USA - Delicate Arch - Arches National Park - Utah

Date walked: 14/11/2015

Time taken: 2 hours

Distance: 6.5km

Ascent: 162m

After a prolonged foot injury Sarah was finally cleared to pull on the hiking boots, but only on good firm ground and gentle grades, but at least it's a start. Having now received our permanent residency status in Canada we decided to celebrate by heading down to Utah for a break and to give that foot a little work without the ice and snow of Kananaskis.

Delicate Arch is located in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. The whole area is an outdoor lovers paradise and I would recommend visiting here to anyone. To reach the trailhead you must pay an entrance fee of $10 at the park gate located 4 miles north of Moab on US 191, the fee allows rentry to the park for 7 days. After entering the park follow Arches Scenic Drive Rd for 12 miles to a right turn onto Delicate Arch Rd, follow this for 1.5 miles to the parking area at Wolfe Ranch where the trailhead is easily identified.

Note: very often Delicate Arch Viewpoint is closed and roadside signs in the park highlight this information visitors. Don't think that this means the trail is closed, it is not, the viewpoint and trail are different places and when the viewpoint is closed you can still hike the trial.

The hike begins with a level walk through a sage brush filled valley to an old replica cabin and native american petroglyphs (there is an option to avoid this route and cut a little off the hike but it is a minimal gain)

At this time of year there are fewer visitors and the trial is a comfortable easy hike, but in the summer the car park here is often filled to capacity and there is no relief parking. When it's like that the trail is heaving with people and in places 'backed up' where the trial narrows, as someone who has done this in both circumstances I assure you it can be incredibly frustrating. But there's none of that today as we press on over lost spring creek.

Further on the trail makes it's first minor ascent by twisting up the side of a boulder strewn wall before turning back on itself as you reach the top and level out once more.

Higher up the colour of the desert changes to red, the trail is in great condition and perfect for Sarah and her foot rehabilitation (though the miles we walked in the park before this were starting to tell a little)

The elevation gained so far is mostly lost as we drop down into a valley before rising again onto a well marked trail that cuts along the top of the dry sandstone.

Once across the valley we reach the the beginning of the main ascent of the route which is made over a huge solid mass of sandstone sloping gradually upward, Sarah takes the lead following a well worn trail visible in on the surface of the rock.

Continuing the ascent up the sandstone slope I took a look back over the route so far, there is still a very clear worn area along the surface and the occasional cairn marking the way.

It's a good steady pull up the slab which reaches an upper valley surprisingly filled with trees and shrubs. The trail becomes less firm here for a short time and is littered with ankle snappers, not normally an issue but it made for some careful stepping for Sarah.

The valley exits once more onto the now familiar sandstone floor, still every little hollow has it's own shrub poking out grabbing it's share of the scarce water resources up here.

Ahead now is a beautiful array of weathered bowls with the route across them visible by the lighter colour of the well trodden rock leading around the edge of a wonderfully layered mass of sandstone.

Once across the bowls, the route is still in shade and a good amount of frost still sits on the surface so a little extra care is needed for Sarah, this only lasts a hundred metres or so and is soon cleared without incident.

Whilst on the shaded side of the rock there is a large window visible up a steep slope to the right hand side, having been here before I knew what the view from here was, so I asked Sarah to stay on the trail while I scrambled up to the window for the first glimpse of the incredible Arch beyond.

Beyond the window is a fantastic fault where the upper section of rock has slipped sidewards leaving a perfect footpath around the side of the remaining mass which in addition has lovely desert views, you couldn't have designed it better.

The perfect path leads to the final small ridge which provides a wonderful viewing platform for Sarahs first look at Delicate Arch, even having been here before I am still struck by the beauty of the scene.

We sat on the ridge and bathed in the winter sunshine watching others make their way around the huge bowl to the arch for photos, the people standing inside it really bring perspective to the shot.

After a rest on the ridge we made our way over to the arch where a nearby boulder allowed use of the timer for a shot, spoiled by me turning to see what the hell was going on as one tourist decided a boom box blaring Mexican music was what the area needed.

Sarah tucked in against a rock facing the sun while I had the usual scramble around looking for photo locations. This views shows just how precariously placed the arch is and really brings home the wonder of it's existence, it's a great reward for little effort.

The route out is just a reverse of the route in, which is a shame as I am absolutely sure there would be a good alternative to make a loop here. Sarah loved the hike and her first view of Arches National Park and I loved the fact that we got to share it this time around, it made the park so much better for me.

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User avatar
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada
Occupation: Management Consultant - Semi Retired
Interests: Photography, Walking, Kayaking, Golf, Mountain Biking
Activity: Scrambler
Pub: Sutton Arms
Mountain: Mt Rainier - USA
Place: Loch Muick
Gear: Quality footwear
Member: None
Camera: Canon 5DIII
Ideal day out: A scramble on a high ridge in Kananaskis
Ambition: Lose some more weight!

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Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 3
Sub 2000: 6


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