The entrance into Arches National Park is less assuming than others I’ve visited. The signage and buildings meld into the landscape so well, I almost drove right past. After paying my fee, I drove the switchbacks up the hillside and leveled off in another world.
Red dirt, stone towers and erosion-carved cliffs opened up before me and it was all I could do to drive the car. In fact, I finally had to just pull over and pause to take it in. I hadn’t seen any arches yet, that the landscape that made them possible.
This was why I moved to Utah. Some of my friends, family, and former romances might have thought otherwise, but they missed the point. In the landscape, I’ve found my home. Nothing more, nothing less.
Back to the park….
I have a habit of seeking out locals or a ranger for suggestions on where to hike in a new park. This trip, I found a ranger and explained that I’m a strong hiker and asked where to start. He suggested the Devil’s Garden section of the park. Specifically, hike to Double O arch then take the primitive trail toward Private Arch. From there, he suggested returning via the same route, but I opted to continue on the primitive trail and I’m glad I did.
Cinching up my new favorite pack, the Geigerrig Rig 1500, I headed for the trail with my hiking buddy who had rendezvoused with me in Moab. Just .8 miles up the trail, our first arch, Landscape, greeted us. To this point, the trail was more of a path, accessible to all. A low wooden fence kept visitors away from the arch because on September 1, 1991 a section of rock, weighing 180 tons, fell away from the underside of the arch. The event was caught on film, and fortunately, no one was hurt. However, since that time the park service has opted to keep visitors at a distance just in case.
Leaving the arch, the path turned to a trail beginning with a scramble up onto giant rock “fins” marked with cairns. The fins were narrow and tall enough to give some pause to those with a fear of heights. Unfortunately, my photos don’t relay this well.
As Double O Arch came into view, the first thing I noticed was a dude in a bright red shirt on top of the larger arch. In fact, people were everywhere. I like seeing people get outdoors, but it was a little ridiculous. We decided to take a bunch of pictures, have lunch, and I set up the GoalZero solar charger for some testing. Meanwhile, I was hoping we would lose the crowds on the next leg of the hike.
I was in luck. Nearly all turned back at Double O Arch.
In spite of the following sign, the hiking was easy to Private Arch. At first, there were a few hikers hanging out, but then they all left. I climbed to a spot high up on a warm rock and just chilled. It was one of those priceless hiking moments you keep in your head forever. After a while some trail runners showed up, so I climbed off my perch and we continued.
It didn’t take long before the trail became more of a rocky scramble up and over red rock fins. Such fun! The landscape changed around every turn until it finally leveled out into a sandy wash. From here it was an easy uphill hike back to the Devil’s Garden Trail at Landscape Arch.
If you go:
This route is roughly 5.6 miles long. I’d call it moderately easy hiking if you have good agility.
Wear shoes with good “sticky” soles, such Vibram.
This is one hike where I would skip the hiking poles. They would just get in the way on the scrambles.
Much of the trail is very exposed. Make sure you carry plenty of water and an extra layer in case of a weather shift, especially during spring and fall.
I suspect hiking this route during the summer would be very hot. April was perfect.