On the eastern side of Arches National Park there is an area that is almost magical in the imagination it inspires. This is the Windows Section. And while not as iconic Delicate Arch, or as massive as Landscape Arch, it does deliver the most arches for your trip of any stop in the park. Three arches can be seen between the two windows and the turret, and since Double Arch is actually three arches that brings the total to six arches for one stop. In this post I’ll focus on the North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Meagan will cover Double Arch in another post.
How to Get There:
Balanced Rock is your landmark when navigating to the Windows Section of Arches National Park. Just make sure that you take a right just after passing this acrobatic monolith as you head North and you will be on the road that terminates in this amazing section of the park.
The end of the road will bring you to a large parking lot loop, which when we got there in the early afternoon was almost completely full. The loop consists of an upper area nearer to the Windows and Turret Arch, and a lower area nearer to Double Arch. The two sections of the loop are connected by a fairly steep stairway path. Unless you get there early, or have accessibility concerns, I suggest parking wherever you first see a space. You will probably want to visit both areas anyway, so it really doesn’t matter which you are closer to. Just make sure that when you want to go to the North and South Windows and Turret Arch that you go through the upper side of the parking lot.
What You Will See:
There is one very important thing to take note of when hiking the Windows and Turret Arch, that is there are two trails that will take you around the Windows, an easy trail and a primitive one. The primitive trail is significantly longer and more difficult than the easy trail.
They way we went was to take the easy trail, and when it forked we went right to Turret Arch.
This arch is a lot of fun because it is quite large and you can get right inside it. If you can’t make it to Delicate Arch then Turret can be a nice substitute. There are basically two routes you can take to get inside it from the trail. The first is to walk along a ridge and shimmy around an outcropping. The second is to just go down from the trail into a small basin and cross it over to the arch. The second option is much easier, but not as apparent to us or most people that we saw there.
|Meagan in Turret Arch
Inside Turret Arch you will have to climb a small wall to get up to the other side. Its not particularly difficult but small children may need some help on the way down. On the other side of the arch there is a pretty expansive basin with some cool ridges and towers.
Looking out from inside the Turret Arch gives you an awesome view of the Windows and lets you see why they are called the Spectacles.
After Turret Arch we came around the trail to the South Window. It was easy to see that we could not get into the window without rock climbing gear, which would probably have been illegal and we didn’t have it anyway. But I saw people up in it, so I concluded that if we went around the rock fin that houses both Windows we would be able to get inside it.
That turned out to be correct, sort of. Going around the fin to the south put us on the primitive trail, which is still pretty flat. It took us a few minutes to get around and when we did we saw that the South Window was not a cliff on this side, but did have a pretty steep scramble to get to it.
|Ben in the South Window
Meagan opted not to try and get up there. But of course I had to. I went up the right hand side and came down the left and I think that is probably as good a route as any. It was pretty steep in places, and the arch itself is not that wide. It was pretty windy when I reached it and so I laid down to look at it.
When I came down from the South Window we decided to continue on the primitive trail to see the North Window. The climb up to the North Window looked considerably easier than the South one, but still not super easy. Meagan stayed down again while I went to explore. When I reached the arch I found that I had come to it in a much more difficult way, if we had stayed on the easy trail we would have just walked straight into the arch with almost no scrambling.
|North Arch seen from below
I went back down and had Meagan come up so that we could just go out on the easy trail rather than going all the way back on the primitive trail.
Based on our experience in the Windows Section we don’t suggest you follow our route to the arches especially if you are coming with children or have accessibility issues. Instead we suggest that you take the left fork on the easy trail and come into the North Window first, then just view the South Window from the trail, then proceed on the trail to Turret Arch. The Windows Section hike is quite easy if you go this route.
The Windows Section is a fantastic and easy hike. Even the part of the primitive trail that we were on was not very difficult. We highly suggest this and the neighboring Double Arch as great family hikes. There are pit toilets located in the middle of the parking loop, but if it is a busy day you may need to wait in line for them. The excursion in the Windows Section should take you anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on how long you spend in the arches.