the delicate arch hike at arches national park

We entered Arches National Park just before noon, after having driven from Grand Junction and the scenic route along the Colorado River.  After sitting in line at the park entrance for about 15 minutes, we climbed to the top of the mesa using switchbacks along a steep road.  We didn’t spend any time at the Visitor’s Center because we were anxious to begin exploring, so I told Mike we’d have to come back down by 5:00 so I could get my cancellation stamp in my Passport book for the day. He agreed, but later wasn’t too pleased about it!

First, we came upon a group of monoliths including the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, the Tower of Babel, Sheep Rock and the Three Gossips.


Courthouse Towers, with Tower of Babel behind

I love what is called the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint; the landscape of what looks like sand dunes is actually stone.  In the distance we can see the snow-covered La Sal Mountains.


La Sal Mountains viewed from the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint


Petrified Dunes Viewpoint


La Sal Mountains viewed from the Petrified Dunes Viewpoint

At the 128-foot high Balanced Rock, the caprock of the hard Slick Rock Member of the Entrada Sandstone is perched upon a pedestal of mudstone. This softer Dewey Bridge Member of the Carmel Foundation weathers more quickly than the resistant rock above. Eventually, the faster-eroding Dewey Bridge will cause the collapse of Balanced Rock.


Balanced Rock

John Wesley Wolfe settled at the Wolfe Ranch in the late 1800s with his oldest son Fred.  A nagging leg injury from the Civil War prompted John to move west from Ohio, looking for a drier climate. He chose this tract of more than 100 acres along Salt Wash for its water and grassland, enough for a few cattle.


Corral at Wolfe Ranch

The Wolfes built a one-room cabin, a corral, and a small dam across Salt Wash.  For nearly a decade, they lived alone on the remote ranch.


Wolfe Ranch

In 1906, John’s daughter Flora Stanley, her husband and their children moved to the ranch.  Shocked at the primitive conditions, Flora convinced her father to build a new cabin with a wood floor – the cabin that sits here today.

The reunited family weathered a few more years in Utah and in 1910 returned to Ohio. John Wolfe died on October 22, 1913, in Etna, Ohio, at the age of 84.


Wolfe Ranch

The strenuous Delicate Arch Trail begins at Wolfe Ranch, crosses a bridge near Salt Wash, and continues up a long stretch of open slickrock to Delicate Arch. The trail also winds through an area full of chert – a hard, shiny rock used by Native Americans for tools and weapons – and around a short ledge, hugging a steep cliff.


starting up the Delicate Arch Trail


slickrock on the Delicate Arch Trail


steps carved into the slickrock


looking back down on the parking lot


Mike on the Delicate Arch Trail


the Delicate Arch Trail looking down to the parking lot


Along the Delicate Arch Trail – the La Sal Mountains


gnarled juniper along the Delicate Arch trail


more gnarled juniper

After climbing what seems like an eternity up the slickrock, we now walk along a ledge with a steep drop-off.  The ledge is to the right in the photo below.


The Delicate Arch Trail – the ledge we walked shown to the right


canyon below the ledge at Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch, an isolated remnant of a bygone fin, stands on the brink of a canyon, with the dramatic La Sal Mountains as a backdrop.


Delicate Arch


Delicate Arch


the carved out stone around Delicate Arch


Delicate Arch


the canyon below the ledge


me with my gnarled juniper


walking back down


close up of rock


salt flats


textured rock

The Delicate Arch Trail is considered a difficult trail, as it has no shade and some exposure to heights.  Elevation change is 480 feet (146 meters).  We followed rock cairns on the steep slickrock slope and the trail leveled out toward the top of the rock face.  Just before you reach Delicate Arch, the trail traverses a rock ledge for about 200 yards (183 meters).

We actually walked 3.65 miles over 2 hours and we were quite exhausted after all of it.  Some parts, especially along the ledge, were quite scary.

After the hike, we drove past several more viewpoints and then, before we could do our last hike at Park Avenue, I insisted that we drive back down to the Visitor’s Center to get my cancellation stamp for today!


my stamps in the National Parks passport

*Tuesday, May 8, 2018*


On Sundays, I plan to post various walks that I took on our Four Corners trip as well as hikes I take locally while training for the Camino de Santiago; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: A Tall Ships Treat.