Arches National Park, Utah

 

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Devil's Garden Primitive Loop, Arches National Park

Devil's Garden trailhead is the start of three different levels of hiking. If the complete loop is done, a total of 7 arches can be seen in just under 8 miles round-trip. The easy part of the trail will take you to the bottom of Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is the second largest arch in the world, with a span of about 300 ft. It is thin and fragile over it's arch, and it is expected that it would be the next arch to fall. Near the beginning of this trail, there are short spur trails to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches. It is a mostly flat, mostly paved trail with beautiful views of the surrounding fins and spires.

Pine Tree Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Pine Tree Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

 

After Landscape Arch comes the medium difficulty trail. Ascending a sloping fin with dizzying views of the surrounding landscape, this part challenged the acrophobe in me. Ascending the worn steps cut into the slick rock (vs descending) helped keep my fear of heights in check. With butterflies in my tummy, I put my head down, watched my every step and avoided looking at the view until I was on safe ground. This stretch of trail brought us to short spur trails to Partition and Navajo Arches. Partition Arch consisted of a large and small arch adjacent to each other. The view through the arches was of the surrounding fins and the green valley below. We saw people ascending further onto the high rocks beyond Partition Arch and decided to follow suit. Wow! We were rewarded with views of Landscape Arch from above, La Sal Mountains in the distance and the valley below. The view from above was truly amazing.

Partition Arch, Arches National Park, UT

Partition Arch, Arches National Park, UT

A view of Landscape Arch, from the rocks above Partition Arch, Arches NP, UT

A view of Landscape Arch, from the rocks above Partition Arch, Arches NP, UT

 

Nearby Navajo Arch was a quiet arch on solid ground. At first sight, it looked like there was nothing interesting about it. Then my son went to the back of Navajo Arch and saw a short straight-edge slot cut into the ascending rocks behind Navajo Arch. As is our usual practice whenever there is new territory, an adult leads the way. I got the call this time, and led us up the rocky slot to the top, then down the other side. It wasn't the most exciting slot nor was Navajo Arch the most beautiful, but we had fun exploring both.

A short ascending slot canyon we found behind Navajo Arch, Arches NP, UT

A short ascending slot canyon we found behind

Navajo Arch, Arches NP, UT

 

After Navajo Arch, we made our way back to the main trail towards Double O Arch. After a short walk on flat surface, the trail went over a ledge with drops on both sides and an amazing view. Though cuts in the rock were made to help with traction, the rock was slick due to the number of hikers using it. It was a fairly flat walk on this ledge, and keeping my eyes squarely on the trail helped me overcome my fear of heights here too. Once safely on the other side, I admired the wonderful views of all the rocks way down below and afar. We stopped for lunch near Black Arch overview, then continued on to Double O Arch. Double O Arch consists of two arches, roughly the same size, one on top of the other that you can walk under. We didn't spend too much time here, as a big group had beaten us to this arch, and we tend to shy away from crowds, sometimes much to our loss. The primitive trail of Devil's Garden Loop began here.

Walking on a fin towards Double O Arch, Arches NP, UT

Walking on a fairly flat fin ("ledge") towards Double O Arch, Arches NP, UT

Double O Arch from afar, Arches NP, UT

Double O Arch from afar, Arches NP, UT

 

The primitive part of the trail consisted of mostly sandy trails, sometimes over rocks and roots, marked by rock cairns. Not much improvement or maintenance has been done to this trail. Most of it did not bother me except for a short (maybe 20 foot section) after Private Arch. There is a steep sandy slippery slick slope to descend which gave me a good scare. My hiking shoes didn't seem to handle sandy rock very well, but with lots of spousal moral support, a helping hand and a lack of other good options, I turtled my way down, feeling like I stared death in the face. But many people before and after me did that portion with seemingly minimal trouble so it's possible that it was the acrophobe in me that set the tone for what felt like my death walk. It was about a 20 foot stretch across slick rock at about 45 degree angle with little or no foot or hand holds with maybe 10-15 foot drop. My kids and I made it about halfway across with no help, but needed help from my husband at that point. With a helping hand, they made it to the other end with minimal trouble. I needed a helping hand, moral support, and specific advice from my husband (“Put your foot underneath you”) to get across. Once I did that, my shoes took grip, and it was easy for me to walk across with a hand. What doesn't kill us will make us stronger, right? The Primitive trail portion had only one arch to see, Private Arch, which looked very similar to Navajo Arch. A few hikers walked up the adjacent ascending fin so we decided to follow. The views of the fins across the valley were panoramic. I would have thought these to be the best fins around, until our hike in the Needles, a couple days later. From this fin, we could also see the brave souls walking across the ledge high above towards Double O Arches.

Approaching panoramic fins, near Private Arch, Arches NP, UT

Approaching panoramic fins, near Private Arch

Sitting on a fin overlooking panoramic fins across the valley, near Private Arch

Sitting on a fin overlooking panoramic fins across the valley, near Private Arch, 

pictures don't do this view any justice

 

The just under 8-mile Devil's Garden Loop (including Primitive Trail), took us about 6 hours, including a few snack breaks and all spur trails (except Dark Angel). I feel like I say this often, but pictures do not do justice to this amazing site. I am glad we did Devil's Garden Loop in a clockwise manner- there were more arches to see early on, and we didn't have to descend a sloping fin - we went up the fin, which really helped with my fear of heights. The National Park advises against this hike if you have a fear of heights, and as someone who is fearful of heights, there were portions that was a problem for me, though I was able to shakily conquer it with some help.  As always, it is a good idea to check in with the Rangers at the Visitor Center to find out about trail conditions and weather updates before heading out.

 

After the almost 8 mile hike on Devil's Garden Primitive Loop, we decided to go for a mile or so stroll to find Skyline Arch.  The best route was probably to go via the campground, which unfortunately was closed for 2017 due to construction.  So we took a detour, taking the "scenic route" to find Skyline Arch just beyond the campground's amphitheater.  On our way back, we realized that the campground roads were still open for tired hikers to walk on, so we took that route back to the car, rounding out our day's hike mileage at around 11 miles and 8 arches.  There were a few more arches in the vicinity, but we could not bribe those boys enough to put more mileage onto those tired legs. Tapestry Arch would have been a nice one to see, a cluster of several arches, not too far from Skyline Arch.

 Skyline Arch, near Devils Garden Campground, Arches NP, UT

Skyline Arch, near Devil's Garden Campground, Arches NP, UT

 

Arches is a landscape 65 million years in the making. Many geologic movements, freeze-thaw cycles and lots of erosion exposed and sculpted the landscape filled with arches we see today. Since all these processes are currently at work, Arches is also continuing to change. Seemingly permanent structures will one day fall.

 

The Seven Arches, in order, hiking clockwise from Devil's Garden Trailhead and back the Primitive Trail: 

Tunnel Arch:  First Arch of the loop, two holes in a distant wall, one small, one large, adjacent to each other

Pine Tree arch: Big arch you can walk under at the beginning, easy to get to, view of rocks and tree behind it

Landscape Arch: At about 300 feet across, it is one of the longest natural arches in the world, likely next to fall.

Navajo Arch: Found a small slot canyon to climb into behind the arch to make our way out, Least crowded of all the arches we visited

Partition Arch: Two adjacent holes in a closeby wall,  my favorite arch, climbed on high rocks behind the arch for a view of Landscape arch from behind, amazing views of valley below

Double O arch: Walk under two arches, one on top of the other

Private Arch:  Large arch you can walk under, Amazing panoramic view of fins across the valley

 

Practical Information (as of April 2017):

Features: Views of 7 arches, amazing views of surrounding fins, canyons and La Sal Mountains

Hike: just under 8 miles, Trail crosses dizzying heights, some over slick rock to view 7 arches

Fees: $25 (or free with Intra-Agency National Parks Pass) valid for 7 days

Amenities: Vault toilets, parking

Website: Arches National Park, Utah

 

 

Auto-tour of Arches National Park

On our second day in Arches, we did the auto tour. We started at Delicate Arch around noon. The trail was Unshaded and over inclining bare rock, so we felt the sun's warmth on our necks. The trail ends out with a ledge curving towards the majestic Delicate Arch. The ledge was wide enough so the acrophobe in me felt OK walking on it while holding on to the adjacent wall.

Delicate Arch, Arches NP, UT

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

 

Delicate Arch is a beautiful arch standing tall and alone in a bowl-like structure. It was a busy 3- mile roundtrip hike, with a line forming at the base of the arch for pictures. We decided against the line and opted to take pictures from afar. The walk towards the arch itself within the bowl structure was a slope, but the rock surface was textured so we found our grip easily.

Windows Arch

 Approaching Windows Arch via the primitive trail

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

 

Our next stop was at Windows Arch. We took the primitive trail, which was unpaved and quieter, and made a circle around the back of the aches for a perfect photo opportunity of the two window arches. The primitive trail ended at the main trail, which we followed to Turret Arch, another side-by-side double arches, one a lot larger than the other.

Under Double Arches

Under Double Arches

 

Across the parking lot of Windows and Turret Arches is Double Arches. Double Arches are two arches adjacent to each other, though at an angle, formed when water broke through a pothole. Despite the crowd, we climbed so that we were directly underneath the arches. It was an awesome sight, the arches towering over us, while we sat on the rocks beneath it to admire it's grandeur. The hike to all three arches (Double Arch, Turret Arch and both Windows Arches) leaving from the same parking lot is about 2 miles roundtrip.

Amongst the giant "buildings" of Park Avenue

Walking between the giant "buildings" of Park Avenue

 

Our third and final stop was Park Avenue. This is a short 1 mile one-way hike between giant rock structures resembling human-made buildings. One is nicknamed Courthouse towers, another resembles the Parthenon in Athens, another still a king’s throne, in my opinion. It was cool to be able to walk between these massive rock structures that seem to imitate human creations. The hike ends at another part of the scenic drive, so if you preferred to get a ride from a friend instead of walking back, you can. We enjoyed the opposite view on our walk back. We did the this hike during late afternoon, and had the trail mostly to ourselves. Morning is apparently the best time for photography.

 

Practical Information (as of April 2017):

Hikes:

Delicate Arch: unique arch standing tall and alone near the bottom of a bowl structure, about 3 miles roundtrip, out and back trail, mostly on bare rock, some over sloping rock, small part of trail on a ledge overlooking a canyon, Unshaded, uneven surface

Windows, Turret, Double Arches: View 5-6 arches in about 2 miles round-trip, Unshaded, fairly flat walk, some uneven surface, some paved

Park Avenue: easy walk between giant building-like rock formations, 1 mile one-way, out-and-back trail, possible for shuttle, Unshaded, uneven surface

 

 

****Arches is undergoing a massive construction project in 2017, check official website for updates****

 

Warning: The safety of these adventures are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to: terrain, weather, wildlife, hiker skill level, human error, and other foreseen and unforeseen circumstances. Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information provided at the time of publication, we do not assume any liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information provided.  As such, we will not be held responsible for any harm, injury, and/or loss that may result. Your personal judgement on the safety of each adventure is required at all times. Please use your own discretion and be safe.

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