Arches, UT

I woke up obscenely early to exfiltrate my damn campsite in the dark and make my way into Arches by 6:17am sunrise. I felt like I was sneaking out of there, so that I wouldn’t disturb any other campers.

On the way there, I saw approximately nothing except dark blobs, until the sun finally rose.

The golden-swirled sunrise cast itself against the waving and distorted rock formations. With first light, I began an 8 mile hike through the Devil’s Garden Loop, taking every offshoot I could to see more named arches.

One of the best sunrises I have ever seen.

A deer presented itself and posed for me in the middle of an archway at dawn, then quietly walked away. A quiet moment in the middle of this vast and scenic setting. Another deer came tromping out of the bushes just to startle me, staring at me, and even seemed to glare as I snuck past him on the trail.

The lovely deer that posed for me.

I ended up hiking the first half of this loop inadvertently with some French tourists, young people. The trail was not very well marked in the least, maybe due to the fact that most of the ground was sheer stone, hard to chisel signposts into. So together we found our way over the odd twists in the trail, and we eventually diverged at the Dark Angel formation. Thanks, y’all. You were helpful!

A wide view of the famous Landscape Arch, for scale against the surrounding landscape.
The Landscape Arch, the 5th longest arch in the world (China takes the top 4). The right side of the arch caved in just a few decades ago. This place is still constantly under change. Who knows how long this arch will be standing?
A Window to the Desert
The Dark Angel formation. This is about halfway on the Devil’s Garden trail, 4 miles into the loop. This can be seen from a good distance away.

I found a gloriously quiet spot on top of a rock fin just up and off the trail from Private Arch (aptly named due to its distance off the main primitive trail). It was silent, utterly so, except for the birds in the great and sculpted expanse out there. I sat there for a long time and just listened. Until I heard a fucking yodel from some tourists way up on an earlier ridge. Then, it was time to leave. Peace completely shattered, unfortunately.

So quiet. An interesting view for sure, and one of the most memorable spots I have come across.
Up the fin from Private Arch. The rock is sheer, so watch your step.
Some parts of this trail are very secluded, which was absolutely amazing.
If you are not comfortable with navigating a sparsely marked trail, I would not recommend the back half of the Devil’s Garden Loop. After heading clockwise from Private Arch, the trail becomes primitive, and at times involves a bit of rock climbing/scrambling. There are only rock cairns to lead the way.
Walking down the narrow, sheer slope on the left side of this picture, between a couple rock fins.
Most of Arches looks like this, with those snowy mountains in the distance.

Somehow, I managed to hike another 3 miles out and back to Delicate Arch on a different trail (which is the touristy arch, it turns out). It was crowded, and a sloughing trek up the stubbornly inclined rock face, but it ended with a great view. It was difficult to get a shot of Delicate Arch without the tourists in the frame, but I’ll remember the sight of it, the window of the desert and the snowy mountains framed behind it.

The hike up this huge stinking rock nearly killed me. It’s just a constant slope upward after a certain point, and under the sun, it took it out of me. Probably shouldn’t have attempted this after already hiking 8 miles, but I did.
The famous Delicate Arch, the one on all the Utah license plates. What you don’t see: the line of tourists just to the left of the arch waiting to take their picture under it. This was one of the maybe two moments that the arch was clear for me to take a picture in the half hour I sat there resting. Go early if you want a clear shot, and some peace.
The path near the top of the trail is very exposed, if only for a short time. If you’re not comfortable with this, I wouldn’t recommend it. Hold onto your kids if you insist on bringing them up to the arch.
Somewhere down there is the parking lot?

I marched back down to my car, and had a well-deserved bacon cheeseburger and Golden Spike beer back at the Moab Grille. An amazing meal in an amazing town at the end of a long hike. Would really recommend.

The aforementioned beer in all its delicious glory!

As a side note, visit the Moab rock shop! You’ll know it when you see it. It’s almost like a museum, and I had to stop myself from buying everything in there. Pretty cool detour if you have a few minutes!

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