Friday, June 28, 2013

Delicate Arch

If not the best known arch in the world, Delicate Arch certainly qualifies as the most iconic rock formation in Arches National Park.

The hike to the arch begins from the Wolfe Ranch parking area, located in the east-central portion of the park. If you wish to go home with some great photos the park recommends hiking the trail in the late afternoon. However, summer afternoons are usually quite hot. You may want to consider hiking in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are a little cooler and the crowds are a little thinner.

The first stop on the trail is the Wolfe Ranch. John Wesley Wolfe settled at this location in the late 1800s, and was joined by his family in 1906. Although the cabin they built on this 100+ acre homestead was a little rustic, it was still stocked with fine china ordered from the Sears Catalog.

Beyond the cabin is a petroglyph panel depicting bighorn sheep and Ute hunters on horseback. It was carved sometime between 1650 and 1850. The side path leading to the petroglyph re-joins the main trail further up-trail, and can be taken on your return trip from the arch if you prefer.

The first three-quarters of a mile are relatively flat as the trail passes through desert scrub, but then turns sharply up a steep, slickrock slope. Hikers should keep an eye out for rock cairns to help guide the way for most of the remainder of the route (or just follow the crowds - see photo below!). After climbing for roughly a half-mile the trail levels out. However, just before reaching Delicate Arch, the path traverses a rock ledge for about 200 yards while passing over a fairly steep drop-off.

Once past this section Delicate Arch comes into view for the first time:

Delicate Arch stands 65-feet high, has an opening roughly 46 feet in height, and a width of nearly 32 feet. In the background, roughly 35 miles away, are the La Sal Mountains.

With virtually no shade along the way, this can be a very hot hike. Hikers should take at least 1 quart of water per person, as well as plenty of sunscreen.

Trail: Delicate Arch
Roundtrip Distance: 3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 535 feet
Max Elevation: 4820 Feet
TH Location: Wolfe Ranch
Map: Arches NP Trails Illustrated Map

Best Easy Day Hikes Canyonlands and Arches National Parks: this fully updated and revised edition includes trail descriptions and maps of the best short hikes that venture into some of the most scenic sections of Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.

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