On the Wild Side
Read up on featured locations and activities as well on how to best preserve our precious Wild Spaces.
Arches National Park is easily dwarfed by most U.S. national parks, but it's quickly becoming one of the most popular in the park system. The chief attractions here are the park's puzzling, even gravity defying sandstone arches, numbering more than 2000, making Arches National Park is the greatest concentration of stone arches to be found anywhere in the world.
And of all these arches: one is more recognizable than the others – named for its precarious stature, Delicate Arch has become the unofficial symbol of the state of Utah. Originally called Cowboy Chaps Arch, the parks most famous formation was not included in the original 1929 monument. It would take nine more years before then Arches National Monument, would be expanded to include what has become its most famous feature.
But why has Delicate Arch garnered so much attention? It’s far from the park’s largest Arch, and it’s definitely not the park’s most accessible landmark.
There’s perhaps more than one correct answer, but if you’ve ever hiked the 3-mile trail to Delicate Arch then you know there is something incredibly unique about not just the arch, but the setting as well.
It's easy to imagine Mother Nature put a little extra effort into creating this masterpiece. Combined with the sprawling red rock deserts, forested foothills and 12,000 foot+ La Sal Mountains of the greater Moab landscape, the view of Delicate Arch is as wondrous a sight as any we’ve encountered.
It really has to be seen to be believed. Pictures, no matter how stunning, will simply never do the experience justice. If you want to truly understand why Delicate Arch has become one of the world most recognizable wonders, you'll have to see it for yourself. So here’s what you need to know before hiking to Delicate Arch:
Arches National Park is über popular these days, some might even say too popular. Crowds have become a mainstay of a visit to Delicate Arch, but there is still much you can do to avoid the huddled masses at Delicate Arch.
First, avoid holidays, free days and weekends if possible. A free day may sound like a bargain, but believe me, your much better off planning a visit during the off-season or on a weekday and paying the full $25 entrance fee. Arches National Park is even contemplating offering an off-season discount in order to alleviate the pressure of the summer crowds. If you are able, plan to visit when others can’t. The extra effort will be well worth your time.
The hike to Delicate Arch is far from dangerous, except for when people get careless. Summer temperatures in Arches frequently exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you have adequate water and sun protection.
Ensure you and those in your party are fit enough for this short, albeit moderately challenging hike. From the Delicate Arch trailhead you’ll gain more than 600 feet without a break until shortly before reaching the arch. In high temperatures, 600 feet can feel like a lot more. Make sure to pace yourself.
Along with the elevation gain comes more than a few steep drop offs. The trail offers plenty of space to avoid any perilous cliffs, but you’ll almost certainly want to wander around and get a better view. Just mind your step, stay alert and make sure to watch any children you may be traveling with very closely.
Leave No Trace
Arches faces a number of challenges in the wake of its growing popularity. Vandalism, and environmental degradation are at the top of the list. Do your part to protect this unique place. Report any vandalism you witness to a park ranger, pack everything out, and never stray from official park trails, bare sandstone and dry washes.
The Hike to Delicate Arch is a treat, capped by a truly stunning view. Be courteous to others and enjoy your visit to Arches National Park.
Ten Epic Hikes
This year the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial. For 100 years the Park Service has been educating visitors on the history and natural treasures preserved by our national parks and inspiring each of us to both enjoy and protect these special places.
With Memorial Day weekend upon us, and many of us either visiting or making plans to visit one of our many amazing national parks - the team from At Home in Wild Spaces wanted to share ten of our favorite national park trails with you and invite you to tread lightly, Leave No Trace and enjoy getting outdoors this summer!
Some of these trails are quite popular. Click here to learn more about trail etiquette and safety. Happy Memorial Day everybody!
Zion NAtional Park
The Zion Narrows
Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous
Length: 1 to 16 miles
Trailhead: Temple of Sinawava or Chamberlain's Ranch (Permit Required)
Important Info: Contact Zion Visitor Information regarding flowrate and flash flood warnings before entering the Narrows. Wear closed toed shoes and bring a walking stick. Plan on getting wet: most of the trail is in the river. No trash or bathrooms along trail. Pack everything out with you. Be courteous of others this is a very popular trail. For more information click here.
Length: 5.4 miles
Trailhead: Grotto Picnic Area
Important Info: Steep cliffs. Not appropriate for children. Hot during summer months pack water and sun protection. Be courteous of others on the trail. Outhouse at Scout lookout. For more information click here.
Olypmic National Park
Hoh Rainforst River Trail
Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous
Length: Up to 33 miles
Trailhead: Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
Important Info: Rain likely most of the year (hence the title rainforest). Trail can be slick and muddy. Stay on trail and clear of steep river banks and drop offs. Check forecast before venturing out and plan accordingly. For more information click here.
Sol Duc FAlls
Length: 1.6 miles
Trailhead: Near Sol Duc Hot Springs (look for sign)
Important Info: Rain likely most of the year. Trail can be slick and muddy. Stay on trail and clear of steep river banks and drop offs. Check forecast before venturing out and plan accordingly. For more information click here.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Queen's Garden/Navajo trail loop
Length: 3 miles
Trailhead: Sunrise or Sunset Points
Important Info: Sun exposure and hot temperatures in summer. Bring plenty of water and sun protection. Be courteous of others on trail, stay away from cliffs and drop offs. No bathrooms or water available on trail. For more information click here.
Length: 7 to 14 miles
Trailhead: Red Canyon Visitor Center or Coyote Hollow Parking
Important Info: NOT WITHIN BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK. Mountain biking is prohibited inside the National Park. The Thunder Mountain trail is located a few miles west of the park entrance along highway 12. 14 mile loop includes Red Canyon bike path. 7 mile requires shuttle arrangements. Hot in summer, no water or bathrooms on trail. Bring plenty of water and sun protection. Know your limits. For more info click here.
Yellowstone National Park
Uncle Tom's Trail
Length: Less than 1 mile
Trailhead: Artist Point Parking Area
Important Info: Trail includes switchbacks on steep slopes and more than 300 steel stairs. Stay on trail, and make sure you are up for the climb back up from the bottom. Yellowstone is prime bear country. Click here for important information on bear safety click here. Be courteous of others on the trail. Bathrooms available in parking area. For more information click here.
Length: 2.4 miles
Trailhead: Biscuit Basin (West side of boardwalk)
Important Info: Seasonal closures. Opens late May. This is bear country. For important information on safety while hiking in bear country click here. Stay on trail. Bathrooms available in parking area. For more information click here.
Arches National Park
Devil's Garden (Main Trail)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: Up to 7.2 miles (Main and Primitive Trails combined)
Trailhead: Devils Garden Parking Area
Important Info: Can be very hot in summer. Pack plenty of water and sun protection. Stay on trail. The soil in much of the American Southwest and in Arches in particular is very delicate. Do not stray from established trails, dry washes or bare rock. Climbing or walking on/over arches is prohibited. Be courteous of others. For more information click here.
Devils Garden (Primitive Trail)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Length: Up to 7.2 miles
Trailhead: Devil's Garden Parking Area
Important info: Exposure and high temperatures in summer. Pack enough water (one liter per hour) and adequate sun protection. Be courteous of others on the trail. The "primitive" section of Devils Garden requires more clamoring over obstacles than the "main" trail. Know your limits and be safe. Do not stray from official trails, dry washes or bare rock. The soil in Arches National Park is uniquely delicate. Climbing or walking on/over arches is prohibited. For more information click here.
some of the more popular trails. That's not to suggest that you should strike trails like Angels Landing and Half Dome from your bucket list. But often times there are amazing hikes that don't get nearly as much publicity as the paths [more] traveled. Making time for the path less traveled can as the poem claims, "make all the difference".
Take the Devil's Garden primitive trail in Arches National Park for example. This some what more challenging trail is not as popular as the hike to Delicate Arch or "Main" Devil's Garden trail, but it's perhaps one of the best hiking experiences within the park. The primitive trail offers a number of lesser known arches, a better opportunity for solitude, and an incredible sandstone playground that most visitors will never see.
What's particularly nice about the "primitive" trail is that it can easily be combined with the more popular "main" trail and include a visit to Landscape Arch, considered the largest natural arch in the world, as well as other popular arches, while still enjoying a unique and less trammeled section of Devil's Garden. Together there are more than seven miles of trails through the world class sandstone wilderness called Devil's Garden.
A few things to know before you go
1. The primitive trail is considered "strenuous" by the national park service, and includes a number of obstacles which require sure footing a bit of climbing, and occasionally wading through water.
2. The [time] less traveled may be even more important than taking the path less traveled. If possible, align your visit with the off season or weekdays. Avoid holidays as well as spring and fall breaks. Arches in particular can become very crowded. If these times are not compatible with your schedule, then try hiking early. The big crowds won't be up until later.
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