NABSQNO 12S-620979-4294446 Utah MAP
The incredible 290-foot span of Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Photo by Jay Wilbur, NABS.
Landscape Arch is in the Devils Garden section of Arches National Park. Landscape Arch is an arc natural arch eroded in Entrada sandstone. Arc natural arches are considered old and near the end of their lifecycle. It is hard to believe that a piece of rock like this can exist. In its thinnest section the arch is only 6 feet thick, yet it supports a span of rock 290 feet long (see article on the Dimensions of Landscape Arch). Indeed, this arch could collapse at any time: any day, any year, any decade, or any century.
On September 1, 1991, a 73-foot slab of rock fell out from underneath the thinnest section of the span. This was captured on video by a Swiss tourist who happened to be behind the arch at the time. On the sound track of the video, another hiker can be heard saying "I don't think I want to walk back under there!" The rock that fell, however, was probably not structurally important to the arch. In fact, by reducing the weight of suspended rock, the arch was probably strengthened.
On June 5, 1995, a 47-foot mass of rock fell from the front of the thinnest section of the arch, followed by another 30-foot rock fall on June 21. Due to these events the Park Service has closed the loop trail that once led underneath the arch.
Arches National Park is located five miles north of the town of Moab, Utah. To get to Landscape Arch, drive 16 miles into the park to the end of the road at the Devils Garden parking area. There are 150 parking spaces there and during peak usage times these may occasionally get filled up. Overflow parking is not allowed, so if that happens you will just have to come back later. From the parking area, it is an easy, almost-level, one-mile walk to the arch on a paved trail.
The Devils Garden area of Arches National Park contains the largest concentration of significant natural arches in the world. If you continue the hike past Landscape Arch to Double O Arch (a total of five miles round trip), and if you follow the signs on several side trails, you will visit a total of seven arches (Tunnel, Pine Tree, Landscape, Wall, Partition, Navajo, and Double O). Double O Arch is especially spectacular.
You can return from Double O Arch via a different route, the Fin Canyon Trail, which loops around and rejoins the other trail near Landscape Arch. This way is a bit longer and a little harder to follow but is well worth it. There are several "hidden arches" near this trail (the nicest ones are Hidden, Private, Box, Black, and Crystal), but except for Private Arch they are not marked and most people don't know about them. Box Arch is within sight of the trail, but it is on the right just as the trail turns left so most people don't see it. If you are interested in hunting for these arches, a good resource is Chris Moore's book Natural Arches of the Moab Area.
A three-volume catalog of The Arches of Arches National Park (see References) lists a total of 1,898 natural arches within the park. Most of these are small and uninteresting, however, and there are only about a hundred arches of any significance. This catalog lists a span of 306 feet for Landscape Arch. However, that measurement was taken at an angle to the horizontal plane and does not correspond with the NABS definition of the span of an arch.
Our next stop is Kolob Arch, or ...