Arches National Park
We arrived at Arches for a quick stop to…… yep, get our Jr. Ranger books and ask the Rangers a few questions. While we were there, we asked about what hikes were the best and she mentioned the Fiery Furnace was a good one but you either have to get a permit or sign up for a Ranger-led guide tour. We asked what the Furnace was about and why it needed a permit and she said It consisted of a labyrinth of narrow, tall sandstone canyons and they require agility to explore. You have to be able to walk between two close angled walls, jump a 3’ gap, and shimmy between two very close walls. Oh and the solo permit explorers sometimes get lost in there. We decided to sign up for the ranger-led tour. We had to wait a few days though because that was the first opening available.
While we were waiting to go on that hike, we finished up our journey through Canyonlands.
After finishing up work and school stuff, we headed over around 3pm to get an afternoon hike in at Arches. Lila had already said that she really wanted to hike Park Avenue so we decided that would be the hike we were going to do that night. Everything was going as planned until we got to the trailhead and Lila says I need to go to the bathroom. Oh man, not good since this is one of the only trailheads that didn’t have a bathroom! So instead of driving back to the visitors center, we decided to drive to the next hike we wanted to do and we knew it had a bathroom. This hike was the furthest from the visitors center at 18 miles in. It was called the Devils Garden and it began at around 5,000’ elevation.
The trail was a 3.9 mile out and back with 650’ of elevation change. We probably didn’t get started until around 5pm after the bathroom break, the sun screen party that happens every 2 hours, and just the general slowness that seems to happen in this family. 😞 The trail starts out on a wide, hard-packed gravel path then it turns into the deep, soft sand that we love so much. 😬
The first Arch we made it to was Landscape Arch which stood pretty tall. Unfortunately, you can’t go underneath this one because they think some of it could break off at any time.
We then started up the primitive trail that begins on an incline up a fin.
Little back story regarding Arches
Millions of years ago it was all sandstone and over the years the softer sandstone eroded away leaving these fins standing in long rows. Continuing on, this sandstone is very porous and rainwater would land on top, filter its way through the porous sandstone fin until it hit the lower rock formations that were denser and start to come out the sides while eroding some of the sandstone away. This is how the arches would form in these fins. You can also see in some areas where the water would pool on top until it broke through vertically in some ledges to cause another arch. The rule is the arch has to be at least 3’ in diameter to be an official arch. There are over 2,000 arches in the National Park.
Back to the climb
We made it to the top of the fin (1.1 miles in) and turned off the main path to go find Navajo Arch (.3 miles)
and Partition Arch (.2 miles)
Once we made it back we pushed onto find the Double O Arch. This proved to be a lot harder than we thought it should be. As I mentioned in the last post, they use cairns to mark the trails but for some reason they were pretty far apart on this trail so you really had to keep an eye out. At one point a sign pointed for us to climb up on this fin and when we got up there, there wasn’t any cairn or marker showing which way to go. So we walked to the top of the fin, looked around and didn’t find the arch, but we saw this guy that had jumped off the fin on the other side and thought maybe he knows the path so we followed.
The jump was a pretty big one so I shimmy down a bit then jumped and Lila was right behind me so she saw what I did and I told her Don’t jump from to far! Apparently, her and Jen thought I said “Don’t jump that hard” 🤔 and Lila jumped from the very top 😲 Check out the video.
I think next time she will think for herself a little more before she take a leap like that again.
Anyways, we got down there and didn’t find the arch but we found some foot path and followed those for a while until we found the trail again. Apparently, we should have tried walking the other way on the fin. oops. By the time we found the Double O Arch and sat down to eat some food, we realized it was getting late.
Being the great Jr. Rangers we are, you would think we came prepared with flashlights. Nope! So we high-stepped it out of there as fast as Lila’s sore feet would take us
and barely made it out before night fall. Unfortunately, one of Lila's flip-flops didn't. She lost one somewhere between this parking lot or the grocery store and our camp site. 😞
The next day we were going to go on a mountain bike ride then the Fiery Furnace, but Lila said her foot was still sore (I wonder why) so we hung out at home until our tour. Actually, we did get there a bit early so we could go get our Ranger badges then we made it up in time for the tour. This hike is a 1.7 mile loop with about 450’ of elevation change and it has a bathroom. 😉 Our tour guide Ranger Marty did a fantastic job of getting us through there and educating us on the features and animals found in the park. It was pretty fun climbing all over, under, and through the labyrinths.
We got to see some hidden arches that most couldn’t see and some that lots wouldn’t even know were there. We all felt the Ranger at the visitor center made it sound a lot harder than it was. I will say you should be in decent shape though and not too overweight (sorry) but there were some tight fits that I needed to turn sideways to fit through. There was one guy that we didn’t think would make it through, in fact, another guy had to go back and basically pull him through.
Funny Story (Jeane and Mitch will like this one)
As we were going through the Firey Furnace, we got to the Surprise Arch
and at the top it looked like you could climb up and find something cool. So Lila and I did just that and when we got up there it was just a flat area with another fin to climb up. Lila did try out her climbing skills and got up most of it.
After we got back down to the group, one of the ladies asked me if she could get up there and if it was worth it. I told she could if she wants but I have a video that shows it. She laughed and said, “That is funny. My husband always tells me, why don’t YOU go on the hike, take pictures and video it and when you get back I will just check them out.”
HaHa, sound like you, Mitch!
We didn’t plan on coming back after getting our badges, but Lila really wanted to get Park Avenue in and we met a nice couple and their daughter yesterday that said we need to do Delicate Arch. So we got up early and headed back to Arches. Shockingly, everyone else decided to come at the same time because the line into the park was about 1/3 of a mile long. We headed straight for Delicate Arch which was 13 miles in from the entrance. This hike is a 3.1 out and back with about 500’ of elevation change. You start out on a hard-packed gravel path that later turns into a slickrock climb to heaven ;)
Once you are almost at the top you have to walk around the hillside on a path that is about 5’ wide and cut into the rock with one side being a wall and the other a cliff.
It was well worth it though to see this…
We met a very nice couple from Seattle that had recently sold their house and moved into a 20’ camper van. We talked the whole way up there and sat for snacks and talked as well. They left first while we played around by the arch, but we got back to the parking lot in time to check out their van. It was a vey nice ride! Jen and I might have to try that route later in life when we get Lila out of the house 😬
On the way back, we hit the Windows hike for a short .75 mile hike
then finally reached Park Avenue!! Park Avenue is the first hike you come to at Arches and it was quite a welcome. It was a 1.5 mile out and back trail with 260’ of elevation change. It was pretty amazing to see, but, honestly, I think you can see the best parts of it just by walking up to the trailhead.
Tomorrow, we move onto one day at Colorado National Monument then toward Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. When we first drove into Arches Jen and I were like meh…, but once we went on all these hikes, we feel it ranks right up there with Zion and the rest of them. Lila may have even changed her favorite to Arches too. We will say too that each of the National Parks in Southern Utah all capture their own unique features and if you ever get the chance to come through here, visit all of them and stay at least for 3 days each at a minimum (especially if you like to hike).