This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Many visitors to Arches National Park are what author and former Arches ranger Edward Abbey described as "motorized tourists."
They don't go far from their car and are content to view a few of Arches' wonders along the road or from a distance. With Arches reaching 1.2 million visitors for the first time in 2014, the main road entering the park may seem like Abbey's worst nightmare.
Place your car in a parking stall and start hiking a trail at Arches and you may soon find yourself alone, or at least that the crowd has greatly thinned. Each trail will soon live up to the park's name and provide the hiker with an up-close view of an arch.
Here are five trails to hike in Arches. Click on the links to learn more about each trail.:
Let's just get this one out of the way. If there's a must-do hike in Utah, this would be it. Delicate Arch has become the state symbol. What's less appreciated is that the hike is a pretty good one, too. It's a 4-mile round trip up and down the slickrock with views of the park and the desert floor. Most of the 528-foot elevation gain comes on a half-mile stretch in the hike's second mile. The modest distance and elevation gain makes this a great hike for families. There's even petroglyphs at the trailhead. This hike is the most popular trail in the park. Some spots are crowded for a reason: they're great.
We're cheating a little bit. The Fiery Furnace has no designated trails. There are no signs or cairns. GPS devices do not work because of the high rock walls and narrow passages within the Furnace. But Fiery Furnace offers a slickrock jungle gym for adults with narrow slots to explore and boulders and fins to climb upon. A permitting system limiting visitors mean there are some chances for real national park solitude. Go to the Arches website to find out how to obtain a permit or take a ranger tour. Permits are $4 for visitors age 13 and older and $2 for children.
Here's a hike that's guaranteed to get you away from the crowds. That's because reaching the trailhead requires you leave the main road in Arches to drive down an unpaved, but generally good, road. Once you arrive at the trailhead, the trail is a 2.6-mile round trip. You'll walk past fins and rock formations that look like fingers and fists. There's only 277 feet in elevation to gain, but some of it involves hiking uphill in sand. The hike includes a good view of the La Sal Mountains in the distance. Tower Arch will soar above you when you reach it.
In 2013, The Tribune placed the campground in Arches on the Utah Bucket List, making it one of the outdoor sites to experience in the state. The campground has scenery not found in any other lodging. It also has the trailhead to the Broken Arch Loop. The 2-mile trail takes you past its namesake arch and past Tapestry Arch. If there's no room in the campground, the loop is also accessible by walking from Sand Dune Arch. This is another trail that's off the beaten path and good for families.
This is the arch mother load. The 7-mile loop will take you past arches in the distance and up close and you'll see all manner of fins and slickrock in between. If you don't have time or inclination for the entire loop, you can just hike to Landscape Arch and back. It's the longest arch in the park and can be reached in a 1.6-mile round trip. This trail can be crowded, too, but is worth the company. Hike the whole loop, and you're officially immune from being one of Abbey's "motorized tourists."