Arches National Park -- Delicate Arch Trail (4-21-17)
There is perhaps no more iconic geologic feature in all the State of Utah as Delicate Arch of Arches National Park. The park website says it's one of the most famous in the world. It's hard to argue. Delicate Arch, a massive free-standing arch measuring sixty-four feet in height and forty-five feet across, is a wonder of nature so improbable in its beauty its hard to express. Due to its fame, Delicate Arch is a popular destination for visitors. It's not hard to reach...at around three miles round-trip the trail is well-marked and only requires a moderate amount of climbing. I just wouldn't do it midday in July...there's no shade out there!. The trail also offers up a bit of history along the way, passing both an early 20th-Century ranch and 400-year-old petroglyphs. History and nature...it's always a winning combination with me!
I have to admit though I've had a bit of an obsession with Delicate Arch over...oh...the last decade. My last trip to Arches was back in 2008, and it was hot...like 105-degrees hot. I wanted to get to Delicate Arch then but the scalding conditions caused me to (probably) wisely back out of my plan. Since then though...that missed opportunity to visit Utah's great natural icon has haunted my hiking dreams. It was the one that got away so-to-speak. So this was the day!!! After nine years of (im)patiently waiting I had returned!
I was warned ahead of time to get an early start to beat the crowds. No joke...we arrived just before 9-am and the relatively large lot at the trailhead was three-quarters full already! We wouldn't be alone on this hike, but that really goes without saying. The trail starts out by passing the historic ranch of John Wesley Wolfe and the ancient Ute petroglyphs mentioned earlier. The first half-mile is a standard dirt path which undulates up and down a couple rocky ridges. Then things get interesting. The trail makes a bee-line straight up a massive barren ridge. Tiny cairns lead the way. Once at the top of the ridge the trail makes several turns and gently climbs through small gullies choked with stunted juniper and rocks. Just prior to reaching Delicate Arch the terrain opens again and walks another barren ridgeline with sweeping views of the wrinkled and colorful landscape to the north. Then comes the arch itself. Nothing really prepares you for it. If mother nature could have found a more picturesque location for Delicate Arch I'd like to see it. Sitting on the far rim of a giant bowl of rock which seems to swirl beneath it...with the snow-capped LaSal Mountains gleaming on the horizon...Delicate Arch is as picture-perfect a place as they come. You just have to be patient with the people. A note of courtesy...when visiting Delicate Arch it is generally considered bad-form to walk out under the arch. By doing so you are inevitably inconveniencing dozens of other people who would rather not have you in their shot of the arch. There are plenty of good shots to be had at a respectful distance. Anyway...off my pulpit. As I was saying...Delicate Arch exhibits nature in its most graceful and also at its most elemental. I'll stop typing...hopefully my pics can speak for me. It's an amazing place.
So, without further adieu I invite you along on a hike I wanted to make in 2008...all things considered, it was worth the wait. I present Delicate Arch of Arches National Park, as always...ENJOY!!!
Trailhead Coordinates: 38.735621, -109.520693
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: MODERATE
Mileage Hiked: 3.4 miles Hike Duration: 2:00
Trailhead Temp: 50'F Trail Traffic: 100+ people
Min. Elevation: 4,300' Max. Elevation: 4,850'
Total Vertical Gain: 600' Avg. Elevation Gain/Mile: 353' (on approach)
Trails Used (blaze color): Delicate Arch Trail (unblazed)