Outdoors: Arches utterly worth it this time of year

Arches National Park, just outside the town of Moab, Utah, lives up to its name. The park contains more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the densest concentration in the world. Besides arches, you will also get to see natural windows, balanced rocks, fins, pinnacles and hoodoos.

Although the park is open year-round, April and May are two of the finest months to visit. Wildflowers will be at their best, and average daily high temperatures are in the 70- to 80-degree range, great for hiking and driving around the park.

There are hiking trails for every level of ambition, ranging from easy to strenuous. One of the most popular hikes is the 1.6-mile round trip to Landscape Arch, which leaves from the Devil’s Garden parking area. Though this is an easy hike, there’s a big payoff when the hiker sees the park’s largest arch, 306 feet from base to base. Yet the arch is now only 11 feet thick at its center, after a 60-foot-long piece fell off its underside in 1991. Because erosion, weathering, and gravity are relentless forces, it may not last long.

The Wall Arch, along the Devils Garden Trail, collapsed in 2008. It was the 12th-largest in the park at 71 feet wide and 33 feet high. This happened at night, so no one witnessed the incident.

Another popular span to visit is Delicate Arch. The walk to it is about 3 miles round trip with a 480-foot elevation gain. This trail is moderately strenuous, and be warned: It is unsuitable for young children, however fit and willing they may be, for there are some steep dropoffs.

Delicate Arch is the best for inspiring views at sunset. Happily for those unable or unwilling to hike all the way there, two excellent viewpoints will save most of the effort. The Lower Viewpoint Trail is only about 100 yards round trip and is even accessible to wheelchairs. Accessing the Upper Viewpoint requires hiking a rocky uphill trail, but it’s only a half-mile round trip.

Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to hike in the park, merely taking the 36-mile Scenic Drive can send the soul soaring with inspiration. You will find many pullouts to stop and see dozens of the park’s highlights. You can even pick up a self-guiding booklet and audio tour at the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center is open daily except Christmas. Through Saturday, hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from April 3 through September, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Devils Garden Campground has 50 individual sites that can each accommodate up to 10 people and two group sites for larger numbers. The campground is often filled to capacity this time of year. Reservations can be hard to get, but you can try by calling 877-444-6777 or visiting recreation.gov. There are many other campgrounds outside of the park, including some along the Colorado River.

For a complete list of campgrounds and lodging in the area, visit discovermoab.com.

Deborah Wall is the author of “Great Hikes, A Cerca Country Guide” and “Base Camp Las Vegas: Hiking the Southwestern States,” published by Stephens Press. She can be reached at deborabus@aol.com.