Delicate Arch: Go at sunset for one of the classic views in the park.
Hiked Saturday, October 6, 2013; reviewed October 20, 2012 See this review on Trip Advisor.
This year marked our third visit to Arches (we were also there in May 2007 and October 2009) and our second hike to Delicate Arch. The first time we hiked it in the late afternoon, but this time were went for the sunset show. We were not disappointed.
The hike itself is a little less than 2 miles from the parking area to Delicate Arch and an uphill climb most all of the way, climbing about 600 feet. The first part of the trail (half or a little more) is over a dirt and rock trail that winds its way through the desert and up and down over a few small undulations. There are a series of switchbacks that take you up to the next feature of the trail, and open slickrock expanse. There are cairns that mark the route along the slickrock and from here you can get some interesting views of the La Sal Mountains in the distance as well as the end-on view of Delicate Arch.
Somehow when we came off of the open slickrock we took a wrong turn and ended up on the west edge of the bowl below Delicate Arch. While this made for an interesting view, we had to work our way around the edge of the bowl and eventually rejoined the trail. Not a made detour, but longer and a little bit of work to get back down to the trail. This trail did have cairns on it, as well as many other hikers, so it must be a common alternative route. However, I would stick to the main trail as it is easier and provides a better initial view of the Arch (more on that in a minute). So, when you get to the end of the open slickrock portion of the trail, continue basically straight and you should start seeing cairns again (my guess is we either missed a cairn or one got knocked over).
The great thing about this trail is the end. Once you get to the end of the ledge, and make that final right turn, there sits Delicate Arch in all its glory. Delicate Arch is truly one of the iconic sights in all of the National Parks. The sandstone formations around the arch make for a natural amphitheater for viewing this wonder; the backdrop is sandstone and the La Sal Mountains in the distance just adds to the vista. You won’t be alone at Delicate Arch, particularly at sunset, but there is room enough to roam around and get views of the arch from various perspectives or just find a place to sit and enjoy the changing light on the arch.
Back on the main trail…the final portion of the trail works along behind a sandstone formation that block the view of Delicate Arch from the trail. The trail is on a ledge that does have a drop to it and a warning is often given to folks with a fear of heights and edges that this may not be for them. Well, I have a strong respect for edges with steep drops (for example there is no way I could hike to Angels Landing in Zion) but this part of the trail was no problem whatsoever for me. The ledge is wide enough that you can hug the wall if needed and folks can pass as needed.
The arch itself is fairly large, listed as 65 feet tall and it looks very sturdy viewed from the side, like when you reach the end of the trail. To get a better idea of the “delicate” nature of the arch, walk around the bowl to the “skinny” leg and look at the arch from the end-on view.
If you do come for sunset, make sure to have a light for the return trip. We left before the sun went down so we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset from the slickrock trail. Spectacular!
Note that the trail is very exposed, so a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and of course water are essential.
As mentioned, this trail takes you to one of the icons of Arches National Park. I think it is a wonderful hike to a simple magnificent Arch. Don’t miss it.
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