Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hiking Devil's Garden, Arches National Park, Utah

Devil’s Garden contains 7.2 miles of hiking trails to various arches and rock formations, and it took us about 4 ½ hours to hike to them all, including a leisurely lunch along the trail. The entire hike varies from easy to strenuous, and begins easy with a well marked trail for about ¼ mile where you then arrive at a fork in the trail – we took the right trail first, still an easy, well-marked trail. This short spur trial took us to two arches – Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. Tunnel Arch has a deep opening that looks like a tunnel and Pine Tree Arch…yep, has a pine tree growing in the middle.

After enjoying these two arches, we returned via the same trail and merged back onto the main trail for about another ½ mile to the expansive 306’ Landscape Arch. In 1991 a large chunk fell, creating the “thin” arch that remains today. Luckily, people picnicking under the arch heard and saw some smaller rocks fall and got out of the way before tons of boulders came crashing down. If you’re in the mood for a shorter hike, this is a nice destination and would total a 1.6 mile round trip hike, taking about one hour if you include Tunnel & Pine Tree Arches, or just 30 minutes if Landscape Arch is the sole destination.

We continued past Landscape Arch, which is when the trial became more strenuous in nature. Climbing boulders with some more effort than the previous section of the trail, we walked on top of a rock fin and by the now empty space which was Wall Arch until the summer of 2008, when it fell. Continuing up the boulders and over various rock fins for another ½ mile or so, another spur trail awaits – this one goes to the back of Partition Arch and Navajo Arch. Partition Arch can be seen from the hike as you climb towards this spur trail, and the view from behind is more amazing. This arch consists of a large main opening that’s higher off the trail and another smaller about 10’ in diameter to the side. Be sure to climb to this small opening and take a peek at the breathtaking views to the other side.

The small hike to Navajo Arch takes you through interesting hidden canyons made by high rock fins. Navajo Arch itself is not a large arch but the fact that it’s so well hidden makes it worth the extra hike to discover for yourself. There is also a perfectly shaped Christmas looking pine tree growing near the base of the arch that adds to its mystique.

After an enjoyable lunch and chat with some fellow hikers, we continued to Double-O Arch, which is another popular one-way hike in Devil’s Garden (4.2 miles round trip, 2-3 hours). This unique arch is actually two arches, one on-top-on another. With a little effort, you can climb through the bottom “hole” and see some incredible views from the other side. This was definitely the busiest place along the entire 7.2 miles of trail, so be prepared for crowds.

Continuing on the trail, the crowds definitely lessened as we hiked the ½ mile to Dark Angel – it’s not an arch, but a rock formation of dark rocks in the shape of an angel (if you squint and know it’s supposed to be an angel). The trail ends here, so back to Double-O Arch where a decision needs to be made – you can return via the route originally taken or return via the longer “primitive” trail. We took the primitive trail……..

The primitive trail begins rather easy, but does eventually become strenuous and you need to be mindful of looking for cairns to keep on trail. About ½ mile into this return trail is yet another spur trail to Private Arch, a beautiful large arch. If you climb some of the rocks to the right of the arch, you can get a 360-degree view of the area on a clear day. We wouldn’t recommend climbing on top of the arch as Brad did in the picture below. It’s very easy to walk out to the center of the arch but you have to crawl backwards to get back because it’ too narrow to turn around.

Back on the primitive trail, the hike becomes more fun and mildly technical as we hiked over boulders, walked on top of narrow rock fins, and scramble through and jumped over many narrow ravens. There were also several places where we had to slide down steep rock surfaces. This was definitely a fun part of the hike, much less crowded than the more accessible areas, and more physically interesting. The primitive trail ends by Landscape Arch, so back into the crowds as we made our way back up the easy path for about a 1 mile walk to the car.

This was a great hike, a definite “must do” when in Arches National Park!

1 comment:

Jerry and Suzy said...

Ah, guys, you're great! We had enjoyed Howard and Linda's stories and pictures of their Arches hiking, and your blog gives us the same country through two other pairs of eyes. Definitely worth us taking those virtual hikes twice.

We visited Arches a few years back, did the easy car thing, but never got to the far end. We have to go back!

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