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Devils Garden + Primitive Trail

Arches National Park

Moab, Arches + La Sal Mountains, Utah

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Devils Garden + Primitive Trail

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  • Setting out from the trailhead.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • First view of Landscape Arch.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Landscape Arch, the showstopper.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • First section of slickrock after Landscape Arch.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Elevated view to the northeast across the fins to be traveled on the Primitive Loop Trail.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Double O Arch viewed from the east.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Double O Arch viewed from the west.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • High Window.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Private Arch.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Fins up close and personal.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • The magnificent fins.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • More fins!- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
  • Pine Tree Arch.- Devils Garden + Primitive Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Exposure to several unique arches and fin formations. Longest maintained trail in the park. Can be less crowded than other areas of the park.
Cons: 
Primitive Loop Trail includes some route finding and ledge exposure. No water supply on trail.
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Region:
Moab, Arches + La Sal Mountains, UT
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
400.00 ft (121.92 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
5,140.00 ft (1,566.67 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

Although Devils Garden takes a back seat to iconic Delicate Arch in terms of publicity, the two are equals from an adventure standpoint. If the Primitive Loop Trail is followed and all spur trails are included (7.2 miles total), the hike visits seven separate named and rather unique arches as well as the Dark Angel obelisk while traversing some spectacular terrain and sandstone fins (the fins look amazing in Google Earth).

The trailhead for Devils Garden is located at the north end of the park near the campground of the same name. Be sure to use the pit toilets and fill up on water at the trailhead, as there are none available until return. The early portion of the trail is wide and well maintained. Just over 0.25 miles into the trail, a spur departs downhill to the east to visit Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. Visiting these two arches will add 0.5 miles of total distance to your journey. At roughly 0.75 miles, the trail arrives at a junction where the primitive trail returns to the east. Take the left fork to continue on the main trail to Landscape Arch, which is located just under 1 mile from the trailhead. Landscape Arch is truly remarkable, and it is one of the longest stone spans in the world, stretching 306 feet despite measuring only 11 feet thick at its center. In recent years several large sections of rock have fallen from the arch, prompting the park to close access below it. Prior to its collapse in 2008, Wall Arch was located just a short distance down the trail from Landscape Arch.  

Departing Landscape Arch, the trail transitions to what the park calls semi-primitive as it quickly climbs the first slickrock section of the route. It will not be the last. Roughly 0.25 miles after Landscape Arch, a spur trail departs to the west to visit Navajo and Partition Arches. Although not part of this adventure, visiting these arches is a recommended side trip that totals 0.8 miles. One mile farther down the main trail is Double O Arch, the northernmost point of the loop. While en route to Double O arch, clusters of fins are readily visible off to the right of the trail. These will be visited later if you opt for the Primitive Loop Trail. It is easy to see where Double O arch gets its name, and this arch is perhaps best viewed by climbing through and looking from the west side. From Double O Arch, three options are presented: 1) travel the 0.8-mile round-trip spur trail to visit Dark Angel obelisk, 2) return via the original route, or 3) return via the Primitive Loop Trail. This adventure covers the Primitive Loop Trail return.

Cairns have been placed at locations on the Primitive Loop Trail, and there are footprints to follow in the sandy sections, but by no means is this a clearly designated, maintained trail. In addition, there is some scrambling on slick rock and some degree of exposure on ledges. Approximately 0.5 miles into the Primitive Loop Trail a spur trail will depart to the south toward Private Arch. The round trip travel for visiting Private Arch is 0.5 miles. From Private Arch, the Primitive Loop Trail wraps to the east through intermittent sections of sand and slickrock fins, covering roughly 1.75 miles before returning to the junction with the main trail. As spectacular as the arches are, the clusters of towering, narrow fins often provoke near-equal amazement.    

While enjoying Devils Garden (and Arches National Park in general), try to remain conscious of the fact that these formations are transient, with more than one having collapsed in recent years. We are truly fortunate to be able to enjoy the timing of these remarkable geological processes, the foundation of which were laid roughly 300 million years ago. The initiation of these arches occurred when uneven stresses in the accumulated layers of sand, silt, and clay created vertical cracks. Water then entered the cracks and made them larger, producing tall, narrow sandstone fins.  In some instances, the weak areas of the fins went on to be preferentially eroded, the result of which are the arches visible today.   

Optional Routes:

  • Trailhead to Landscape Arch and return: 1.6 miles
  • Trailhead to Double O Arch and return: 4.2 miles
  • Trailhead to Dark Angel and return: 5.0 miles
  • Trailhead to Dark Angel and return via Primitive Trail: 5.9 miles
  • Spur trail to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches: 0.5 miles
  • Spur trail to Navajo and Partition Arches: 0.8 miles

Note: Although net elevation gain for the route is roughly 400 feet, total elevation gain is in excess of 1,200 feet. 

 

 

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(6 within a 30 mile radius)

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