Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Famous Delicate Arch Hike, Arches National Park, Utah

This is the arch that you see on many Utah license plates – it is the quintessential arch that defines and is the symbol for Arches National Park. There are a few ways to enjoy viewing this arch:

  1. Go to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which is wheelchair accessible and is about 100 yards in length
  2. Go to the same Delicate Arch Viewpoint and take the short, moderately strenuous trail to a viewpoint that is across a canyon from Delicate Arch – and enjoy a unique view
  3. Go to the Delicate Arch trailhead by Wolf Ranch and hike the 1.5 miles to the arch and touch it, which is what we elected to do.

This is a very popular hike, so definitely start it as early in the day as possible (we got there at 9:30am). The trail begins as a flat dirt path and passes by the Wolfe Ranch homestead house. The Wolfe’s lived and raised enough animals to survive in this harsh place. The single room house has been preserved and offers a glimpse into how difficult their life must have been.

Just past the house and the small creek is a short spur trail that leads to some petroglyphs (which we took at the end of the hike). Here you can see animal and human-like carvings in a few large rocks that are believed to be created by Ute Indians.

Continuing on the main the trail after about ¼ of a mile, the hike begins its steady ascent on a bed rock face where no plants grow. Following the trail takes locating the series of cairns and the well worn path in the rock from years of hikers. Eventually the trail levels out a bit, but always with an uphill ascent, to an area with some scrub juniper trees, bushes, and plants. There are no views of Delicate Arch at all these sections of the trail, so the prize still waits.


As you approach the end of the trail, which is the top of the peak, Delicate Arch is still hidden from view by a large rock wall. The trail skirts around the backside of this wall where a path/ledge has been cut into the side of the cliff. After about 25 yards look up to the right and you’ll see a small arch in this wall. It’s worth the effort to scale the rock to go up and look through it for there Delicate Arch can be seen for the first time on this hike. This unique vantage point provides a magnificent perspective of this one of a kind arch!

Continuing on the ledge trail a bit longer, an open stadium like bowl appears and off on the far side lies Delicate Arch in all it’s glory…truly an awe-inspiring setting and viewpoint. You can hike around the bowl so you are under or inside the actual arch. There are amazing views on the other side of the arch. This is a great place for that one of kind photo of the arch up-close and with the snow capped LaSal Mountains in the background. A huge Wow!

The walk to Delicate Arch took us 45 minutes, and after spending about 30 minutes at the arch hanging out and chatting with people, it took 30 minutes to return to the trailhead.

Remember the petroglyphs? On the way back we took the very short spur trail to take a look at them as well.

We also saw this cool bullfrog as we were just at the tail-end of the hike ~ of course, we named him Jeremiah.......

This is a definite must-do hike when in Arches National Park. The trail is open enough and smooth enough to also hike it at night during a full moon. We have already pledge to ourselves that we’ll definitely do the hike during full moon upon our next visit to the park.

3 comments:

Jerry and Suzy said...

This is the arch we felt badly about not seeing on our trip. It is truly unique. Most arches appear to be anchored at one end or both to something other than the ground beneath them!

Loved Jeremiah!

petrenkov said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read the article. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.

Best wishes
Steave Markson

Anonymous said...

Lovely hike. Delicate Arch must be seen. Nice topo map and photos here:

www.hikespeak.com/trails/delicate-arch-hike-arches/

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