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Adventure Guide: Red-Rock Havens
Text by Molly Webster   Map by Don Foley

Map: Utah's Arches

Southwest Arches Photo Gallery

Feature: The Arch Hunters

Best of the Southwest: Photo Galleries, Trips, More

Due to its unique geology, the Colorado Plateau has more rock arches per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. Search for known spans or set out to find your own. Either way, you'll land in some of the Southwest's most spectacular country.

ARCH-HUNTING HOT ZONES:

Devil's Garden:
The well-known section of Arches National Park has some of the most accessible arches in the Four Corners (www.nps.gov/arch). Visit iconic Landscape Arch, the world's longest, then continue on the Devil's Garden Primitive Loop Trail to Double O Arch, two gaping holes punched through a sandstone wall. If you're prepared to venture off-trail, head north of Devil's Garden to Far Out Arch, a seldom visited span near Yellow Cat Wash.

Rattlesnake Canyon: A sprawl of red rock some 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Grand Junction, Colorado, Rattlesnake Canyon is nestled within the rarely visited McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (www.blm.gov/co). It is rough country, so be ready to travel off-trail. Highlights include 75-foot (23-meter) Cedar Tree Arch, one of the largest spans in the area, and 40-foot (12-meter) Hole in the Bridge. Also, don't miss Centennial Arch, a narrow but 120-foot-tall (37-meter-tall) arch presumed to be at the end of its life cycle. Get there before it goes!

Horse Canyon: Located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Horse Canyon is a repository of some of the Southwest's most unique arches (www.nps.gov/cany). The best sites are found off the 4WD Horse Canyon Road (permission required). Check out Paul Bunyan's Potty, a giant formation that looks like it sounds; Castle Arch, a 165-foot (50-meter) twisted ribbon of rock; and Fortress Arch, an impressive 120-foot span. To look for Klingon Battle Cruiser, head two to three miles south of Fortress Arch and a half mile east of Salt Creek.

Kolob Canyons: Situated in the little-visited northwest corner of Zion National Park, these expansive canyons are threaded with well-marked but remote backcountry trails (www.nps.gov/zion). First check out Kolob Arch, the second longest span on the planet, which can be reached via the La Verkin Creek and Kolob Arch Trails. In the same area, stop by Double Arch Alcove, a wildly colored cavelike formation off the Taylor Creek Trail.

FIND YOUR OWN:
To seek out an undocumented arch, start your journey with the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, the primary resource for arch hunters (www.naturalarches.org). Also consider joining the World Arch Database, a listing of 3,560 spans complete with GPS coordinates and possible approach routes ($15; arches.stonecanyonadventures.com).

To further refine your search, NABS president Tom Van Bebber recommends using geologic maps (prices vary; www.store.usgs.gov). Similar geology often yields similar formations, so compare maps of known arch hot zones with your targeted area. When you do find that special span, be sure to have a GPS, a wide-angle lens, and a pencil and field notebook: You'll need somewhere to compose your arch's epithet.

Southwest Arches Photo Gallery

Feature: The Arch Hunters

Best of the Southwest: Photo Galleries, Trips, More

Cover: Adventure magazine




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