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John Maurizi | 11.25.2018

Make the most of your visit to Arches National Park by hiking these five trails. You will see some of the most well-known arches in the world as well as unique rock formations on other trails. These hikes are a great way to take in all Arches has to offer.

1. Park Avenue Trail

The Park Avenue Trail is only 1 mile as a through hike or 2 miles as an out and back. If you'll be parking at the first trailhead encounter for Park Avenue (from the park entrance), the trail descends into a wide canyon and down Courthouse Wash with huge sandstone fins and walls on either side. It is an easy hike with impressive scenery. Along the hike you will see rock formations known as the Organ, Tower of Babel, Three Gossips, and Sheep Rock. This is by far one of the most enjoyable hikes in the park. Many people suggest hiking this trail in the late afternoon for the best photo opportunities. However, any time of day will provide great opportunities, just from different positions and perspectives. I enjoyed hiking this in the early morning, and late in the day the opposite side of the canyon will be lit up by the setting sun. Take your pick, because both are beautiful times of day. Note that this trail can be crowded with tourists because it is easy for tour buses to drop off people and pick them up on the other end.

2. Delicate Arch Trail

The hike to Delicate Arch is probably the most strenuous in the park, but it definitely has a big payoff at the end. The arch graces many Utah license plates and might be the most photographed arch in the world. The hike is only 3 miles round trip, but it is exposed to the sun for the entire hike, which is all uphill. If you want to avoid the heat and crowds, I recommend this with an early morning start. Sunset offers the best opportunities for photographers as the arch lights up from the low angle of the sun. Remember to bring a headlamp and tripod if you are going for the sunset.

3. Klondike Bluff Trail

Klondike Bluff is one of the only places in Arches National Park where you have a chance of not seeing another person. The access road can be seen on the left as you drive down the main park road approaching the Devils Garden area and near Skyline Arch. The access road to Klondike Bluff is dirt/gravel, and in one area it is deep sand. However, it is still accessible by most cars. The trail head has been updated and now has a pit toilet. The start of the trail is a bit steep, but once on top the trail levels off and is very enjoyable. The trail can be difficult to find at times because the cairns are very small as you travel through this open desert landscape. Halfway along on the hike there are four pinnacles on the left called the Marching Men. This is a good landmark, and soon after this you will drop into a dry wash and up a deep, sandy hill. Once on top, proceed straight and to the right, weave through some large boulders to Tower Arch. If you go up into Tower Arch, it is possible to go left and work your way up and out of the canyon, passing through a narrow slot. Once on top it is possible to circle around back to a view of the Marching Men; however, there is no trail, and this should not be attempted unless you are very familiar with backcountry travel and have good route finding skills.

4. Devils Garden Trail

The Devils Garden Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Arrive early to try and get a parking spot. By 10:00 a.m. on a nice day, it will be difficult to park. There is a pit toilet style bathrooms at the trailhead. The hike starts out on an easy, well maintained path with some uphill sections. You will pass a trail on the right that leads to Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch, which is a nice side trip. Continuing on the Devils Garden Trail, you will eventually reach Landscape Arch on the left and another side trail on the right for the Primitive Trail. Here the Devils Garden Trail changes to a more rugged trail with steep sections and uneven surfaces. Continue straight up a steep slickrock trail and the location of the former Wall Arch on the left. You will soon be on top of the fin section of the hike after passing a trail on the left that goes to Navajo Arch and Partition Arch. Views are amazing past this point. The trail is easy to follow, and when it is not, there are plenty of cairns marking the way. The final section of slickrock descends steeply, and to the left you will see Double O Arch. Make your way to the arch for a nice break and return the way you came. On the return you will have beautiful views of the La Sal Mountains and the “Fins" on the left. In total, this out-and-back hike is closer to 5 miles rather than what the park service states as being 4 miles out and back.

5. Primitive Trail

This is a great hike, but I would not recommend it for inexperienced hikers. The trail starts from the Devils Garden Trailhead. Just before you reach Landscape Arch, there is a sandy trail on the right. The trail is marked with a wood sign at the beginning. Follow the sandy trail for a little over a mile until you reach a dry wash. The direction of the trail is marked with a wood sign and travels to the left at the wash. While in the wash you will come to a large pothole that is often filled with water and several logs. Try not to use the logs to cross the water because they are unstable. You can bypass this pothole high on the right side if you have good hiking boots and you are comfortable using friction to scale steep slick rock. There is another tricky area as you start to cross the fins about two-thirds of the way along the trail. It is steep slickrock that you ascend diagonally. This tends to be very slippery because of dry sand deposited by other hikers.

At the end of the Primitive Trail you arrive at Double O Arch. This is a good place to stop for lunch. It is best to return to the trailhead using the Devils Garden Trail for a nice loop hike with great views and adventure.


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