Hike of the Week — Delicate Arch

Things to Do, What's New — By julietrevelyan on December 17, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Yes, that Delicate Arch. The most famous natural symbol of Utah, found in gorgeous Arches National Park. The photo you’ve seen many times in your life, half the time without realizing it. That most lovely, most striking, most, well, delicate-looking of natural arches. Don’t knock it just cuz it’s all famous-like. This is a great hike anytime, and if the weather doesn’t make it treacherous, a really fantastic winter hike.

[photo courtesy of anoldent]

How to do this hike:

1. From the main road, drive to the Wolfe Ranch parking area and deposit your vehicle. If it’s really crowded, which can be likely in the summer, you may have to park along the spur road. You’ll probably have it to yourself in the winter. The 3-mile roundtrip trail takes off from here.

2. Be prepared for a steady uphill incline. The elevation gain is only 480 feet, but it seems like more because you ascend it the entire way. Stairs have been carved out in some sections.

[photo courtesy of deansouglass]

3. Be a good natural arch-hiker and don’t spend lots of time underneath the arch itself when you reach it. Why? Because that ruins the picture-taking for other people. Go underneath it if you want, have your photo snapped, then step away. This amazing feature is world-famous, and plenty of of visitors will never come back again–so let them have their chance to photograph it without you starring in their memories. Of course, again, in the wintertime this will likely be a moot point.

Tips on doing this hike:

1. Before your hike, take a few minutes to check out the Ute Indian rock art panel at Wolfe Ranch. It depicts horseback riders on a bighorn sheep hunt, which is kind of cool. There’s a clearly-marked trail to it.

2. Winter is a fun time for Delicate Arch because days can be mild (but don’t always count on that!), people almost nonexistent, and the air even more clear than usual, leading to fabulous photos. Summer days can be brutally hot, so I don’t recommend a midday hike then. Mornings and evenings are great. Spring and fall, as usual, are perhaps the best seasons.

3. The last part of the hike is along a blasted-out section of slickrock that has a drop-off. There’s really no need to worry, it’s a fairly wide pathway, but keep your wits and your kids about you as you traverse it.

[photo courtesy of sundancekid]

Random facts about this hike:

1. Delicate Arch is 52 feet tall.  It seems a lot taller, probably because it’s a beautifully squished-together arch, rather than a long, broad one.

2. The nearby John Wesley Wolfe Ranch dates from 1888. It was abandoned in 1910.

3. Delicate Arch is featured on Utah’s Centennial license plate, was on a 1996 commemorative stamp, and had the 2002 Olympic Torch pass beneath it.

[photo courtesy of ArtBrom]

Tags: Arches National Park, hike, Hike of the Week, hiking, natural arch, winter, winter hike, winter hiking

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