Going to Look at an Arch in the Red Cliffs

The morning after we returned to Tom’s house we headed south to do some food shopping – much needed after our four months traveling. On our way we stopped for a mid-morning hike at the Red Cliffs Conservation Area, normally a cool-weather hiking destination and not a place you’d necessarily want to be in the first week of September when the forecast was for the upper 90s. We beat the heat though on our short hour and half walk, returning to the car well before noon.

We parked near the beautiful cut-stone house that sits near the entrance to the recreation area; since we were there I went to take a closer look and learned that the house is the only remaining structure of the once thriving – though remote – community of Harrisburg, established in 1862 just a year before the house was constructed. Named for it’s original owner, the Orson B. Adams house in an outstanding, high-quality example double-cell house typical of Utah pioneer architecture that features the characteristic two rooms and two fireplaces set at opposite ends. During preservation the home was filled with rubble in order to stabilize the walls, but the quality of the exterior work makes it worth a peek even if you can’t see inside.

Orson B. Adams House, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Orson B. Adams House, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Our destination for the morning walk however was a huge arch-shaped erosion pattern in the face of the cliffs near the central canyon and the recreation area. Easily spotted from Interstate 15, I had passed by the arch many times but this was my first time seeing it up close. There is no trail here so like most hikes we seem to do in Utah, we picked our way across open ground, swerving around sage and brush. The eastern-facing sandstone walls glowed a deep, vivid red that morning and though I’d hiked in this area numerous times I couldn’t help but to appreciate the beauty here.

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Walking in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Walking in Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

The “arch”, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

The “arch”, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Looking backward on evidence of the Kanarra fault, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Looking backward on evidence of the Kanarra fault, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Bigger than it looks, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Bigger than it looks, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Once we reached the base of the cliffs, I climbed up as far as I could underneath the arch in order to get a sense of the depth; erosion has done a lot of work here though it’ll be millions of years I suspect before it becomes a legitimate arch. We explored a bit before the sun got too hot and then made our way back. On the return we changed our trajectory and picked up a route following a wash that brought us down to some stately cottonwood trees, almost out of place in the sandy, rocky flatlands that stretch from the cliffs to the jagged, faulted plains just on the other side of the highway.

Walking under the arch, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Walking under the arch, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Posing under the arch, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Posing under the arch, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Looking our from under the arch, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Looking our from under the arch, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

From the side, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

From the side, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

This photo shows how deep the erosion into the cliffs actually is.... Plus, it features The Abbadog, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

This photo shows how deep the erosion into the cliffs actually is…. Plus, it features The Abbadog, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Tom and Abby walking, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Tom and Abby walking, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Those beautiful red cliffs, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Those beautiful red cliffs, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Cottonwoods in the wash in the foreground, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah

Cottonwoods in the wash in the foreground, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Utah