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Arches National Park/USA

Introducing Arches National Park

One of the Southwest’s most gorgeous parks, Arches (435-719-2299; www.nps.gov/arch; per vehicle $20; visitor center 7:30am-6:30pm Apr-Oct, 8am-4:30pm Nov-Mar) boasts the world’s greatest concentration of sandstone arches. Just 5 miles north of Moab on Hwy 191, the park is always packed in summer. Consider a moonlight exploration, when it’s cooler and the rocks feel ghostly. Many arches are easily reached by paved roads and relatively short hiking trails. Highlights include Balanced Rock, the oft-photographed Delicate Arch (best captured in the late afternoon), the spectacularly elongated Landscape Arch, and popular, twice-daily ranger-led trips into the Fiery Furnace (adult/child $10/5), for which reservations are recommended.

As you casually stroll beneath these monuments to nature’s power, listen carefully, especially in winter, and you may hear spontaneous popping noises in distant rocks – the sound of arches forming. (If you hear popping noises overhead, move it!)

Because of water scarcity and the heat, few visitors backpack, though it is allowed with free permits (available from the visitor center). The scenic Devils Garden Campground (877-444-6777, 518-885-3639; www.recreation.gov; Hwy 191; campsites $20) is 18 miles from the visitor center and fills up from March to October. Reservations must be made at least four days in advance, though half the sites are assigned first come, first served each morning; to snag one, be at the visitor center when it opens.