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When I was researching things to see in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch came was at the top of the list. This is Utah’s most iconic image; it’s highly likely you’ve seen photos of it before on a calendar, screensaver, you name it! It’s not the most fun hike in the park in my opinion, but if you want see this famous site up close and get your picture taken with it then you’ve got to hike the trail!
Delicate Arch Trail Info:
- Length: 3 miles, 4.8km round trip
- Difficulty: Moderately Difficult(the first uphill part is a killer!)
- Elevation Gain: 480 ft, 146m.
- Trail Head Location: Wolfe Ranch parking lot.
- Best time to go: Early morning or late afternoon/early evening would be good if you want to stay out of the hot sun and beat the crowds.
Bring lots of water with you! In fact, bring lots of water with you anywhere you go out west. These desert locations and the hot sun will suck all the moisture out of you. You’ll get dry skin, chapped lips…so please, always bring lots of water! The National Park Service recommends bringing at least 2 quarts of water for this hike per person.
Depending on the time of day, and the weather, having a hat and sunglasses to keep the blazing sun off you a little is recommended too, along with sunscreen.
This is the first place you’ll see at the trailhead and parking lot. Just over a hundred years ago people actually lived here! A man by the name of John Wesley Wolfe settled here with his son in 1898. Eventually his daughter, her husband and 2 children moved in and the cabin you see now is where all 6 family members lived for several years. Talk about tight spaces…I wonder how they all got along!
After it was sold several times over the years, it was eventually bought by the government and landed itself on the National Register of Historic Places. You can find more of the story here on the park’s website.
I often would think if I want to live somewhere remote I’d choose a place with plenty of trees, near a larger source of water. They only had a small stream that runs nearby, but were still able to grow some crops and had cattle grazing!
After you’ve checked out the ranch, head up the trail towards the rock wall to see some petroglyphs.
On the Trail
The first part of this hike is a little on the rough side if you’re not in great shape. We weren’t, so we took our time. We also started the hike mid-morning around 10am. It was October however, so it wasn’t terribly hot, but we were still sweating with the sun beating down on us. The first section is all uphill. No shade, ugh…but at least the beautiful scenery and views make up for it!
Once you make it past the torturous-er I mean, exposed slickrock hill, the trail starts to level out, and more vegetation appears-yay! Also, despite its name, as long as the rock is dry it’s not “slick”. So other than being normally careful, you don’t have to worry about that. If you go in the winter it’s a different story I’m sure!
Here and there’ll be rock cairns or signs marking the trail. But an even greater sign to tell where the trail is going is to follow the steady stream of people. This trail is very popular! So unless you go at off times there’s almost guaranteed to be someone around to follow and find your way.
Eventually you’ll come to some high cliff walls, and you’ll have to follow the one on your right, with the trail getting pretty narrow on the left side of it. This is the last stretch before the destination! This part was also in the shade in the morning, so depending on the time of day you go you’ll finally have some relief from the sun. We also spotted some small pools of water here from the last time it rained.
After the narrow rock ledge the cliff face will cut away to an open, clear view of Delicate Arch. It sits at the edge of a bowl like land formation. Be careful when you walk on over to the arch because the ground is steep-just like a bowl! I was a bit nervous walking towards it, but I went slowly and was fine.
There was a line of people waiting to get their picture taken with the arch when we went. Everyone was polite though and took a normal amount of time posing while someone took their photo. One lady however, decided it was a great place to sit down at, right in front of the one pillar of the photogenic arch! All I heard around me after that were mutterings and grumbles from the people wanting to get their pic taken with no one else in the scene lol. So, be respectful and wait your turn, then move out of the way and enjoy it from a little ways away 🙂
If you stand facing the arch, to the left of it you can walk up a little ways and there’s a viewpoint of the other side that’s worth a look at too!
And that’s a summary of what the trail’s like! Going down is very easy, the same way you came up. I think it’s worth a hike if you’re capable and are visiting Arches at least once in your life!
For a list of other top sites to see in Arches National Park, click here!
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