It was early on Thursday morning (May 13th) when I arrived at Arches National Park, which is north of Moab, Utah. And the awful weather of the previous two days had finally drifted away! It was a beautiful day. The campground is 18 miles from the entrance station and visitors center. Bypassing the latter for the time being, I drove on out to the campground in hopes of getting a campsite for the night. I was dismayed to discover that this year the campground was switched to a reservation only system.
This meant that I “might” get a site if someone canceled or was a no-show. There was an older gentleman who arrived at the same time I did. The camp host was very nice in explaining the situation to us and, luckily, said that it was likely that “something” would be available later in the afternoon. He suggested that we go take a hike and return about three o'clock.
So, that's what I did. The Devil's Garden Trail was just down the road and since it was still early (about nine o'clock) there was plenty of parking available. This trail is the longest of the maintained trails in the park and goes to eight arches with views of several others. It is actually a series of trails with a total length of 6.2 miles round-trip. It wasn't “easy” by any means, but overall it wasn't all that difficult with the exception of several crucial spots that involved scrambling over rocks and walking along the tops of fins (large, very long, sometimes narrow rocks).
Landscape Arch, taken at an angle to get the entire length in one shot, even then I didn't get the ends of it completely. At 310 feet long (with a 290 foot span), it is reportedly the longest freestanding natural arch known to exist. At its thinnest point it is only six feet thick. When I visited the park in 1979 there was a trail where you could walk under the arch. (Somewhere, I have a photo from that trip that shows someone walking on the arch!) It has become more fragile with age, and several large chunks fell off in 1995, so for safety reasons and to help preserve it a little longer they closed the trail that went underneath the arch.
There was a bit of a bottleneck with the school kids traversing the rocks. The trail split a short distance ahead. They went one way and I went the other!
A portion of the trail went along the top of a fin, with the “added bonus” of several rocks on top, which provided challenging obstacles. It was about 25-30 feet to the ground.