Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Windows and Double Arch

Turret Arch
1.5 miles loop, 150 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Arches National Park entrance fee required

This is a short and easy hike to visit four nice natural arches in the Windows Section of Utah's Arches National Park. The hike described here makes a 3/4 mile loop to visit Turret Arch and North and South Window and combines it with the 3/4 mile round trip to Double Arch, a very impressive pair of rock spans. The hiking is very easy and the elevated terrain of this area gives very nice views of the surrounding canyonlands.

I hiked to the Windows and Double Arch during a November trip to Arches National Park with my mother. From Moab, we took US Route 191 north across the Colorado River and turned right at the sign for Arches National Park. We then followed the park road north until reaching the turnoff for the Windows; we made a right turn here and followed that road to its terminus at a loop parking lot between the Windows and Double Arch.

The hike described here is really two separate ones departing from the trailhead. From the parking area, the trail to the Windows departs to the east, while the one to Double Arch descends to the west. We started with the Windows: we took the broad, well-groomed path towards the clearly visible arch of North Window. The trail split after about two hundred meters: the fork to the left led straight towards North Window, while the right fork headed to Turret Arch first. We took the left fork to hike clockwise around this short loop; the trail ascended gently from here until arriving at the base of North Window's impressive opening.

North Window
Climbing up to the slickrock at the base of the window, there was a nice view out into the desert and buttes of the Colorado Plateau. The canyon of the Colorado cut into the plateau in the distance. In the other direction, there was now a nice view of Turret Arch, a hole cut into an isolated sandstone fin flanked by a protruding, tower-like rock.

View out to the Colorado River canyons from North Window
From North Window, the trail descended as it followed the base of the sandstone wall, heading towards Turret Arch. About a hundred meters after leaving North Window, a spur trail broke off to the left and led just slightly uphill to a platform with a view of South Window. From here, a primitive trail broke off and led around South Window back to the parking lot; we skipped the primitive trail and stayed on the beaten path, returning to the main loop.

South Window
Next, the loop visited Turret Arch, a high arch with two holes and an impressive rock spire on its side.

Turret Arch
As I finished up the loop, there were some nice views back to both North And South Window. Viewed from this angle, they looked a little like a pair of glasses, with the sandstone spire in between them resembling a nose.

The Windows
Once back at the trailhead, we took the trail heading the other direction towards Double Arch, which began descending through desert brush and soon crossed the road again at a second parking area. From here, a paved trail led through flat terrain towards the impressive Double Arch, featuring two high spans that were visible from far away. The trail featured views of interesting rock formations to the left of the trail known as the Parade of Elephants. At the base of Double Arch, the trail faded away. Above rose two spans: at over a hundred feet both tall and wide, these form the tallest arch in the park and the third widest.

Double Arch
To learn more about the geological processes that create these arches, visit my post on Delicate Arch.

This is a very easy hike to a number of pretty and impressive arches; while not as impressive as the park's headline attractions of Landscape and Delicate Arches, these are worth a visit if you've got a day or more in the park.

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