The rock is around the size of three school buses.
Sandstone types here are in the main the Entrada type, a rich salmon colour, and the buff coloured Navajo sandstone. The area is high desert, with elevations ranging from 1,245 to 1,723 m (4,085 to 5,653 ft) above sea level and the climate is classed as cool desert, with a combination of hot summers, cold winters and very little rainfall. Plant and animal life reflect this. Plants include cacti and hardy trees such as the Pinon pine and Utah Juniper, trees that thrive in dry, rocky environments. Mammals are mainly nocturnal, avoiding the extreme hot temperatures during the day, but you may see mule deer, jackrabbits and kangaroo rats.
The main activities here are hiking and backpacking, with the rewards being the sights of some spectacular geographical features. Climbing on the named arches in the park is obviously banned to reduce human erosion, but is allowed on some of the less important features, subject to local regulations. Touring by car or bike is possible on established roads only, and guided tours by park rangers are available. Stargazing is popular due to the lack of air pollution.