We spent several days hiking in Arches National Park. There is a lot
of area to cover, even just to make the scenic drive, so we think it is
best to allow adequate time to see the park. The most popular
formations are located along the scenic drive. While you can see some
of these from your car, most are best viewed by taking a short foot
trail or a longer hike.
We took our time seeing the sights, since we had a newfound friend along with us – Hiker Happy, from the Happy Camper Club. In fact, he and Jose put together our plan for how to see the sights and do some hiking:
Day 1: We oriented ourselves to the park, saw the film and exhibits
in the Visitor Center, hiked the Park Avenue Trail and stopped at the
viewpoints for the La Sal Mountains, Courthouse Towers, Petrified Dunes
and Balanced Rock.
We only spent a few hours in the park this first
day – since there was a thunderstorm brewing, we decided to not walk
around in lightning.
Day 2: We drove the dirt road through Salt Valley to make the 3.5-mile
round trip hike to Tower Arch. After lunch at the picnic area, we took
the short footpaths to Skyline, Sand Dune and Broken Arches.
Day 3: We hiked the complete 7.2-mile loop in the Landscape/Devils
Garden area, including the section of primitive trail. This is an
interesting hike, with some scrambling over slick rock involved.
There are some intriguing views along the way – Landscape, Wall,
Navajo, Partition, Double-O, Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches. There is a
side trail to the Dark Angel formation and an offshoot from the
primitive trail to Private Arch.
It is probably a toss-up as to the best direction to do this
trail. We started early in the morning and went to Landscape first, to
be ahead of the crowd. This worked out well for us, since we were able
to see most of the formations with just a handful of fellow hikers.
The only downside to this approach was that we were in midday sun on the
sandy, uphill section toward the end of the primitive trail. So it
could be done in reverse if preferred, and depending on crowds and
Day 4: We took a ranger-led hike into the Fiery Furnace. This is a
fee-based hike into a maze of “fin” formations. You can also get a
permit to hike in Fiery Furnace on your own, but there is still a fee.
We didn’t check out the permit, since we figured it was worth the
$10/person to learn a few things from the ranger and make sure we didn’t
get lost in the maze.
We would recommend the hike, as long as you are
up for some scrambling through narrow canyons.
Hike enjoyed it so much that he managed to get a picture of himself, Jill and Ranger Robert, who led the Fiery Furnace hike.
After lunch, we drove through the Windows section and took the footpaths to the North and South Windows and Turret.
Day 5: For a change of pace, we went to Canyonlands National
Park. Later in the afternoon, we returned to hike to Delicate Arch.
A couple other things to note about the park:
- There is no food in the park – so bring a lunch or snacks, depending
on your plans. There is a nice picnic area in the Devils Garden
section. There are plenty of restaurants in Moab, but it is a bit out
of the way to leave the park and then return – particularly if you are
in the middle of the scenic drive when hunger strikes.
- Devils Garden Campground is located at the
northern end of the scenic drive, 18 miles from the park entrance.
There are no hook-ups, but there are sites that accommodate RVs. You
can make reservations for some campground sites in the
Arches area through Reserve America
- Drinking water is available at the Visitor Center and Devils Garden area.
- The Visitor Center also has information
about Canyonlands National Park, which can be helpful to plan a visit to
Canyonlands in advance. Note that there are also Visitor Centers in
both the Island in the Sky and Needles sections of Canyonlands.
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