Sunday, October 18, 2015

Arches National Park

During our 2007 road trip to Moab, Hans and I spent a lot of time in Arches National Park. From the moment we entered the park I fell in love with its unique landscapes, colors and textures and knew there was no question, I must return someday. Eight years later, now retired (YAY!) and living on the road (double YAY!) we are back.

We decided to repeat hike the longest (and best) trail in the park: the Devil's Garden/Primitive Trail loop. It's a little over seven miles and took us down into and on top of the sandstone fins and among several arches. Starting out early in the morning the Primitive half of the loop was devoid of people, our return through Devil's Garden was just the opposite. Oddly, when we visited in late April 2007 we saw only a handful of people on the entire loop!

First a few photos from the road to Devil's Garden...

You never know what you'll see when you look through an arch!

I love to imagine the eons of time these colorful layers of stone represent.

Uh oh! This wall has been compromised!

And now we'll take a hike along the Primitive side of Devil's Garden...


Easter Island?

Top heavy!

The trail heads into these sandstone fins.

It's a glorious day and no other people in sight yet!

Hans is on the trail, there are several places where we must scale the fins.

The cairn marks the trail...

We hike up a few fins to check out the views off the trail.
Looks like clay pots atop this one!

Peering into the abyss!

Private Arch

This is the point where we met up with the main Devil's Garden trail.
Though you can't see them, there are at least 20 people standing near Double O Arches

The Primitive Trail took us through these opposing rows of fins.

We're walking on a white fin.

There are two arches here at Partition Arch, see the guy beyond Hans; he is in the second opening.

It's the narrow sections with obstacles that cause bottlenecks.
Not our favorite kind of hiking...fortunately this was an extreme example, not constant!

On our second visit to Arches we hiked the Sand Dune/Broken/Tapestry Arch Loop as a prelude to a trip into the Fiery Furnace.

Sand Dune Arch

Broken Arch

Tapestry Arch in shadow.

Tapestry Arch

The Fiery Furnace is a natural labyrinth among sandstone walls and access is limited to 100 persons per day. There are three options for entering the Fiery Furnace: take a ranger led hike for $16, obtain a personal permit for $6, or take a tour with a private company for $89 (at least one company charges this rate).

Being low budget travelers who like to travel at their own pace, we chose the personal permit. We had to watch a short video detailing the rules for Fiery Furnace with a brief quiz afterwards by the ranger before we were issued the coveted permits. Basically you can only walk on slick rock or in washes to preserve this delicate environment.

There are many dead ends in the labyrinth so steps are retraced often and it can be easy to get disoriented. There are no trails or markers of any kind so it's important to carefully observe your surroundings so you can find your way out.

We were told not to follow groups, that we should respect each others space...but we think the main reason is that some people are paying a lot of money for their tour so it's not fair to just tag along if you haven't paid for the talk!

Towering sandstone provides welcome shade...this is a great place to explore on a warm day!

Fiery Furnace from across the valley, it's about a square mile of sandstone fun!

Arches just may be my favorite National Park so far. I'd love to visit late winter/early spring to avoid the crowds; the only way to experience solitude right now is to arrive very early in the day.

More Moab coming up...!


  1. Have not done the FF yet. Must next time we are in Moab!

  2. We haven't done FF year!
    Seeing Hans scrambling up that fin (11 th picture down) sure brought back memories of a tuff day for me as I panicked in that exact spot! Have fun you two!

  3. We were surprised at how many people were in the park in early April last spring! Two years prior it was a lot less crowded. I blame a lot on the Visit Utah campaign that was all over the TV everywhere. Too bad you didn't do the Devil's Garden the opposite way. You would have missed the people. We discovered a lot of people are now going all the way to the Double O Arch but turning around and going back out the same way. We had the whole other half to ourselves in the middle of the day.

    We loved the Fiery Furnace hike:) We did the guided tour and actually really enjoyed it. The ranger moved right along and we did learn quite a bit of history. It so cool back in there. I love the reflection in the "pond" you found back there!

    So glad you are having a wonderful time:)

    1. It sure was a dramatic difference from year to year attendance! I think mid-winter would be awesome...but I wouldn't want to be here with the RV, freezing my butt off at night!

  4. Arches is so much fun. We loved the Devil's Garden Trail, but I freaked out walking across the top of that fin!

  5. Ooooh! What scenery. I'd like to go back in the winter.

  6. As much as I detested those crowds, your pictures make it all seem worth it! They are just gorgeous! And I got to see some new arches.

    As for Devil's Garden, I agree with Pam, though. I too hiked the other direction. It was crowded as far as Double Arch, but I hardly saw another hiker after that. So I think the trick is to 1.) get an early start (I didn't because I forgot my socks!) and 2.) Do the popular part first.

    I would so love to go back into Fiery Furnace without the crowds! If I ever return, I am going to try for the private permit, and hope I can find my way back out. ;-) Thanks for the great photos.

  7. What fantastic photos of glorious Arches NP. We were there on our abbreviated trip back from Capitol Reef and didn't get to spend nearly enough time there. You two are quite brave to do the Fiery Furnace on your own. You give me courage!

  8. Can't think of another adjective not already used to love your photos! We are looking forward to finding our way to all the red rock of Utah next year. Love the layers of blue, and the hour glass canyon.

  9. Devil's Garden is our favorite, too, including the Primitive Trail. It's crazy how many more people are now visiting Arches -- we were there mid-October several years ago and it felt like we were at Disneyland. We've never done the Fiery Furnace hike -- definitely on our list. Thanks for the wonderful photo tour! :-)

  10. So beautiful, Lisa & Hans! We didn't make it to Moab this year, alas, dawdling around Bryce & Zion. Your pictures sure capture that magical place.

  11. Amazing! You are right about the crowds. We have found trails outside of the national parks that are much less congested.

  12. We haven't done the FF trail either and it looks incredible. Those red rocks just cry out to have their pictures taken, don't they? Love the photo of the hazy landscape with the contrails in the sky.