librarian + adventurer

HIKES

Delicate Arch


Delicate Arch
Trailhead: Delicate Arch Trailhead
Distance: 3 miles (moderate)


Weather in Moab was calling for it to be 106 degrees on Saturday. Knowing that there's no shade on the trail, Logan and I headed into the park at 6:30 am.


(Pro tip: getting to the entrance station before it opens means you don't have to pay - or you can just get an America the Beautiful pass and have it pay for itself AND be able to leave and re-enter whenever you want). 


Having never been to Arches before, it took us almost 30 minutes to get to the trailhead because we were so in awe. We arrived at 7:00 to a half-empty parking lot and temperatures already in the 80s. We sunscreened up and loaded our water into our packs and hit the trail!

Delicate Arch is rated as a moderate hike, but the trail itself is actually pretty easy. 1.5 miles up with 590 feet of elevation gain (and most of that on one slab of slickrock). What makes it "moderate" is the heat and the sun exposure. Even at 7 am it felt oppresively hot and there is no shade or relief from the pounding sun. There are signs all over the park reminding visitors that "heat kills" and to make sure you carry AND drink two liters of water per person. And yet on our way back down we passed entire families with only two 16 oz bottles to share between them! Be smart, people!

The first .4 miles are on a well-defined and well-maintained tail. Once you reach the slickrock slab, you're left to the mercy of cairns. For the most part, they are in obvious places and are easy to follow. There was one section where Logan and I got a little lost, though. Basically, the trail is designed so that you don't see the Arch until you're exactly on it, so if you climb on top of a rock and can see the Arch in the distance, you've gone the wrong way. If you can see the arch and you haven't walked along a ledge, you've gone the wrong way. 

This is the rock we climbed on top of to realize it was the wrong way. 

Coming up to the Arch is an indescribable experience. It's huge - bigger than you'd expect, and behind it are the La Sal Mountains - still covered in snow in mid-June. If you timed your hike right, there won't be many people there and you can get some iconic shots of the Arch while empty.

Logan and I stopped at the top to lay against the still-cool rock in the shade, eat some muffins, and reapply sunscreen. We've stopped and rested at the top of lots of hikes, but this one takes the cake, I think. 

The second rock from the left (the smaller one in the background that you probably wont be able to pick out unless you made the same mistake) is the one Logan and I climbed up on to then realize we were wrong.

Deserts - where plants will grow anywhere they possibly can, even the top of Delicate Arch

Looking opposite the Arch.

I've shared two pictures of Juniper Trees because they are so cool and show desert adaptation at its finest! In order to survive the ridiculous climate, they isolate their growth each year to a few branches, letting the others die. 

Sand is Logan's second least favorite ground substance to hike in. This stressed him out!

H Y D R A T E !

NO REALLY. DRINK WATER.

Looking back towards the slickrock slab - featuring lots of tiny people for scale.

Pro tip: On your way back down, take the side trail and look at the petroglyphs left by the Ute (pronounced "yoot") Indians. This was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. 

Bonus picture: the wildlife we saw on this hike was limited to lizards, but on our way back we passed a frog which was so big and so loud and so green, my natural thought was of Kristin. So, Kristin, I took this picture for you.