General Information

We visited Arches National Park on our vacation in the fall of 1997. After an episode of lost luggage and missed flight connections, we finally made it to Arches national Park. We arrived in the afternoon after a seven hour drive from Las Vegas to a deserted campground. November in Arches is relatively cold and may be undesirable to many campers. We chose this time of year for solitude in the desert.

Since we were the only people at the campground other than an RV owned by a couple from New England, we got prime choice for a camping spot. The selected campsite overlooked desert towers in the park with a backdrop of the San Juan mountains. In the mornings and evenings we could hear a pack of coyotes baying.

We planned to hike to Delicate Arch before dawn so that we could watch the sun rise from the base of the park's most famous feature. After dinner in downtown Moab (Cori was too cold to cook at the campsite), we retired early in preparation for our pre dawn adventure. Cori awoke to a bright sky outside the tent. We had overslept and missed the sunrise! We dressed as fast as we could and scrambled out of the tent to see a very bright full moon beaming down on us! (It turned out to be 3 am.) We took a short break to finish the chocolate cake before we went back to sleep for the remainder of the night.

Delicate Arch Hike

delecate arch Shadow of arch against rocks
We awoke to our alarm and the coyotes a few hours later and bundled up for our hike. We had to drive from the camp site to the parking lot at the base of the trail. The trail was marked with cairns which were very difficult to find in the dark, but with a bit of searching we were able to make our way across the rocks and along a ridge to a huge bowl in the rock. The arch is on the other side of this huge bowl, the edge of which we had to skirt in order to get to its base.

We made our way to the base just in time for the sunrise. We waited for the sun to come up completely before we started the return hike. On our way out, we came across another group of people approaching the arch. They were the only people we saw for the rest of the hike.

Wolfe Ranch

Petroglyph of person on horseback

After our hike back from the arch, we went to see the remainder of Wolfe Ranch. The remaining structures of a primitive ranch were interesting, but it is very unfortunate that some tourists have felt the need to carve their names on this historic site, ruining the look and feel of what it was like for John Wesley Wolfe, a disabled civil war veteran, to live there in the late 1800's. His log cabin, root cellar, and corral remain standing today. Behind the site of the ranch there are some petroglyphs (indian carvings in rock, as opposed to pictographs, which are paintings on the rock). The area is fenced off to prevent further graffiti of tourists' names on these carvings that have survived for hundreds of years. One of our favorite images on that wall is a person on a horse.

Tower Arch Trail at Klondike Bluffs

A row of rocks that look like dinosaurWe drove along a dirt road in Salt Valley to get to the trail head of Tower Arch Trail at Klondike Bluffs Trail. Along the drive we saw an owl! We had seen several birds and deer, but to see an owl was really surprising. When we arrived at the parking lot, there was one person getting into his car to leave. We talked to him about the trail. He said that there was no one out there while he was hiking. We were going to get another solitary hike!

The hike starts with a short but steep scramble up to a ridge. From there, the view was incredible! The white desert sand with the red rock formations and green scrub were beautiful. We were very careful to stay on the trail so as to avoid trampling the cryptobiotic crust. Cryptobiotic crust is dirt infused with bacteria, lichen, algae and fungi, and serves as a life support system for the larger plants and animals of the desert. It holds moisture and helps protect against erosion. It is exceedingly delicate and takes many years to form. Trampling this soil destroys life in the desert. (There is a guided tour of the Fiery Furnace in the park with the ranger where more information about this soil is discussed.)

Footprints across the sand

From the crest, we crossed a long rocky area, hiking from cairn to cairn. Along this part of the route, there is a rock formation that resembles a dinosaur skeleton. A little further on, we hiked through sand previously marked by the passage of little animals.

At the end of the trail there is a large arch. If you look at the base, you can see the initials of one of the earliest white visitors. We scrambled around the rocks for a while and had a picnic lunch before starting back.

Along the hike back, we admired some of the cairns that had been reconstructed into the shape of an arch by other hikers. The round trip was about 2.5 miles, but because of the dry air and lack of water sources in the desert, we brought plenty of water (3 liters) for the hike. We enjoyed this hike and would recommend this trail.

Devil's Garden Primitive Loop Trail

Landscape Arch Navajo Arch Partition Arch Wall Arch

I (Cori) visited Arches National Park in the fall of 1996 on a solo trip. While there, I hiked the Devil's Garden Primitive Loop. The hike is 7.2 miles full circle and includes several spur trails. The hike may take from 3 to 5 hours for most people. This trail has many different types of terrain to hike on, including slickrock to scramble up and down, rocky narrow ledges, and sandy trails, none of which I would recommend in the rain. Most of the trail is exposed to the sun, so bring plenty of water if you choose this hike.

multi colored desert

The trail leads from arch to arch with fantastic views and sites in between. In September, there were many people on this trail, but it was not crowded like some trails in other parks. Take note that there is an outhouse at the beginning of the trail, but nothing along the way. If you must, please pack out any toilet paper used along the trail in a zip lock baggy for disposal later. "Biodegradable" is a different story in the desert.

side view of an arch

The first two arches you will come across are Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. When the trail splits, take a left to get to the loop trail to see Landscape Arch. Returning to the main trail, you will come across Wall Arch. Soon, another spur trail on the left leads to Navajo Arch and Partition Arch, each having their own trail splitting from the spur trail. Back to the main trail, the next arch is Double O Arch. If you were to walk from the parking lot straight to this arch (passing only Tunnel, Pine Tree, and Wall Arch) the hike in is two miles (about 1 1/2 hours) in.

At that point in the trail, there is a spur to hike to the Dark Angel. The rest of the loop boasts beautiful scenery and less of a crowd. Private Arch is the only arch on the remainder of the trail. A ranger told me that a visitor had been hiking out to that arch for several years and mentioned it to a ranger at one point. The hiker assumed that everyone knew about the arch, but that was not the case. Now you can hike out and share his "Private Arch".

Many Arches can be seen along the Devil's Garden Loop Trail. Below are pictures of just a few. If 7.2 miles is too much, you can hike in part way and hike out along the same path.