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We spent three days in Arches National Park, and we saw so many arches in and around the park (there are over 2000(!) in the park).  But if I were to boil it down to my favorites, this is how I’d rank the top seven.

Now, this is entirely subjectively based on their photographability and my own personal experiences at each place; I don’t doubt this ranking could change upon a second visit.

The Spectacles

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

This one comes first on my list mostly due to the people.  I was annoyed at how crowded it got so early in the morning (on a Tuesday!), especially with such a disappointing sunrise.  However, it was our first arch of the park, so it had the unique opportunity to be the first to wow us – and it did.  Besides, the exploration of the surrounding area redeemed it from the initial let-down, and it turned out to be just the beginning of some extraordinary hikes through the park.

Sand Dune Arch

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

This was one of the few arches we were able to see with Mum, so it makes the list first for that reason.  Secondly, we were all quite amused with Aaron’s discovery of the “photo bombing waiting area” hiding just out of sight behind this nestled arch.

Unnamed arch in Fiery Furnace

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

I don’t doubt there were many such arches in the Fiery Furnace, but this was the main one we saw, and it took us completely by surprise (and no, this wasn’t Surprise Arch).  I was so excited to come across this adorable little arch, that it has earned a special place on this list and in my memories.

Delicate Arch

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Yes, I figured this one would make the list, despite my best efforts.  I don’t usually tend toward the cliche, and this is likely the most photographed arch in the entire park, but having visited it in person, I can understand why.  It is, indeed, iconic, and I only wish I could have gotten it standing proud beneath a sea of stars.

The surrounding area wasn’t anything like I imagined; I had no idea there is a large bowl and natural amphitheater next to the arch, and many visitors simply sat along the edges to take in the view.  This is seldom seen in photographs, so it was unexpected.

We also had to race a thunderstorm to see it, literally running back down the rock to get out of the rain, so this had a special experience to place it on the list.

Double Arch

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

This was (obviously) one of my favorites.  I remember just being so awed by the sheer size and the complexity of having two adjoining arches.  We scrambled all over (read: under) these arches, climbing up and down the walls of the bowl.

We also got Mum to this arch, and for once, she was left speechless (well.. I suppose she still managed several “wow!”s).

This pair of arches left you feeling both small and inspired by nature’s wonders.

Double O Arch

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

We had to work for this one.  The entire day was something incredible, and I was overflowing with the positive energy of the experience.  I felt energized and excited.  The weather had finally turned upward, and I had more than a bug for exploring; it was an infestation.

This arch offered not only a beautiful landmark, but plenty of surrounding area to explore.  The view was even more stunning once through the arch (and looking back), and there were plenty of boulders to scramble up.

We got some fun photos, and I even managed to get a few sans tourists.  The journey was just as fun as the destination, so I was a happy camper (or hiker, as it were).

Landscape Arch

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

This was the pinnacle.  The experience that capped it all and made the entire trip.  The hike in the dark was peaceful and zen.  I finally got my sunrise, and it was spectacular.  And it only got better from there.  We discovered an entire playground behind the arch, and we wound up on top of the world.

The views took my breath away, and the sky was almost CGI-perfect.  Up there, I felt anything was possible, and I nearly cried with the joy of the beauty of it all.  It was surreal – a high like no other.

This arch could have been the most plain structure in the entire park, and it would still top my list for the emotions surrounding that morning.  The fact that it is actually an amazing arch in its own right merely reinforces its position.

I live for those  experiences.

Have you been to Arches?  Which was your favorite arch?

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