You've never been to Utah's red rock country...So what? You've seen some golden arches in your day, and they came with fries. Okay, so Utah boasts an architectural freak-scape of sky-spanning natural bridges. But what's in it for you?
Plenty, friend. Just set your Big Mac down with your biases for a sec and hear us out. These seven arches are worth their weight in ketchup packets. If untold acres of partially digested sandstone leaves you cold, we'll eat our words. But we would like some fries with that.
Here's our Top 7 natural bridges & arches you can immediately add to your bucket list.
7. Owachomo Bridge | Natural Bridges National Monument
Since it's a bridge (not an arch) it was formed by stream erosion. However, there is no longer a stream that is contributing to its continuing erosion--it's now eroding from rain, frost action and sandblast. Owachomo is in its last phase, and there's question about whether there's a fatal crack that could compromise its strength, or if it will stand for centuries to come.
6. Delicate Arch | Arches National Park
This arch was formed in Entrada sandstone thanks to all kinds of weathering (wind, rain, sandblasts, etc.) over millions of years. Delicate Arch has been standing for much longer than any of us--not so delicate is it?
5. Rainbow Bridge | Lake Powell
Favorite Family Hike
Once upon a time this bridge was incredibly remote, and required long hikes through rugged canyons. But nowadays, Lake Powell's waters can get you pretty close to the bridge, making it an easy hike--and a nice break from all the waterskiing, tube wars and wakeboarding wicked awesome tricks.
4. Natural Bridge | Bryce Canyon National Park
Most accessible Bridge
This bridge is viewable from your car. As you drive through Bryce Canyon, simply stop off at the Natural Bridge lookout point, and voila! You've seen a pretty rad bridge formed by stream erosion, weathering and (our favorite force of nature) gravity.
3. Landscape Arch | Arches National Park
Longest Arch in the World
So you know that part in the Sistine Chapel where God and Adam are reaching for each other across space, like one lousy inch from a celestial high five? Landscape Arch is the rock version of that. It's the spark between their fresco fingertips. (Cuz you know all that creatin' caused some serious static electricity...) But seriously, this arch starts thin and only gets thinner, and by the middle you're so stressed you grab someone off the trail and yell, "Do something, idiot!" In the end (err, middle) though, the two sides make the connection and you're left throttling a stranger, contemplating original sin.
You can reach this arch with its 290-foot span after a short 1.5 mile walk in the Devils Garden area of Arches National Park. Ya, how many times have you seen the longest arch in the world? Not every day. NBD.
2. Corona Arch | Moab
This arch was too tempting for adrenaline junkies, and they would use ropes to swing from the arch--THIS IS NOW ILLEGAL. It's fatal and there were many injuries. But you can still hike to the arch and stand in awe from below.
1. Mesa Arch | Canyonlands National Park
Most Photographed Arch
Rich people buy islands, right? Do them one better and get an Island in the Sky--practically all to yourself if you go now. Canyonlands' massive Mesa Arch is perched on a cliff that towers 1,000 feet over the rest of the rusty lowlands. Get to the arch early and watch the sunrise before the richies buy that, too. The super-short hike will make you feel like you got suh'in for nuh'in.
There's a reason this arch draws crowds--but don't let that deter you if you've never seen it. Sunset and sunrise are the busiest times at the arch. You'll even run into the astrophotographers at night. But this simply means that it will blow your mind. You get stunning views of the park through this sandstone window high above the canyon floors.
Arches vs. Bridges
Natural bridge or natural arch? Does it matter anyway? Sure does. And now you'll know where to find our favorite bridges and arches while simultaneously proving to your kids, bros and compadres that you do indeed know the answer to every question. So, what's the difference?
Natural bridges span high above the ground from one canyon wall to another canyon wall. They form from river or stream erosion deep within canyons, and are still eroding from stream erosion and gravity.
Natural arches are formed within a rock wall (The Windows) or are free-standing (Delicate Arch). They usually occur in the weak layer of the rock (Entrada sandstone, for example) after years and years of water and wind erosion.