THE KLONDIKE BLUFFS: The unpaved dirt road to the Klondike Bluffs, suitable for most passenger vehicles, is clearly identified on Arches' official Park Service map. Head north toward Devils Garden and the park campground, but take a left turn a few hundred yards past Sand Dune Arch.
Check with a ranger at park headquarters before attempting to use this road in case of recent washouts. Do not use the road in wet weather or if storms are approaching. This is a washboard-bumpy road for about one mile before it smooths. Then it follows the Salt Valley stream bed much of the way.Watch for a left-turn sign 7.7 miles out and go 1.3 miles to the trailhead, where parking and restrooms are available.
The sign indicates it's about 1.2 miles to Tower Arch, though most will find that a conservative estimate; 1.5 miles seems an appropriate estimate. The trail climbs quickly over slickrock to the top of a ridge. Rock-pile cairns are the only means of keeping track of the route in many places. The trail goes through a rugged, sandy desert valley, where it's understandably blistering in summertime.
Stretches of loose sand must be climbed up a hill. The Marching Men are readily visible to the east. Be sure to keep tabs on the path here. The trail heads northwest to the arch, though only past footprints and a few signs (which may be laying flat on the ground) identify it.
After visiting Tower Arch, most people head back the way they came. An alternate trail loops an additional 3.1 miles around and back to the Salt Valley road.
For those ready to leave the park, the Salt Valley road heads northwest and is quite good in dry weather. This "back-door" gateway into and out of Arches merges with U.S. 191 south of Crescent Junction.
- EYE OF THE WHALE ARCH: The route to this arch, beginning across from the Balanced Rock turnout, coincides with the Willow Flats road, which continues west to U.S. 191. However, the four-wheel-drive road to Eye of the Whale veers north from the main and better-maintained road on a bouncy jeep trail. Watch for a sign on the west side of the road marking the small parking area and trail to the nearby Eye of the Whale.
- FOR HARDY OFF-ROADERS, there is a four-wheel-drive road between the Klondike Bluffs and Herdina Park that the Park Service asks visitors to use only in one direction, northwest to southeast.
"There's a very large sand hill on the way which folks can get up going the `wrong' direction, but it's very hard on the road and it tears up the vehicles as well," says Diane Allen, chief of interpretation.
- BIKING: The roads to the Klondike Bluffs and Eye of the Whale are not particularly great for bikers - "they can jiggle your blood veins out of your skin," Allen warns, though the unpaved road south of Eye of the Whale between Balanced Rock and U.S. 191 is a popular route.
"The Willow Flats road is pretty nice to bike - it's relatively level, with a few sandy places," she says. Many people park one car on U.S. 191, take another into the national park and head off for a pleasant back-country cycling adventure.
For more information about Arches National Park, call 1-801-259-8161 or 1-801-259-5279. Call 1-801-259-4351 for group campsite reservations.