233 miles SE of Salt Lake City
Natural stone arches and fantastic rock formations are the defining features of this park, and they exist in remarkable numbers and variety. Just as soon as you've seen the most beautiful, most colorful, most gigantic stone arch you can imagine, walk around the next bend and there's another -- bigger, better, and more brilliant than the last. It would take forever to see them all, with more than 2,000 officially listed and more being discovered or "born" every day.
Some people think of arches as bridges, but to geologists there's a big difference. Bridges are formed when a river slowly bores through solid rock. The often bizarre and beautiful contours of arches result from the erosive force of rain and snow, which freezes and thaws, dissolving the "glue" that holds the sand grains together and chipping away at the stone, until gravity finally pulls a chunk off.
Although arches usually grow slowly -- very slowly -- something dramatic happens every once in a while: like that quiet day in 1940 when a sudden crash instantly doubled the size of the opening of Skyline Arch, leaving a huge boulder lying in its shadow. Luckily, no one (that we know of) was standing underneath it at the time. The same thing happened to the magnificently delicate Landscape Arch in 1991, when a slab of rock about 60 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 4 1/2 feet thick fell from the underside of the arch. Now there's such a thin ribbon of stone that it's hard to believe it can continue standing at all.
Spend a day or a week here, exploring the terrain, watching the rainbow of colors deepen and explode with the long rays of the setting sun, and gazing at the moonlight glistening on the tall sandstone cliffs. Watch for mule deer, cottontail rabbits, and the bright green collared lizard as they go about the difficult task of desert living. And let your own imagination run wild among the Three Gossips, the Spectacles, the Eye of the Whale, the Penguins, the Tower of Babel, and the thousands of other statues, towers, arches, and bridges that await your discovery in this magical playground.