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closer view of the arch
Delicate Arch Trail
Closest available address
Park is about a 10 minute drive from Moab on Highway 191.
Park is open 24 hours. Visitor center is generally open 8:00am-4:30pm.
Best time to visit
Delicate Arch Trail is a 3 mile round trip hike in Arches National Park that starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking area and ends at the Delicate Arch, a 65 foot sandstone rock natural bridge. The trail has an elevation gain of approximately 500 feet and is moderate in difficultly. Delicate arch is one of the most famous arches in the park if not the most famous. Its image can be found on the Utah license plate, many park pictures and pictures of the southwest in general.
The parking area at the trailhead is small, and demand for parking is high, especially from March through October. You may need some parking karma or luck to find a spot in busier times. If the lot is full you can wait for someone to leave or consider parking a mile away at the Delicate Arch viewpoints. Near the parking area is an authentic frontier cabin built by a Civil War veteran named John Wesley Wolfe in 1906. He eventually left Utah, but the cabin remained and was occupied by several owners before being acquired by the park. Also nearby are Ute Indian petroglyphs, which depict Indians on horsebacks. The trail starts off wide and broad with a gentle ascent. It gets steeper on a large slick rock that is most challenging aspect of the hike. Closer to the arch, the trail wraps around a rock cliff and then enters a bowl shaped depression with the arch on the far side of the open space.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The plan was just to get a view of the arch from the viewpoints. That turned out to be impossible because a mudslide a few days earlier had washed out the road and cut off public access to the viewpoints. While the parking lot was initially full, on the way out a space became available at the exact right moment; it was then clear that this hike had been preordained. Both the cabin and the pretroglyphs were nearby and worth a quick look prior to the main hike. The hike won’t be a challenge if you are in decent shape. Walking up the large rock may get your heart rate up a bit, but you won’t have to climb or scamper. The heat was a bit taxing though because it was around midday in September, and there were only a couple places with any shade to speak of. For a serious BlitzQuester though heat and elevation gains are just inconveniences not barriers. Pausing at the top of the rock and looking back at the parking area made for a good view. The best part of the hike was the Delicate Arch. It’s both a beautiful arch formation and is in a beautiful setting. There were plenty of other hikers, but the company did not spoil the moment. The arch area also is a good place to have a lunch if you are so inclined. Also worthwhile is the view of a canyon behind the arch and away from the main cliff. This hike can be taken at night too, but it’s probably unwise unless you have good lighting, good footwear and an ability to follow trails well. The trail on the rock is mostly indicated with cairns. This hike had just enough of an elevation gain to provide a sense of accomplishment and more than enough scenery to provide a sense of wonder. A serendipitous hike to be sure, but it was an enjoyable outing and with a favorable outcome.
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Arches National Park
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