The most popular trail in the park, the Delicate Arch hike leads up a steep slick rock sections to the amphitheater surrounding the namesake arch. Typically underestimated by enthusiastic tourists, this hike can get really hot in the summer, making the already steep elevation gain even harder.
From Moab, drive north along the 191, crossing the Colorado River until you reach the signposted turn towards Arches National Park. Pay your dues at the park entrance, then drive along the Arches Scenic Drive for 18.5km. Turn right onto Delicate Arch Rd, and in 1.9km pull into the extremely crowded parking lot on your left, signposted as being for the Delicate Arch Trail. Do not follow Delicate Arch Rd until its terminus.
|When to do|
Out and back
After hopefully finding a parking spot, begin at the trailhead beside the two pit toilets. The path is very wide and starts out quite flat. You will nearly immediately pass by the historic Wolfe Ranch cabin. John Wesley Wolfe moved here to herd cattle and farm in the area. His sturdy homestead – which at one point housed himself, his son, his daughter and her family – remains to this day.
Continuing along the trail you will climb to gain a ridge. From here the path climbing along a section of slick-rock is clearly visible on the horizon, and you will almost certainly see dozens of other hikers making the same pilgrimage as yourself. Shortly you will step onto the rock and start the climb up. This section of the hike is quite steep, and totally exposed to the sun. Pack plenty of extra water!
Upon reaching the top of the smooth rocky climb you still have a little ways to go. You will weave in and out of small rocky towers and large resilient bushes, following cairns, trail markers, and all the other people on the trail. The final section of the path leads beside a cliff, however the Park Service have blasted out the rock on the ridge to be perfectly flat (and wide), so no one should have any trouble.
After rounding the final corner you will be treated to a stunning view of Delicate Arch. The largest arch in the park, this stunning piece of nature seems to defy gravity. A natural amphitheater has been created surrounding the arch, yielding a great place to relax and enjoy the view! If you want a photo of yourself underneath the arch, be prepared to wait in line. Return the way you came.
Going early in the day beats the crowds, beats the heat, and gives the best light to photograph Delicate Arch without all the pesky people.
If the parking lot is really full, park at the end of the road and hike the 1.6km back to the trailhead.
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