Arches South Window

The "South Window" arch at Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah, on June 30, 2009.

CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman spent two days in eastern Utah on Road Trip 2009, and visited Arches, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and the outstanding scenic route of Utah highway 128 that leads to Moab.

Formations like the Southern Window, as well as others in Arches National Park happen for a number of different reasons. "Cracks in fins and the contact layer between different layers of rock are good places for arches to begin," an information display at the Arches visitor center explains. "Both mechanical and chemical forces attack these weaker spots and begin the processes which form arches."

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The North Window

The "North Window" arch at Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah.

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Cracks in the North Window

A look up at the bottom of the North Window arch reveals a large fissure and crack. Though arches sometimes collapse, this one seems perfectly safe. For the time being.

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Turret arch

The Turret Arch, at Arches National Park, on June 30, 2009.

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Balanced Rock

The "Balanced Rock" at Arches National Park.

According to the National Park Service, "Balanced Rock clearly shows the various layers responsible for this amazing defiance of gravity. The caprock of the hard Slick Rock Member of the Entrada Sandstone is perched upon a pedestal of mudstone. This softer Dewey Bridge Member of the Carmel Formation weathers more quickly than the resistant rock above. Eventually, the faster-eroding Dewey Bridge will cause the collapse of Balanced Rock."

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The Three Gossips

The "Three Gossips," part of the giant Courthouse Towers section of Arches National Park.

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Landscape Arch

The "Landscape Arch" at Arches National Park.

On September 1, 1991, a huge section of the 306-foot-long arch collapsed, leaving 180 tons of rock crumbled on the ground below.

"What caused this cataclysmic event? Water had been slowly shaping the arch for countless centuries, dissolving cement between sand grains, seeping into tiny cracks, freezing and expanding. What had finally upset the delicate balance," reads an information display at Arches. "Unseasonably heavy rains the preceding ten days may have filled pore spaces within the sandstone. The added weight may have finally overwhelmed the rock slab in its timeless struggle with gravity."

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Monument Valley

A look out at part of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which straddles the border between southeastern Utah and northeastern Arizona, near Four Corners.

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Very tall Monument

A huge rock formation at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park on June 29, 2009.

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The Three Sisters

A rock formation known as "The Three Sisters" at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.

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The totem pole and Yei Bi Chi

Two famous rock formations at Monument Valley, Yei Bi Chi (on the left) and Totem Pole. Monument Valley is on the border between Utah and Arizona near Four Corners.

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Hole in the rock

A giant wall of rock at Monument Valley features a large hole.

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Stateline

The road into Monument Valley Tribal Park crosses the state line between Utah and Arizona. Unlike many such crossings, where an ornate sign marks the border, this sign is small and to the point.

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Mexican hat

The "Mexican Hat," a stunning rock formation near the southeastern Utah town of the same name.

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Newspaper rock

The beautiful and jaw-dropping Newspaper Rock National Historical Site, on the southern road into Canyonlands National Park in eastern Utah.

"Newspaper Rock is a petroglyph panel etched in sandstone that records approximately 2,000 years of early man's activities," a display sign reads. "Prehistoric peoples, probably from the Archaic, Basketmaker, Fremont and Pueblo cultures, etched on the rock from B.C. time to A.D. 1300. In historic times, Utah and Navajo tribesmen, as well as Anglos, left their contributions.

"There are no known methods of dating rock art. In interpreting the figures on the rock, scholars are undecided as to their meaning or have yet to decipher them. In Navajo, the rock is called Tse' Hane' (rock that tells a story)."

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Closeup of Newspaper Rock

A closeup of a segment of Newspaper Rock.

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Canyonlands Needles

A major section of Canyonlands National Park, in eastern Utah, the Needles are "rock pinnacles banded in red and white. Earth movements fractured the rock and water and freezing and thawing eroded it into the jumbled terrain of today," according to the National Park Service.

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Through the rocks

A peek through a narrow rock passageway at Canyonlands National Park.

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Mushroom rock

A mushroom-shaped rock at Canyonlands National Park.

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Flat top rock

Giant, flat-topped rocks like this dominate parts of the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.

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Colorado River

Utah Highway 128 between Interstate 70 and US 191 follows the path of the Colorado River, which along its multistate journey has carved out things like the Grand Canyon. Here, it has helped create canyons, though perhaps not of the scope and scale of the Grand Canyon.

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Highway 128

A stretch of Utah highway 128, which CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman drove during Road Trip 2009 in this Audi Q7 TDI, which he is road-testing.

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