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Kayenta Trail to Emerald Pools in Zion National Park: Best Winter Hike

If you are looking for one of the best winter hikes in Zion National Park that most people in the family could do, then look no further then the Kayenta…

If you are looking for one of the best winter hikes in Zion National Park that most people in the family could do, then look no further then the Kayenta Trail. This hike takes you along ridges, down to the Emerald Pools and up to a tall snow waterfall (depending on the season). Here is all the info:

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Details

  • 3.25 Miles
  • 200 feet of elevation
  • Bring traction devices such as Yaktrax if it is icy.
  • Location: Grotto Parking Area

Getting There

In the summer you will need to ride the shuttle to the Grotto stop, during the winter you can drive up to the small parking lot, then assuming you are able to find a spot, you are good to go.

The Trail

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The trail starts when you cross the bridge over the river. Once you get across the bridge you will spilt to the left as the right goes to Angels Landing. The trail then starts to climb up a set of switchbacks for the next tenth of a mile.

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As soon as you start to gain elevation you get a good understanding of how beautiful this area is as you have large drop offs on your left and a beautiful river flowing below.

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I was shocked by how awesome the views were here. I couldn’t stop taking pictures as each turn was better then the last.

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The trail continues for about .75 miles then it starts to head back into the area where the Emerald Pools are located.

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About .15 miles from there you will see a split in the trail where right leads to the upper pools and left leads to the lower. I recommend heading to the lower first as there is a set of stairs that will take you back to a connect with a trail to the upper after.

Lower Emerald Pools

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This area is incredibly beautiful as you see the water flowing over a few small waterfalls as it cascades down to the river below. You can walk around the trail itself which takes you into a cutout of the rock and allows you to walk behind the waterfalls which is epic.

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When you are done with the Lower Pools you will want to head back to the stairs and take them up to where it connects with the original trail again.

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The trail then continues upwards and gains elevation until it is above the lower pools you saw earlier.

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You will then have a small river crossing which you can see above. This river feeds the small waterfall below.

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Don’t go too fast on this trail though as it has amazing views back towards Zion Canyon.

Upper Emerald Pool

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The Upper Emerald Pool is even better than the lower as it has a 200 foot waterfall that cascades down to the pool below. The waterfall was snow when I went which was beautiful. It was amazing to just sit here and watch the snow cascade down to the frozen pool.

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Since it was winter there was no one else enjoying the view with us which is amazing in and of itself. I recommend taking a panorama with your smart phone so you can capture it all in one photo.

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As you can see this is an amazing hike that you won’t believe until you see it yourself. I highly recommend that you add this to your list if you are in the area, especially during the winter.

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Bryce Canon National Park: Viewpoints to See in the Winter

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most popular parks in Utah’s Mighty 5 (Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef). Because of that it can be incredibly busy during…

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most popular parks in Utah’s Mighty 5 (Bryce, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef). Because of that it can be incredibly busy during he summer, and while it is amazing, I recommend going in the winter. In the winter the park is desolate, which is awesome as you don’t have to fight the crowds, and the hoodoos (rock formations) are stunning with their red color mixing with the white of the snow.

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While there are some trails in the park, the majority of what you will be doing is going from viewpoint to viewpoint and just taking in the stunning views. I collected a sample view from all of the viewpoints in winter below so that you can see what ones you want to go to. I would recommend the four main ones (Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, Bryce) and Natural Bridge as must see. Rainbow Point is also beautiful and has an expanse of scenery but it is the last stop on the road, 17 miles from the visitor center, so that can deter people from visiting. I would also recommend starting at the end if you are going to do them all as the views get progressively better  if you start at the end and work your way back. So without further ado here are all the viewpoints from the start of the park to the end.

Sunrise Point

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A great intro to the park and the hoodoos, the views are spectacular and you can see for miles. As the name implies it is good for sunrise.

Sunset Point

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Sunset Point-2

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One of my favorites as this spot is a jumping off point for many of the hikes into the canyon itself, such as the famous Wall Street area. Of course it is the best sunset spot as well.

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Above is what the Wall Street area looks like in the winter but you are not able to hike it.

Inspiration Point

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Inspiration Point-2

The lookout itself was closed when I went but the views from the halfway point band to the hoodoos were fantastic and worth going for.

Bryce Point

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One of the best in my opinion as the viewpoint is a little platform out at the end of the mountain and it overlooks the hoodoos in and amazing way.

Swamp Canyon

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Natural Bridge

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This spot is amazing, there is no other way to say it. You literally get out of your car and you are staring down at one of the most amazing rock bridges you have ever seen. When the snow is on top it is impossible to take a bad picture.

Agua Canyon

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Ponderosa Canyon

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Black Birch Canyon

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Rainbow Point

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This is the last viewpoint on the drive and it is a really good one. The view is different than others as it has less of the hoodoos but the views are simply stunning and it is a spot you will just want to sit and take in.

As you can see Bryce National Park is something you must visit in you life, and I would recommend that you do it during the winter. Let me know what your favorite spot in the park is in the comments.

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Backpacking the Narrows in Zion National Park (Two Day Top Down Hike)

As one of the most iconic hikes in the entire United States, the Narrows in Zion National Park is an amazing adventure that should be near the top of any hikers…

As one of the most iconic hikes in the entire United States, the Narrows in Zion National Park is an amazing adventure that should be near the top of any hikers list. The 16 mile top down backpacking trip gets more and more beautiful at every turn and walking through water the entire time is so unique that you can’t help but enjoy it, especially in the heat of summer. It is not as easy as it sounds, but if you take your time, most people in decent shape should be able to check this hike off their list. Here is all the details in one massive post that should help you to prepare for this hike if you choose to do it, make sure to leave any questions you have in the comments and watch the video at the end.

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Details

Pack This (+ all of the other backpacking items you need)

Video

I would recommend securing a campsite or hotel in Zion for the night before you leave. This will help you to prepare for what you are about to do and will cut off any commute to get to the shuttle. 

We camped the night before in Watchman campground and it was a really nice walk up spot that was somehow secluded yet close to everything. There was a store for food and drinks, easy access to the Zion shuttle and plenty of space to relax. 

Day 1

The next morning we headed to the Zion Adventure Company, got our gear, then waited for the shuttle to pick us up. The shuttle took a good hour and a half before it eventually dropped us off at Chamberlain Ranch, the starting point for the hike. The driver was great and the time went fast on the way up.

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When we arrived at Chamberlain Ranch it was up to us to go the next 8 miles to our campsite in the canyon itself. Here is all the details on the first day of hiking. The drop off is the last place you will be able to use an actual bathroom before the trail is over. It doesn’t get emptied often though so it isn’t pleasant but it will do the job if you don’t want to use the wag bags you are provided with. 

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The trail follows an old dirt road for about the first 2 miles. This area is pretty with green grass and large hills in the distance but nothing too special.  

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In this area you will encounter lots of cows, electric wire fences and not a lot of shade. 

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About a mile and a half in you will reach the end of the 4 wheel drive portion of the road and will be able to walk through the crude gate to continue on.

Bulloch Cabin 

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About a quarter-mile from here you will reach Bulloch’s Cabin, which is an old worn down cabin that was pretty creepy when we were there. It had a torn up couch and a bunch of other items strewn all over its interior. 

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From here the trail continues to parallel the stream without getting too close to it. It is very pretty but I found myself wanting to see what was next. 

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The next portion of the trail takes the beautiful stream and starts to add in the time-worn canyon to it. The canyon itself is not very deep here but you see glimpses of what you have in store in the narrows. This section is also where you will beginning to enter the water as you traverse back and forth through it. 

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Along this area there are a lot of cows as well, so I would recommend not drinking the water. The first potable water, after you filter it, is at campsite 1, eight miles in so plan accordingly. You will start to notice that the 16 miles and 1600 feet of elevation loss is actually a lot more difficult when you are walking through water the entire time. 

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We had a few groups that we traded positions with, but overall we were on our own most of the trip. The trail continues to advance with the canyon getting deeper and more narrow with each step. There are a lot of beautiful spots to see here and like I said above, each turn brings a new view that beats the previous one. 

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There are also spots of shade in this section as well which is welcomed and we saw a few turkeys on the trail when we came around a bend.

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From here the next point of interest is the start of the narrows, honestly I am not sure exactly where that was as there were a half-dozen parts where I said this could be the start of the narrows!  

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This just means everything is getting more narrow and more deep. The views are more stunning as well and there were multiple times when I looked up only to realize I was deep in a canyon of at least a hundred feet.

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This area is beautiful but it does seem to take a really long time as there are not many points of interest to look out for. That being said everything here is amazing it is just nice to have a goal. 

The Waterfall

At about 7 miles in you will reach the waterfall. This waterfall looks like it cuts off your path but you can go down the south side around it to get past it. 

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I recommend hiking back 50 feet when you reach the bottom to see the waterfall up close as well. 

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After the waterfall there are a couple crazy canyons that you head into, one with a really dark feel to it and others that are wider and more inviting. 

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The next point of interest is the convergence of the two rivers and the start of the campsites. Our campsite was number 1 so we were right on the convergence of these two rivers and it was one of the best campsites I have ever stayed at. The water here was free of cow poop and the view we had while eating dinner was hard to rival. After hanging out for a while we went to bed in preparation for day 2 and it’s even longer mileage and deeper creeks. 

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Day 2

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Since we were at campsite 1, which was the earliest campsite on the hike, we had a full 8 miles to get through before the day was over.   We set our alarms for 6:30 AM, which gave us more than enough time to get out at a decent hour with the 1.5 mile an hour pace we had done the day before. 

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For food we had backpackers oatmeal and it was good and an easy meal to make with your Jetboil. I am also a fan of the Jetboil Java add-on which makes your Jetboil into a French press as well and provides good coffee while backpacking. After that was all done, camp was packed and water was filled we set out at around 8 AM. Side note, you can see photos of all the campsites in this separate post.

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The first two miles were more of what we had become used to on this hike, every corner more beautiful than the last. It was also cool to see how the early morning light danced on the tips of the cliffs as we walked through them. 

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This section if hiking was 70% water and 30% land so be prepared for that, as that is pretty much how it is for the rest of the trip. The Wall Street area is probably even more water then that though as there are not many areas without water. 

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As we walked we saw all the other campsites, most are around 5-10 minutes from each other in walking distance, which makes them very secluded at night which is nice. Campsite 9 also has a little cave overhang type cut out that you can put your tent under in order to provide protection. 

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After about 3 miles of hiking you will make it to Big Springs Waterfall which is a perfect place for a break and a snack. 

Big Springs

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I took the opportunity to swim here as well, as I did not want to leave the Narrows without fully submerging myself. It was incredibly cold though so I didn’t last long, but you couldn’t ask for a better place to swim. 

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After a leisurely break we headed towards what is the most amazing part of the canyon, Wall Street. 

Wall Street

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All I can say about Wall Street is wow. I thought that many of the other sections we had gone through were the best but after Wall Street I can firmly say this is the most beautiful spot in the canyon by far. 

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This area has massive canyon sides with beautiful hues of orange and yellow and a height that blows your mind. I wish I could have spent all day here as it was that great. 

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This is also where you will start seeing other people though which is good that they are experiencing it, but bad because I was used to the beautiful solitude that I had found further up. 

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My favorite section of the entire narrows is the top photo of this section, which was right near the last third of the Wall Street area,when I turned the corner and it blew me away. 

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Side note – you can hike here on a day hike, it is about 5 miles from the start so it would be a long day but it is possible. 

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At the end of the Wall Street section was also the deepest part we went through. A few members of my group had to swim, while I was about shoulders deep in the water. It was hard to do this with a backpack but we had put trash bags in our backpacks to slightly waterproof them so it wasn’t too bad.

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After this the Wall Street section officially ends with the connection to Orderville Canyon, which comes out from the East side. From here you will be surrounded by people the entire rest of the hike and while the views are still absolutely spectacular, they pale in comparison to what you have seen previously. 

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There are a few exceptions though, like the beautiful hewn large tube like section cut into the walls about halfway in. It is unlike anything else I saw on the trip and beautiful. 

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The canyons open up here as well which allows for more plant life and a departure from the almost all water hiking to more land sections.

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You will know you are reaching the end of the hike when you see Mystery Canyon Waterfall. This beautiful trickle of a waterfall drops about 100 feet on the south side and is always full of people. It is only about a half mile to the end from here.  I don’t have a lot more to say about this section other than that you will see a lot of people and you will probably be anxious to be done. 

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Once you reach the end of the water part you will have to hike out about a mile back to where the shuttle picks up. This section is really pretty and has a nice concrete path but you will most likely just be in zombie mode trying to finish so you can take off the backpack. I got a lot of congratulations here as well which was a fun way to end an epic two days. 

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After you get back to the shuttle you can take it all the way back to the visitor center and campground to get back to your car after an epic trip. Really, this is an amazing hike and you must do it! Let me know any questions you have in the comments and here are some more resources as well as an FAQ.

FAQ

How do I get a permit?

You can get one three months in advance from this site.

How do you get water?

Once you reach Deep Creek about 8 miles in you can filter the water, prior to that the water is not filterable as it has a lot of cow poop in it. 

How do you use the bathroom?

We are told to pee in the water when we talked to the rangers. For number 2 then a way bag is provided when you pick up your permits, be sure to pack it out!

Will I get lost?

It’s pretty hard to get lost as you are following the water all the way down. Be sure to grab a map when you get your permit though so you know the approx time / mileage to reach a specific location. 

Tips

  • Even if you have dry bags, bring trash bags to line your backpack with and ziplock bags for smaller items. Also a good way to pack trash in and out.
  • Baby wipes are also nice for cleaning yourself / feet / utensils at campground.
  • Quick-dry shorts are a must and neoprene socks are also a good idea. 
  • Small microfiber towel is a good idea for quick wipe downs and to dry yourself at camp
  • Hiking poles are a must, do not do it without! You will stumble around as you can’t see in the water, so you will fall in without hiking poles, I guarantee it
  • It was 15 degrees cooler at night in the canyon, plan accordingly

Other Resources

  • Barefoot Theory has a fantastic three part guide on the Narrows you can read here.
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Arches National Park Photo Guide

Arches National Park is one of the most famous of Utah’s Might 5 (Capitol Reef, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Zion) and because of that it truly is a fantastic place…

Arches National Park is one of the most famous of Utah’s Might 5 (Capitol Reef, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Zion) and because of that it truly is a fantastic place to explore. You can spend weeks here and not see it all, but if you are looking for what to explore in the park I have created this guide for most of main stops. That way you can see a photo of the stop and organize what you want to see most with what time you have. So without further ado, Arches National Park.

Visitor Center

After passing the entry station you will arrive at the Visitors Center, which is a great place to get accustomed to the park and get maps and souvenirs. I stopped in to pick up a magnet and a map but that was about it.

Moab Fault

Moab Fault

After heading up the twisty road that leads you to the park, the first viewpoint you will see is for the Moab Fault. It is a great stop for a photo as it lets you look over what you just drove up as well as the city of Moab itself in the distance.

Park Avenue

Park Avenue

Next is Park Avenue on the left hand side. This stop takes you up close and personal with one of the larger canyons in the park. You can even hike from here through the canyon and out the other side if you feel so inclined.

La Sal Mountain Viewpoint

La Sal Mountain Viewpoint

This viewpoint provides a great vista of the Courthouse Towers area of the park, as well as La Sal Mountain in the distance.

Courthouse Towers Viewpoint

Courthouse Towers Viewpoint

From here you can see the Courthouse Towers across the road and this is also where the hike through Park Ave ends as well.

Petrified Dunes Viewpoint

Petrified Dunes Viewpoint

One of the more unique spots in the park, the petrified dunes are a section of hills that were once sand dunes but have now hardened up. They go for as far as the eye can see and the above picture doesn’t do it justice.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

Right near the turn off for the Windows, you will see the Balanced Rock sticking out right in front of you. You can hike to it in a .1 mile hike and it is a pretty crazy rock that is worth the stop.

The Windows

Windows

This road leads to a lot of the parks best attractions, here they are:

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

I always think this area resembles people in the way the rocks jut out of the landscape. It is a short stop but is a unique geological area.

Parade of Elephants

Parade of Elephants

After parking near the Windows you can head left to see the Parade of Elephants and the Double Arch. The rock does resemble an elephant to me with its trunk sticking down to the ground, forming the arch. This is the same short hike you will take to see the Double Arch.

Double Arch

Double Arch

Double Arch is one of my favorite spots in the entire park. The way the two arches come together and form a triangle is amazing to see and you can actually climb up under the arches if you are feeling like the extra work. I love this spot, especially at sunset.

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

After taking in Double Arch and Parade of Elephants head over to turret arch, which is one of the crazier looking rocks. It does look like some type of crude castle or turret to me and it has one big middle arch and a small side arch. This is where you see many photos of the windows from the small arch but it is sketchy to climb up to and I would not recommend it.

South Windows

South Window

The less popular of the two, South Windows is a massive arch, but one that is not visible from the road so people often overlook it. When I was there North windows had 30 people at it and South had 0. They are both awesome.

North Windows

North Window

One of the most popular arches in the park is North Windows and it is a majestic arch for sure. It is easily seen from the road and features rough stairs that you can use to walk right into it. This is a fantastic spot to see the sunset from and I highly recommend it.

Delicate Arch Hike

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After leaving the Windows area you will proceed down to Delicate Arch and start the 3 mile round trip hike to the most famous spot in the entire park. It is amazing and it is worth the accolades it receives. I recommend heading there for sunrise as it is not very busy, but sunset is best for pictures and worst for crowds.

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

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If you don’t want to make the hike you can just drive to the viewpoint and walk 10 yards to see the arch from afar. It is not nearly as majestic though so I highly recommend you try to do the hike.

Salt Valley Overlook

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This stop is a great place for a panorama of the park itself. You can see for miles up here and it is beautiful.

Fiery Furnace

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The rocks jut out of the landscape here in a red hue, which is where the name comes from. This area is only able to be hiked with a permit or a guide though as it is very easy to get lost. You can look at it without a permit though if you would like.

Skyline Arch

Skyline Arch

A short .2 mile hike will take you up to this massive arch. It is beautiful, but when you have seen the others in the park it doesn’t seem as amazing.

Devils Garden

This trailhead will take you deep into the park to some of the more further away arches. I only saw the three most popular here though and here they are.

Tunnel Arch

Tunnel Arch

Right off the main trail sits this arch that does appear like to tunnel coming down from the top of the arch. You can only see it from afar but it is awesome.

Pine Tree Arch

Pine Tree Arch

I really liked this one as you can walk right up into it and it is part of a really big larger rock. A great arch that is less busy than the others.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

The longest natural arch in the world, it has to be seen to be believed. It looks really thin as well so you never know how long it will be here. 

Sunset at Arches

Sunset at Arches

I just threw this in to give you a taste of the wonderful desert sunsets that you can see at Arches National Park and as further encouragement to get out and explore it.

So there it is, my photo guide to Arches National Park. Since there are over 2,000 arches in the park I am sure there are tons of other great ones I missed. Let me know in the comments what your favorite spot is.

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