Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Balanced Rock Trail

The Balanced Rock Trail is a short 0.3 mile loop trail near the Windows Section of Arches National Park in southeast Utah. It is a popular trail as the Rock is visible from the main road and is one of the first attractions visitors come across.Arches National Park is just north of the Colorado River and the Mountain Bike Mecca, Moab, Utah. It is desert country and is famous for the high concentration of natural stone arches that have formed there. The arches are all in a specific sandstone layer that is exposed on the surface here and are the product of thousands of years of erosion.
The Balanced Rock often appears in western movie scenes and this type of formation is not unusual in the region. The different layers of rock and the differential erosion can be observed in the sculpted formation.

The top rounded and balanced rock is a fragment of Entrada Sandstone, the layers that most of the famous arches are formed from. It sits on the Dewey Bridge member of Carmel Formation, a layer that is darker brown and not as smooth as it erodes. Below that is the Navajo Sandstone, a thick layer that forms massive cliffs where it is exposed.

At the far end of the trail there are views toward the Windows Section and the La Sal Mountains. A few of the large arches in the Windows area are visible from the distance. The Windows Section is also popular as an area where these large features can be viewed without much walking.