In March and April of 2008 and 2009, we were privileged to be campground hosts in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. In those four months we hiked every trail in the park, and we can tell you that the Devil's Garden Trail is the best one. We hiked it three times and this was the first of those opportunities. Later, we took friends and family that visited on this hike - (photo below). It's worth the effort if you are up for the whole thing, but you can also do a fairly easy two-mile roundtrip and at least see Landscape Arch, the longest span of natural arch in the United States and fifth longest in the world.
We walked from the Devil's Garden Campground in Arches National Park to the Devil's Garden Trailhead.
The Devil's Garden Trail is the best trail in the park. On the main trail and side trails here, you can see more arches on a single hike than anywhere else at Arches.
On the first side trail, we took in Tunnel Arch.
In another direction off the same side trail we found Pine Tree Arch.
Moving back to the main trail, here is a good look at one of the many "fins" created by erosion.
Further erosion in these fins over many, many years may result in arches.
Another view from the main trail.
Now this is Landscape Arch. It is one that many people come to see.
Depending on where you find the information, the span of this arch is somewhere between 290 and 306 feet. According to NaturalArches.org, it is 290 feet and the longest known natural arch in the U.S.
In 1991, a portion of Landscape Arch fell. Another portion fell again in 1995. So this natural wonder could collapse at any time - better come and see it while you can.
Landscape Arch is a relatively easy 2 mile roundtrip hike from the Devil's Garden Trailhead parking lot.
After Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more primitive and more difficult, but no less spectacular.
Right next to the trail is Wall Arch.
NOTE: Wall Arch collapsed a few months after that photo was taken. It fell on August 4, 2008, and the trail had to be re-routed. Here is the photo post-collapse.
Shortly after Wall Arch, we found this little hole that looked like a mini-arch.
But there are rules, and it can't be called an arch unless it has at least a three foot opening.
I just threw in this next one. All the trails are marked with these little piles of rocks called "cairns".
As we climbed, sometimes we had to remind ourselves to look behind us as there are views everywhere you look.
Soon, another side trail took us to Partition Arch.
This was Linda's favorite on our entire hike.
Because of views like this.
After a little bite to eat at Partition Arch, we headed toward another arch on the side trail.
But first we stopped to take some pictures of the Mule Deer we encountered.
After the deer, there was more scenery. These fabulous blue skies just made my picture snapping finger go out of control. :)
We eventually made it to Navajo Arch.
It's incredible that these thick sections of rock can erode away creating these arches.
We walked back to the main trail. We came across more people enjoying the fabulous views.
This was my least favorite part of the trail - hiking across about a 10 foot "rock fin". It was windy and there are no rails.
As Linda walked along in front, I stopped every once in a while for a shaky knees photo. Linda's on the left in this one - scary but beautiful.
After we thankfully got off the top of the rock fin, we stopped briefly at the Black Arch Overlook.
Hard to tell, but that black hole in the middle of the pic below is an arch - Black Arch.
Looking back at more fins.
It was getting later and later and the sun was in the wrong place when we arrived at Double O Arch - a big arch coupled with a little arch below it on the right.
Linda took some time for a .... moment with nature while I climbed down in front of the arch. I took this shot looking back away from the arch.
Now, it was a challenge, but Linda and I climbed through the small O, and ascended to a position "behind" the arch. Now we're talking!
Double O Arch is two miles from the trailhead (four miles roundtrip). At this point we could turn and go back the way we came, continue on the main trail to the end, or take the primitive trail loop back.
We opted to go to the end of the trail at the Dark Angel pillar (on the left).
Dark Angel was another half mile farther or 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead.
Whew! With all the side trips, we had hiked about 4.3 miles.
Since we are over half way at this point, I guess we'll throw in some photos of a secret place we found based on some inside information.
We hiked down some rocks in search of our destination.
We were told to look for a box and log book in an area I can't disclose to you. Well, we didn't find the box right away, but we found this sign.
It says "You've Found Something Unique, Please Preserve It". And this is what we found - beautiful petroglyphs.
After admiring this rock art for quite some time, we eventually found the box and logged in our visit.
Not many people get to see this part of the park. It is not publicized so that it may be protected. Really, really cool.
All I can tell you is that this secret spot is somewhere in the 2 1/2 miles between the trailhead and Dark Angel.
Okay. After Dark Angel, we went back to Double O Arch.
We decided to take the more difficult primitive trail loop from that point. Our hike would go through here.
The primitive trail took us by a couple of arches that are not shown or named on the trail map. This is one.
Another look at rows of fins.
There is only one side trail on the primitive loop. And it takes you to Private Arch.
It was indeed private. It would take a lot of exploring to find that one. This shot is from a large protected area behind the arch.
Back on the primitive trail, we had to do a bit of scrambling and butt-sliding on some very tricky terrain.
The primitive loop requires sure-footedness and good tread on your shoes ... and pants too for that matter.
I just called this Submarine Rock, though I don't know if has a name.
More great views.
The loop finally started heading toward the main trail. We were getting pretty tired by that point. But that didn't stop us from snapping a few more shots along the way.
Clouds were starting to roll in over the mountains. But they made a good backdrop.
We were going on six hours of hiking by now as I just couldn't quit stopping and taking more pictures. Here's another one I like as the La Sal Mountains are shrouded in clouds and on the verge of getting snow.
Once the primitive trail intersected the main trail at Landscape Arch, we still had almost a mile to go. But we took it slow and steady and eventually made it.
Whew! We were exhausted by now. We exited the Devil's Garden trails and headed back to the campground.
After six hours, a dozen arches, and eight miles we were ready to call it a day. But oh what a day it was.