Today I officially launch Hike of the Week. This is a way to highlight a seasonally appropriate hike at or near one of southern Utah’s national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion) that might tickle your fancy. The featured hikes will cover a wide range of aspects, from easy, fun for kids, hard, popular, lesser known, etc. One commonality? They’ll all be day hikes, have directions, tips, and of course photos. I plan to launch Backpack of the Month soon too, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
To start things off, we’re heading to Arches National Park and the slinky, really eye-catching Landscape Arch hike. This perfect late fall trail is an easy one, topping out at two miles roundtrip. A trail guide is available to alert hikers to specific details about this natural arch, which is longer than a football field. (Pause to insert heartfelt wow.) With its 290-foot span and thinnest part being a mere six feet, this arch catches the imaginations of many a photographer.
While not as famous as Delicate Arch, Landscape is still quite popular with visitors. Most days this trail is host to hordes of hikers, although right now is the end of the busy season at Arches. Fall is considered an excellent time to visit Utah’s parks because of the cooler temps in these desert climes as well as the spectacular lighting opportunities for shutterbugs. This brief video gives you an idea of the scale of the arch and the surrounding topography.
How to do this hike:
1) Head out from the Devil’s Garden Trailhead parking lot, which is located 19 miles north of the Park entrance. The 2-mile loop hike will likely take less than two hours depending on your rate of meander. It’s relatively flat the whole way, which is a huge part of its accessibility for different types of visitors. Make way for others, don’t hog the scenic spots, and take a a deep breath if you’re feeling too surrounded by other people. Everyone wants to see the cool stuff!
2) More challenging extension: Hike the entire Devil’s Garden Primitive Trail Loop. This 7.2-mile trail is highly undervisited due its length and strenuousness. Do not attempt it if afraid of heights, as there is high and narrow rock fin-traversing section. (Check out this video for a very good sense of what it’s like to walk that fin.) You will see about a dozen other arches as well as countless unique rock formations. Note that the signs point to the difficulty of this extended hike; pay attention to them if you’re not an experienced hiker. They’re there for a reason.
Tips on doing this hike:
1) Early morning is best for photos & to avoid crowds.
2) In the fall, be prepared for chilly early mornings and evenings. Midday should still be quite pleasant. As usual, check out the local weather ahead of time.
3) Kids, the less mobile, and inexperienced hikers can usually manage the easy hike to Landscape Arch. Pets are not welcome.
4) Go off season (November-March) for the most solitude.
5) Tiptoe through the crypto. Fragile Cryptobiotic soil is common in desert areas. It holds the soil together, takes a really long time to grow, and is a living organism. In other words, don’t crush it. Please stay on the trail.
Random facts about this hike:
1) A natural arch is defined as an exposed rock that has a hole naturally eroded, such as by the forces of rain and snow slowly chipping away bits and pieces of rock until one day they fall off in either miniscule shards or dramatically huge chunks. This happened to Landscape Arch in 1991, when a slab about 73 feet in length suddenly sheared off and fell. A natural bridge, by contrast, generally is formed by water running beneath it.