First in a three part series on Arches and Canyonlands trip over May 1-3.
It is about 5 hours to drive from the junction of 6th Ave and I-70W at the edge of the Denver Metro to the entrance of Arches National Park. Stopped off in West Vail to get gas with 3.5 hours left. Be aware that there is no gas from Fruita until exit 187 for Thompson, one exit before 182 to get onto US-191S. Standard cars are $10 to get into Arches. Plan to throw $20 total on your card if you are doing Canyonlands as well. Showed up around 1:30pm, sat at the picnic tables outside the visitor center and slammed some lunch, before driving up the entrance road. I am a firm believer in bypassing most visitor centers and catching it on the way out for 5 minutes or perusing the web later.
If you check out the park map, it may seem as though this arch is a bit of drive. If you get lucky, and are not stuck behind tourists, it is possible to make it over to the Wolfe Ranch trailhead/parking/toilets in 15 minutes. Can get very busy; so we hit it on a Thursday afternoon. The trail upslope faces West the whole way. Lucked out on the relatively low temperature of ~70F.
Heading back out of the park, hit The Windows. There was reasonable parking and pit toilets. Definitely suggest to hit the back-side via the Primitive Loop: less people, better pictures (including the La Sal Mountains).
Almost immediately after, heading out, there is a turn-out for the phallic Balanced Rock. Snapped some pics. The official member is the last one in the photo series. Rather bored by this point; good thing we only allocated the afternoon to Arches.