I’m not talking about New York City’s famous street, but the aptly named scenic trail in part of Arches National Park in Utah.
Early travellers noticed the similarities between the sandstone walls and spires and the skyscrapers along New York’s Park Avenue. The name has stuck. Of course, the main difference is that these western ‘skyscrapers’ have been sculpted by Mother Nature.
The trail is only a mile long and we were lucky enough to start at the south end, which meant the route was downhill all the way. It starts with a few stairs and a concrete path that turns into an unsurfaced, but well-defined trail.
Some of the landmarks along and near Park Avenue are Nefertiti’s Head, the Courthouse Towers, Baby Arch, Ring Arch, the Tower of Babel, the Three Gossips and the Organ. Except for Nefertiti’s Head, which is so darn obvious, I didn’t know any of these names when we were there. Of course, that meant I had no idea what I was photographing. As an aside, we saw the famous Nefertiti bust in a museum in Berlin, but no photos were allowed.
The signage was helpful and explained that Park Avenue is a wonderful example of Entrada Sandstone, something I’d never hear of. In addition to Utah, it occurs in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona.
It seems that Entrada Sandstone began forming more than 150 million years ago (the Jurassic period) as tidal mudflats, sand dunes and beaches. Over time, layers of rock, perhaps a mile thick, covered these deposits. The tremendous pressure from these layers compressed the buried sand into sandstone and cracked it.
Erosion eventually removed the rock layers and the Entrada began to weather. Over the past two million years, erosion of the cracks in the Entrada has left vertical slabs (called fins) like the rock wall that lines this Park Avenue.
The youngest layer (shown in yellow on the info board below) is called the Moab Tongue. The middle layer (orange) is called Slick Rock Member and the oldest layer (red) is called Dewey Bridge Member.
In addition to the rock formations, we saw plenty of plant life, but no animals except bugs. Luckily we didn’t get bitten by any mosquitos, and the best thing was I could enjoy the beauty of this Park Avenue in camping clothes and tennis shoes—not some swanky outfit and high heels.