After lunch, the skies began to clear, and I returned to tackle the park’s northern attractions. One sight you simply must see is Delicate Arch. The familiar formation is on billboards, brochures, and even the state’s license plates. To see it up close, you must hike a 3-mile round-trip trail, that gains 480 feet and provides little shade. (I did this hike on a later trip, and you can see it here. It’s well worth the effort).
There’s a second option that is shorter but still includes an uphill climb–it will take you to a ridge across from the base of the arch (I took this trail during my 2004 visit). Your third choice is the quickest and easiest: walk about 300 feet to a viewpoint near the parking area, attach your zoom lens, and click off a few uninspired photos. Since my time was limited, I chose the third option.
Just a few more miles up the park’s main road, you reach the Devil’s Garden. This is where the pavement ends (you can go further on dirt roads). A large parking lot often proves to be not large enough, so prepare to circle a few times before finding a spot at the trailhead for such sites as Landscape and Double “O” Arches.
The first major attraction, Landscape Arch, is nearly a mile from the trailhead, but there’s plenty to see along the way. This part of the park displays an amazing array of color: red rock, blue sky, green vegetation and orange dirt.
Every turn on the trail reveals another amazing view.
There’s a good chance that Landscape Arch will be in full view, long before you actually spot it. The arch blends in with the rock wall behind it, making it almost invisible until you’re directly in front of it. It’s especially fun to hike this trail with someone who’s never seen the arch before, to see how long it takes for them to see it.
The park no longer allows visitors to walk directly underneath the arch. As time passes and weather slowly erodes the thin span of rock, the chance of a collapse increases.
From Landscape Arch, the next big destination, Double “O” Arch, is about a mile away. Side trails lead to other arches as well. If you have the energy and enough bottled water, you can take the main trail from Landscape Arch to Double “O”, or follow a primitive trail, that’s about twice as long. I chose to head back to the trailhead.
The trip back to the Devil’s Garden trailhead is certainly more rewarding than the arches themselves. The often-crowded dirt trail winds up and down small hills, in between rock walls and “fins”.
Every side view is worth stopping for.
More fins in the distance. You can come closer to these, by taking the side trail to Pine Tree Arch, which isn’t clearly marked on the park map.
The short side trail also takes you down a steep hill, and around a rock outcropping, to reveal Tunnel Arch–a formation that’s not visible from the main trail.
This arch is no less impressive than the others, but by this time, it’s likely you’ll have had your fill of arches, and move along quickly.
Note: This trip was first published in 2005.