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Delicate Arch, UT

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Guide 36 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
4.2 of 5 by 20
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,350 feet
Elevation Gain 480 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.4
Interest Historic
Backpack Connecting Only
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
4  2018-12-22 Steph_and_Blake
5  2017-03-03 John9L
13  2016-06-23 cw50must
15  2016-05-18
Arches National Park
23  2016-04-20
Arches National Park Trails
6  2014-12-27 Lucyan
6  2014-09-26 AZWanderingBear
5  2014-07-26 leonesiegel
Page 1,  2,  3
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:06am - 6:15pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The most famous arch in America
by PaleoRob

Likely In-Season!
What is the most popular, most photographed natural arch in the country? What arch adorns the license plates and welcome signs of Utah? Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch is a thin fin of Entrada Sandstone overlooking a natural bowl of slickrock on one side, and Winter Camp Wash on the other. Over the course of thousands, maybe even a million or so years, wind and the natural freeze-thaw cycle have worked away at the fin, creating a massive aperture that looks across the slickrock deserts north of Moab all the way out to the La Sal Mountains. It is a beautiful arch in a beautiful setting.

This trail can be quite busy, especially in between April and September. Please be courteous to those who may not know as much about trail etiquette.

The trail starts at the Wolfe Ranch/Turnbow Cabin, alongside Salt Wash. These cabins were built by some of the first pioneers in the Moab area. Perhaps they left the area after realizing the water they built next to was salty? Who can say now. The cabins are neat, especially for those interested in the pioneer history of the area. From the cabins, the trail crosses Salt Wash. In the hotter months the gnats and horseflies can be very bad around the wash, so be aware.

The trail then snakes its way across Morrison Formation badlands, late Jurassic sediment that was laid down when animals like Allosaurus and Stegosaurus roamed the lands. Northwest, across the San Rafael Swell in the Morrison Formation, a huge collection of Allosaurus fossils were found, possibly killed in a La Brea Tar Pits-esq death trap. Here in Arches, however, there are no such concentrations of bones. This formation was also targeted by the Uranium miners in the 1950's and 60's. There are deposits of Uranium in the Morrison; in fact, some of the fossil bones have absorbed so much Uranium that they can be detected on a Geiger counter!

The trail leaves the undulated hills of the Morrison and begins climbing up a steep section of older Entrada Sandstone. The entire Cache Valley, where the cabins are located, is a giant syncline, where the crust of the earth has buckled downward. Near the parking area, you probably noticed a ridge of dark stone, sticking out of the ground heading generally east-west. This hogback is at the top of the Morrison, and was originally laid down flat. You can see just how much the ground has tipped down. Now as you begin climbing the slickrock, following the well-worn path and the cairns, you are going deeper back in time, even though you are gaining elevation. Also look to the cliffs to the north - some hanging gardens can be seen there, where some minuscule amount of water has managed to seep out.

At the top of the slickrock, you cross a section of sand and bushes, in between two fins of towering red sandstone. The trail then begins to hug the fin on the right, and soon is a narrow path on slickrock overlooking a small draw and mounds of red sandstone disappearing to the north. The fin on your right has one small keyhole arch in it, and from this keyhole you can look across the slickrock bowl towards Delicate Arch. This is a great view, even if there are usually swarms of people moving too and fro across the bowl. Continue around the end of the fin, cross the upper end of the bowl, and you can stand directly underneath Delicate Arch, the most famous arch in the world. When you are done oohing and aahing, return to your vehicle the same way you came.

Please note that there is no shade and no water on this trail. Furthermore the slickrock can be quite slippery when wet. Make sure your water bottles are filled at the ranger station, campground, or back in Moab before hiking this trail.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-02-02 PaleoRob
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent of 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Delicate Arch
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Morning hike to Delicate Arch. The crowds were light and we took a variety of pics with and without people around the arch. We got a good mix. Lot's of people heading in on our hike back to the TH. Go early to beat the crowds. We headed over to the Devil's Garden afterward for a lasso loop.
    Delicate Arch
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    This is part of our Mighty Five Trip 2016. We did 5 parks in 5 days in Utah.

    Day 5: Arches National Park. Having already been to Arches we limited ourselves here. The interesting thing is the last time we were at Arches I felt like we did every tail except delicate Arch. that is the craziest thing ever! So that what we did this time. We got to the park somewhat early and headed straight to the trail head. Still had to wait for parking... It was really heating up this day and they had heat warning signs everywhere. I liked this trail, I liked hiking on the slick rock, I like how its cut into the side, I like how you round the corner and then boom, the arch comes into sight. We really enjoyed this, as you can see from the pictures, it was plenty crowded, we were not able to get an arch picture without a stranger in it. still good times though.

    On our way back there was a ranger talking with a couple, the lady was sitting on the ground, she was giving her water. They were on their way up, but the ranger was suggesting they turn back. When we got back to the trail head there was another ranger who had set up 3 igloo coolers that I'm sure were full of water so people could fill up. A person had flagged her over and we noticed there was an older couple, the guy was sitting on the ground next to his car, he looked really red. The woman was in the bushes puking. Another hiker who had finished at the same time of us told us we had just ran across another couple who he had to empty his camelback with what he had left to give them some water, they were out. I have a feeling it was a long day for some people that day.

    Video: ... Wyyk
    Delicate Arch
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Arches National Park
    Started the day at Devil's Garden Primitive Loop. The primitive loop is probably the only place on the park's established trails where you'll encounter the least amount of people. I did the loop counter clockwise. Once you're about 2 miles into the loop the fun really starts as the trail fades and you begin climbing up, down, and around giant sandstone rocks through a series of washes. The trail has an ample amount of cairns, but there were still a few times I found myself questioning if I was going the right way, or having to back track to the last cairn to look for the next one.

    I met a group of 3 girls from Florida near Double-O Arch who had backpacked/camped and it piqued my interest in possibly spending a night back there sometime. I hiked with them the rest of the way back and enjoyed the company. My favorite part of this trail is just after Double-O Arch where you climb up on top of a ~4ft-wide giant "rock fin" which you then walk across for about 100 yards. From here you get outstanding views of the park!

    Next I hit up Broken Arch Loop. There are a few arches which are neat along this loop, but other than that it is rather uneventful.

    Lastly, I hit up the one place I knew for certain was going to have swarms of people, Delicate Arch. The hike to the Arch was actually a little more difficult than I had anticipated. It's by no means "strenuous" but it definitely fits into the moderate category.

    Once I reached the Arch I encountered about 50 other people. I really wanted to get a picture of the Arch without any people in it, so I preceded to wait about 30 minutes while everybody and their sister just had to stand right under the arch to get a picture of themselves in various annoying poses. I saw handstands, flexing, "sexy poses", and "hands raised up like we just don't care!" Some people even chose to loiter around RIGHT NEXT to the Arch even though they were't getting their picture taken. I noticed I was't the only one who was becoming increasingly frustrated with the shit (crap) show, and I nearly gave up.
    Delicate Arch
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    April 30th hikes
    The Delicate Arch viewpoints were closed. Interesting hike up and over a huge hill of slick rock, around a small ledge trail. But it is sure worth it. Beautiful views all around for the entire trip and the destination.

    Mesa Arch is short but nice.

    Grandview Trail has great views it's full length of 1 mile on the edge of the rim.
    Delicate Arch
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    have wanted to visit arches national park for years, since sue and i made a road trip to the north rim, zion and bryce back in 2009
    couldn't figure out how to fit all five parks in one trip back then
    picked arches and canyonlands for this one
    a little crowded but the beauty outweighs that, especially for a one day visit
    we benefited by the free entry week celebrating 100 years of national parks
    hiked several trails and saw a lot of arches ;)
    started with devil's garden, taking in every possible side trip out to dark angel
    chose not to return on the primitive loop, as we had more to hike and sue is still recovering from a fall at work that broke her radius in two places and required surgery to install some hardware
    made scrambling a little difficult for her
    hiking on and over the rock fins was fun, and we were able to get in or under almost every arch
    most people stop after landscape arch, so it really wasn't crowded
    stopped near sand dune arch for a picnic and walked through the sand to see it
    also saw broken arch and skyline arch nearby
    drove over to delicate arch and joined the conga line heading up the trail
    fun hike, but saw several people who maybe shouldn't have been up there mid-afternoon
    we ended up giving out water away to some who needed it more - i don't normally do that, but maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience to the unprepared?
    delicate arch was pretty cool to see, and i even got a photo without anyone else in it
    a bus load of schoolkids viewing the arch, but well behaved and one took a photo for us
    stopped by the glyphs and cabin on the way down
    drove over to the windows section next, and hiked up to the four main arches there
    stopped by courthouse butte overlook on the way out of the park for some fantastic views
    felt we got a good representation of hikes for one day, and still a few things to see if i ever make it back
    had dinner at miguel's, then did some shopping at gearhead's
    another visit to moab coffee roasters, staying in moab again
    Delicate Arch
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    The last of our hikes today. It was unseasonably warm all day and we were already drained, but hey, it's Delicate Arch. Gulped some ice water and grabbed the packs and headed out. It's up and then up a little more when you are tired and there's no shade.

    But then WOW! We rounded topped the trail and there it was. If you haven't been there it's hard to explain just how this formation effects you. We did the usual photos and hung out in the shade of the arch for a while.

    Heading back down, another couple had climbed up into a small arch to the west. The view down to Delicate Arch was great. We took some more photos and enjoyed the forever landscape before resuming our journey down to the truck and some burgers and beers in Moab. Great way to end a fun day.
    Delicate Arch
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Simple little stroll out to the Arch.....the various descriptions said there was exposure?? I must have missed it. :)

    Very nice peeps here - everyone was SUPER courteous about taking pixs under the Arch. Folks would literally RUN to sit/stand/dance under the Arch - hang there - have their pixs taken and then RUN back out of the way - stayed here for about an 1/2 an hour watching and participating in that parade taking place.

    Def one of the easier hikes we did - we then headed over to the circus called the North and South Arch....didn't even get out of the car - WAY too many peeps there. :o

    Wish the weather would have been a wee bit better - all in all tho - made it to the Famous Arch and took our pixs.....
    Delicate Arch
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    While traveling through Moab to Breckenridge, Co. on vacay, we stopped at Arches for a quick hike and leg-stretch. Was my first visit to Arches, and I am already looking forward to a return trip and some extensive camp/hike/explore time. Really enjoyed ANP.

    Delicate is one of the premier arches, so with our limited visit time, we decided it would be perfect to crank out the short 3 miler that A.M.

    Loved the hike and arch...trail was much too crowded for my COMPLETE liking...but nonetheless the arch was SPECTACULAR!!!
    Delicate Arch
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    Arches - Canyonlands Trip November 2010
    Day 1 - Delicate Arch

    Day 2 - Corona Arch / Island in the Sky
    Day 3 - Windows / Needles District

    Left Flag at 6:00 AM with my Dad with hopes to make it to Moab in time to eat, see some sights and squeeze a Delicate Arch hike at sunset. Going down the hill toward Cameron, a magnificent sunrise was underway. I had an itch to shoot it but the power lines just west of the highway were a deterrent. My dad spotted a dirt road and went for it. Within two minutes we passed under the lines and we hopped out. Gray Mountain's upturned rock layers took on a beautiful pink-purple glow to match the clouds above it. Looking the other direction, snow-capped Humphrey's was catching some early morning rays. It was a good sign for the start of a great trip. Snapped off some shots and then continued on the trek northward.

    Didn't stop again until the turn-off for the Peabody Coalmine, which we took up to the top of Black Mesa to enjoy the view. Met a timid stray dog up there, poor guy was scrounging in the trash. Stared off into the expansive Plateau country and then sped off again, passing through Kayenta and then pulling off roadside to admire Agathla Peak. I just can't get over the wonder of these volcanic necks. The drive through Monument Valley was boring :sl: as always. Took an obligatory stop at the Redlands Overlook, then enjoyed the drop down the hill into Mexican Hat. Pulled out Baar's "Traveler's Guide to the Colorado Plateau" and started the geologic contemplation of the Raplee and Lime Ridge Anticlines. Took a brief stop on top of Lime Ridge to try to see the small syncline, were unsuccessful but would be redeemed on the drive home. Stopped again a couple minutes later to admire the Comb Ridge Monocline and it's mess of upturned strata. Once we hit Bluff, we put the pedal to the metal. The rocks get boring up around Blanding and Monticello, and we were ready to be in Moab, so roadside stops were eliminated. Dropping out of Monticello, the rocks get good again, but we chose to admire the buff sandstone beauty at 70 miles per hour.

    Upon reaching Moab, we drove up and down main street to scout the local restaurant scene before checking into the Red Stone Inn. After eating snacks all day, a feast was had at Fiesta Mexicana in preparation for the late afternoon scurry into Arches. Stopped briefly at the Arches visitor's center buy some souvenirs and then head up the hill into the park.

    Let me say that while Arches National Park is not huge in area or in grand scale compared to the Grand Canyon or Death Valley, it definitely packs a punch. Upon cresting the hill, the cliffs and fins of Park Avenue are mind blowing, and are just a taste of what is to come. We stopped at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, which in the late afternoon is spectacular. The La Sal Mountains tower in the south eastern sky, but then you have the Entrada Sandstone cliffs and monuments the other direction, with the Three Gossips being the center piece. To the east north east, the fins of the Windows area can be seen in the distance, just crying to be explored.

    The drive in continues its majesty with the cliffs of the Great Wall on left going on forever. The road drops through Courthouse Wash, and the Cottonwoods were showing their stunning yellow fall color. Balanced Rock pops up on the right, bending the mind with its massive head supported by a thin pedestal. We decided to check out Double Arch before making the trek out to Delicate. The scenery is gorgeous, but being so easily accessible, the park was busy on this saturday afternoon. The Windows trail head was packed full, but fortunately the Double Arch trail head a hundred yards further had only a couple cars.

    You can see Double Arch from the parking lot, but it's still worthwhile to walk up to it. Heck, its only two tenths of a mile, and it's hard to put into words how it feels to stand beneath it. It's overwhelming. The spans on the thing are in the neighborhood of a hundred feet wide and a hundred feet tall, so it's a towering spectacle. Contemplating the odds of these two huge arches forming in such a manner is mind-boggling. But of course, Delicate Arch was in the back of our minds. We spent a couple of minutes admiring Double Arch and trying to take pictures that didn't include Korean tourists, then headed out to the Delicate trail head.

    Being my first Delicate Arch hike, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. When we arrived, the parking lot looked near full. My dad said it looked less busy to him compared to the last time he was there, and two volunteer rangers were helping people park. We snagged a parking spot and headed out. The stagnant smell of the creek is obvious as you cross the bridge. Not sure if I would have built a ranch here, myself. The trail is typical of what you would expect for such a famous place: wide and smooth. Looks like a Grand Canyon corridor trail. And it's packed like a Grand Canyon corridor trail too. And people don't really look like hikers. Few have packs or hiking boots. Almost nobody carries water. Fortunately the weather was perfect so there wasn't anybody putting themselves at too much risk Evidently, NPS is doing some maintenance, putting in new culverts and whatnot. The slickrock section was fun. Saw some kids adding rocks to the top of the cairns. There were a couple of guys playing catch with a football. Yes, not a typical hike. The catwalk blasted out of a fin is a blast, then you turn the corner and there it is.

    There must have been 50 people gathered around Delicate Arch. I'll go out on a limb and say that pictures don't quite do the thing justice. It's just so perfect. The arch is a free-standing beauty, obviously a wonder of the world. But the setting it's in is perfection. This slickrock bowl creates a marvelous amphitheater for the viewing the most stunning beautiful arch in the world. There are even large slabs of rock for people to sit on, and nature put them there. Then there is the broad view behind the arch with the skyline of the La Sal Mountains. If there was anything that could persuade me that there is a god, this would be it. The setting is just unreal. It's a testament to the magic of nature.

    It was so beautiful, and there was ton of people to share it with. And there were lots of photographers with pro-grade dSLRs. The sun was getting low in the sky and a magnificent yellow light was cast across the arch and the bowl. Evidently the sunset scene at Delicate is much different from mid-day. The were no massive groups of people under the arch, most everyone hung back out of the respect for the photography. A couple times people would run down and get their pictures taken, but otherwise there were eons of time to shoot the arch without the human presence. My dad likened the vibe to "worshipers at a shrine." While there was no solitude that defines a typical "wilderness experience", there seemed to be a collective sense of respect from all that were there. People were willing to leave their selfish aside and let the arch be for the full enjoyment of all. Who really needs their picture taken at Delicate Arch, shouldn't the memory of the place be enough anyway?

    Eventually the sun went below the horizon and the light on the arch turned drab. In the western and northern corners of sky opposite the arch, shades of pink started to creep their way in. Everyone held their ground, waiting, knowing there was the potential for something special to happen. About fifteen minutes after the official sunset, the sun was still at work somewhere, and the western sky blew up bright pink, casting a most brilliant alpenglow over the arch. My heart was instantly warmed. Shutters fired on fifty different cameras. Some guy just had to run down there and pose for a picture, and the thought in heads of everyone else echoed silently, "Move! MOVE! Get outta there!" A couple moments later he made his way back up and the shutters flurried once more. It was an unforgettable light show, and definitely lived up to the expectations of what all were hoping for.

    The light soon dissipated, and darkness was quickly on its way. Headlamps were donned for the dark trek down. We let a large mass of the people get going before we left. A steady stream of headlamps could be seen going down the slickrock. When we reached the slickrock, headlights and taillights of cars could be seen going up the road. "Everyone's driving home from church," joked my dad. Climbing back up the hill between the slickrock and the trail head, we could see another small stream of headlamps descending. We weren't last ones out. We stopped for a minute to enjoy the night, and two guys passed by heading in to the arch, hiking in without headlamps of flashlights. We were soon back to the truck and headed back to our motel in Moab, where I quickly uploaded the days pictures onto the laptop and started processing.

    My experience at Delicate Arch was deeply satisfying. It is a wonder of nature that must be seen in person to truly appreciate. It's not a wilderness experience, but a pilgrimage to a mecca of the American southwest. I cannot wait to go back and see it again.
    Delicate Arch
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    While attending the Easter Jeep Safari my buddy and I made a side trip to Arches National Park. During our visit we made the hike over to Delicate Arch. The hike up follows the slick rock. There isn't much of a trail. Before long you arrive at the arch. I took a variety of pics from different angles and then we made our return. On the hike back down a quick storm passed through and dropped some hail on us. We made it back to the jeep and drove around the park a little more before heading back to town.

    Permit $$

    Arches National Park
    Vehicles: $10 (Good for 7 days) Fee Information

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Moab, take US191 north to the Arches National Park entrance station. Pay your fee, and continue down the main park road until you reach Cache Valley. Turn right off the main road to the Delicate Arch parking area (signed). There are restrooms at the trailhead. The trail begins on the northeast area of the parking area. Warning: the parking area is small, and the trail is quite popular during the spring and summer. If you plan to hike this trail, arrive early to get a parking spot.
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