Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crystal Arch-Devils Garden Trail

Crystal Arch is an easy to miss formation along the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop in the north end of Arches National Park in southeast Utah. Look for it about 5 minutes of hiking northeast of Landscape Arch.

I didn’t see a trail leading to this fairly large arch, and wish there was one. The environment is a sandy field of Prickly Pear Cactus, Mormon Tea and another desert shrub that I think is Blackbrush.

The off trail distance is about 0.25 miles. There are small drainages to follow to avoid the biological soil crusts. The combination of fins, desert vegetation and the distant LaSal Mountains is striking.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arches Windows Trail

The Windows Trail is a short 1.1 mile loop but it provides close views to three large arches and several smaller ones. The Windows Section of Arches National Park in southeast Utah is one of the most popular attractions of this other worldly park.

The trail provides an access to walk directly under the North Window. Through the window there is a good view of the Salt Valley to the north, the area that includes Delicate Arch.

 The North Window sits up high and is visible from other high viewpoints around the area, even the Antilcline Overlook at the north end of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area many miles away.
Just to the north of the North Window are Biceps Arch and Seagull Arch. There is a short unmarked trail to walk over and look closer. Directly under Biceps Arch a sliver of blue sky can be spotted.

Continuing around to the south is the South Window. This is also the start of the longer Windows Primitive Trail. From the Windows Primitive Trail the North and South Windows can be viewed from the opposite side. From here the trail leads back toward Turret Arch.

Turning back from Turret Arch, there is a good view of both Windows, a view called the Spectacles.

Looking the other way, there are the large Double Arch and the Parade of Elephants. The 0.5 mile Double Arch Trail can be easily hiked to from the Windows Trail, but most visitors move their vehicles.

(There are separate posts on Double Arch, Christmas Tree Arch, Turret Arch and the Windows Primitive Loop. Use the labels to find more pictures.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Steelbender Trail

The Steelbender Trail is a multi-user trail following rocky and sandy old roads in the Mill Creek Canyon area on the southeast side of Moab in southeast Utah. The north trailhead is east on Spanish Trail Road, near the golf course and a short distance past the Golf Course petroglyph panel.

 There is a small parking area about 100 yards before the east turn on the well marked rough road. The first ten minutes of walking descends into the Mill Creek Canyon and passes through some private property. Most of the north part of the 14 miles of trail here are along the edge of the Mill Creek Canyon Wilderness Study Area.

 In the first 30 minutes of hiking there are three crossings of Mill Creek. In mid October there is a small flow and the crossings are easy. The area along the creek is lush with Cottonwood trees and willows. The canyon walls in the creek area looked like good locations for petroglyphs but I only saw a few very small figures. The trail turns left and climbs out of the canyon passing over a ledgy area that is one of the obstacles for motorized travelers.
 It took me 1:05 hours and about 2.5 miles to reach the mesa top and the junction with the loop part of the trail. The view to the east includes a rock mass that might have an arch, but it appeared to be about a mile away without an obvious trail leading over to it. I stayed on the loop trail and turned north.

 The next segment to the north has good views in all directions and there is a point where the trail splits. I stayed to the right, I think bypassing a difficult jeep obstacle. There is a small canyon crossing with more rocky ledges. The terrain here has a lot of sandstone domes and fins and the desert includes scattered Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers with Mormon Tea and Cliff Rose shrubs.

 Approaching the northwest corner of the loop, there is another junction which appears to be a shortcut. I stayed to the left. A few minutes later the main trail turns east and south, but there is a hiker trail that continues a little further north. I followed the hiker trail for about five minutes to a view point and turned around there after 2:40 hours and about 5 miles.

My return hike took 2:25 hours for a total hike of 5:05 hours for about 10 miles. It was a perfect 65 F blue sky mid October day. I saw only 3 hikers and 1 mountain biker and no vehicles during my hike. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.