The Fiery Furnace Tour is the best guided tour in Arches National Park. The general public is not allowed in that area without a guide, and it's an interesting hike among the red rocks and fins, with a few hidden arches that you can't otherwise see.
Today we headed over to the Fiery Furnace trailhead for our noon tour. It's called Fiery Furnace because there is a reddish orange glow of these rocks in certain light that makes them look like flames.
We introduced ourselves as campground hosts to our ranger guide, Becky.
She assigned us the job of bringing up the rear and keeping the rest of the group in front of us.
Fiery Furnace is off limits to the public ...
unless you are on a ranger-guided tour ($10) or are issued a permit. It's really easy to get lost and extremely difficult to get people out if they get injured.
Off we went, all 29 of us, in single file.
The first part of the hike included some fairly easy up and downs ...
in beautiful scenery.
Then we started to get into the heart of the "furnace".
Now this is "Walk-through Bridge". What makes it a bridge rather than an arch?
According to our guide, bridges are formed by running water (rivers, streams, snow run-off), whereas arches are formed by seeping water that gets into the porous sandstone and freezes and expands breaking off bits and pieces over time.
This area behind the bridge is where the snowmelt water flows and thus how the bridge was eventually created.
But there was an arch in this "room". It's called "Crawl-through Arch" and our guide invited those that wanted to crawl to exit that way.
Linda & I chose to walk out and wait for everyone else.
On to our next highlight. On the way, we passed through this area.
Then our guide stopped to talk about a rare plant that is found in the sands of eroding Entrada sandstone. It's called Arches or Canyonlands Biscuitroot.
It doesn't look like much now. Our guide explained that snow covered the ground here in Arches for a month and a half this year which is extremely unusual. That along with the unusually cold weather has caused all the vegetation to be behind this year.
Anyway, the roots can be dried and pounded into flour - thus the name.
Carrying on .....
through narrow slots.
This one led out into Raven Canyon.
In Raven Canyon, we found Twin Arch ....
also known as Skull Arch (takes some imagination - the skull is upside down with the chin pointing up in the air).
One last shot of Raven Canyon before backtracking out and moving on.
Moving on through more impressive walls and slots. Cool, huh?
Back out into the sun. Now the difficulty of the hike increases a bit.
A trickier-than-it-looks crack crossing. Our guide explains safe methods and awaits on the other side to help.
Now for some ledge walking and more crack hopping.
There were various methods used to get past this part. We were warned to be careful of our step at the end as it is a place where ankles are fractured.
We all got through without any cracks of our own. And we came out in a place known as "The Garden" where we could see "Kissing Turtles Arch".
After a brief rest, we kept going. And I kept snapping photos.
We briefly came out on some rocks that overlooked part of the park to the south.
Then it was back through another tight slot.
There was usually something interesting at the end of each of those slots.
More narrow passages.
And then up and over and down - taking our time and being quite careful.
Between the climbing, ledges, crack-hopping, slick rocks, tight openings, and other tricky maneuvers, we had to work for views like this, ...
but it was quite worth it.
Once we got down with the rest of the group, we had this view back out behind us.
From the same spot, a little different angle back up to where we hiked from.
Still going ... and another tight squeeze.
Looking back, we came through that?!
Into another section.
And through yet another passage and along a ledge to find this.
That would be "Surprise Arch" which wasn't discovered until 1963. What a fantastic place.
We all could have sat there between the walls, under that arch for hours.
But, after another brief rest and moment of silence there, we backtracked and then took a different path and started a descent.
That was pretty much the last dicey part of the hike. But there was still more.
A good look at the black on the rocks called "Desert Varnish".
This "varnish" is the result of some complex science and interaction between minerals (mostly manganese) and organisms. It is this varnish that creates many of the black panels where rock art is carved producing area petroglyphs.
Carrying on, we passed under "Leaning Rock" which was a large boulder leaning against a wall. This was the view through the opening we walked through.
Nearing the end of our hike.
I'll end our tour with this final shot.
Our tour lasted a little over three hours. It was really enjoyable, but I think we might do it again with one of the rangers in a private tour or at least a smaller tour. The group was just a bit too large to hear everything.
With that said, we would definitely recommend everyone that is physically able take the Fiery Furnace tour. It is well worth it.