Thursday, May 10, 2012

Arches: Windows Loop...Turrent Arch and Primitive Loop

Distance: 1.2 mile loop
Elevation: 5,160 ft - 5,275 ft
Elevation Gain: 170 ft cumulative elevation gain
Date Hiked: 27 April 2012
Bathroom at the Trailhead: Yes
Water at the Trailhead: No
Dogs: Not allowed

The North and South Windows, an extremely popular destination in the park.  From this distance they look almost diminutive.  Follow on pictures will give you a better sense of their immensity.
The Windows Loop in Arches National Park is a great way to get up close and personal with several arches.  By up close I mean you can walk right up into the arch and gaze upwards at the span.  The first part of the loop is more "landscaped" with easy steps and gravel paths.  You can visit Turret Arch via a short spur trail and then head back to the Windows, which is a term used to describe two arches (North or South Windows) that exist side by side. The Primitive Trail is a more moderate trail that travels around the back side of the formation. Even casual hikers can navigate this trail safely and it provides unique views of the formation plus expansive views of the surrounding desert. 

The trailhead with the easily navigated gravel path.  The sun was too low in the sky to photograph this area well. 
Stone steps up to Turret Arch
The crowd of children around the area are just out of frame.
Looking across to the North Window from the Turret Arch Trail.  Note how the people are standing beneath its span.
Be forewarned!  The Windows section of the park is very popular so it will be mobbed with people. Compared with some of the descriptions I have read elsewhere on the Internet, my visit, however was relatively peaceful.  There WAS an entire group of school children with a teacher screaming out instructions sitting all over the approach to Turret Arch but I was able to take a picture and quickly escape them.  For the rest of my journey,  I could walk about in peace.  I was there around 8 o'clock in the morning however. 

Gazing out into the desert from Turret Arch
The typical National Park-like trail that heads from Turret Arch over to the Windows
The segment leading up to the North Window
The South Window.  There is a fellow photographer in the lower left corner.  He is dwarfed by the rocks towering above him. 
The Windows themselves are very large and having a mob of people standing under them certainly allows you to get a sense of their scale. The North Window  is 90 ft x 48 ft while the South Window is 115 ft x 56 ft. You can walk right under the North Window but you would have to make a dangerous climb to get into the South Window.  This is not recommended unless your spouse recently took out a multimillion dollar insurance policy on you.

The backside of the formation viewed from the Primitive Trail
A typical segment on the Primitive Trail.  Note the cairn and wind washed rock. 
Some of the more interesting formation one can see on the Primitive Trail
Deep canyons and an impossibly all-embracing sky dominate the view to east of the Windows.  Don't wander off now!
A warren of short trails lead all over the area so you can wander about and gaze at the arches from multiple angles.  The Primitive Loop starts near the South Window and in marked by stone borders on either side.  You might guess correctly that for me this was the best part of the trail.  The Primitive Trail wanders through sand, across wind blown slickrock, and climbs up a short escarpment.  The views to the east are expansive and even though there is no water at this trailhead you can't help but feel like you are in an oasis amidst a profoundly silent and profoundly massive desert.  I would hate to be lost out there.

Looking back down the one small shelf you have to scale
After the shelf, the route travels between two rock formations
Coming around the north side of the formation.  Double Arch is behind the large formation straight ahead and the parking lot is off to the left down and around the bend.
Despite its reputation for crowds, the Windows Loop is a great introduction to the park and could easily serve as an hors d'oeurvre to the longer and more truly secluded Devil's Garden/Primitive Loop.  Taken at the right time of day, you may even have the place to yourself. Be sure to visit Double Arch, right across the parking area.

The final stretch is a sandy stroll to the parking lot.  See the large tour bus in the distance.  Time to head out!
Without seeing the underside of this lizard, it is impossible to tell if it is a Plateau Lizard (Sceloporus tristichus ) or a Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus gracious).  This will not be my last encounter with these sun loving creatures.


Mrs.N said...

Great pictures! I came across your blog about two weeks ago and have been really enjoying the pictures and stories!

ZielonaMila said...

Fantastic photographs, beautiful places. I am greeting

daphne said...

really stunning photos. .Its scorching hot :)