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Broken Arch Loop is a fantastic family hike in Arches National Park. It's easy and short with views of two arches, short and safe stretches of fun cairn-hunting on slickrock, and, best of all, a playground of rock formations for climbing, hiding and exploring. I did the loop clockwise, which gave me chances to teach my daughter about cryptobiotic soil (the black, crystalline dirt) so she wouldn't step on it while playing on the rocks at the end.
Directions • From the park's visitors center, drive about 18 miles north on Scenic Drive (the park's main road) to where the road splits into a large loop in the Devil's Garden area at the end of the road. About 0.15 mile into the loop, take the road heading south toward Devils Garden Campground. The trailhead and parking are about a half mile to the south, near the bathrooms and dumpsters just north of the small loop at the end of the road.
Hike • Take the trail east from the trailhead. At 0.15 mile, a trail branches to the north. Follow that branch about 500 feet to a large rock outcropping, from which you can view Tapestry Arch about a tenth of a mile farther north. Return to the main trail and continue east. You soon will see on your left a large, gnarled juniper, whose limbs show the wear of much love from child climbers. The trail continues southeast. About 0.6 mile into the hike, the route goes onto slickrock; follow the cairns. The trail soon returns to dirt and continues southeast another to another section of slick rock, which takes you south toward Broken Arch. Pick your way down through the arch. Kids will enjoy playing on the rocks.
After the arch, the dirt trail heads to the west and south, continuing southwest to a junction 1.1 mile into the hike. Continue west (the south fork leads to Sand Dune Arch, about a half mile away). The most fun part of the hike is just ahead: a labyrinth of finlike rock formations and walls to explore before you emerge to the north. The trail is not difficult to find. It will take you north and west, into the Devils Garden Campground. Take the campground road north, back to the trailhead.
Digital map available at http://www.mapmyrun.com/workout/1315584773/.
Destination: Broken Arch
Hiking time • 2 hours
Round-trip miles • 1.8
Elevation gain • 150 feet
Difficulty • Easy
Trailhead restrooms • Yes
Dogs allowed • No
Bikes allowed • n/a
Fees • $25 per vehicle or $10 per person (park entrance fee)
Hiking time2 hours
Elevation gain150 feet
Fees$25 per vehicle or $10 per person (park entrance fee)