The Dye Clan
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  • TR: Apr 2012

Fiery Furnace Hike

An interpretive sign at the Fiery Furnace overlook.

There are two ways to visit the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park. You can go on a ranger-guided tour or on your own. Unfortunately they wouldn't let us go because Savannah is under 5, so we just went to the lookout.

Trip Report: April 13, 2012

The Fiery Furncae in Arches National Park

Colored by Iron

Most of the rocks in Arches National Park owe their brilliant color to the presence or absence of iron.

When iron oxidizes, similar to a nail rusting, it gives the rock a red color like here at the Fiery Furnace, where the sandstone fins glow like flames at sunset. Bands of white occur where water has removed the iron or bleached the rock through chemical reaction. Black, brown, or deep metallic purple streaks on stone faces are created by iron oxide, manganese oxide and clay interacting with bacteria and water. Green rocks form in an oxygen poor environment, such as a shallow lake, where iron is in a reduced or ferrous state.

Over millions of years the many colors of iron have painted the landscape of Arches National Park into the work of art visible today.

Trail Information

A short path to the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint offers views of the Fiery Furnace, Salt Valley and the La Sal Mountains.

Entry into the Fiery Furnace is restricted. For information on how to reserve a ranger-led tour visit www.recreation.gov, or stop at the Arches Visitor Center to learn about special hiking permits.

The Fiery Furncae in Arches National Park

It's Alive

Along the trails, you may notice patches of black crust on the soil (through early stages of development are nearly invisible). Known as "cryptobiotic crust," it is a mixture of cyanobacteria, mosses, lichen, fungi and algae.

This remarkable plant community holds the desert sands together, absorbs moisture, produces nutrients, and provides seedbeds for other plants to grow.

This crust is so fragile that one footprint can wipe out years of growth.

Please don't walk on it. Stay on trails!

The Fiery Furncae in Arches National Park

The Fiery Furnace

Contrary to its name, the Fiery Furnace is not a hot place. Named for the warm glow seen on the rocks in late afternoon, the Fiery Furnace is actually a maze of cool, shady canyons between towering sandstone walls. The chaos of fins, spires and canyons has been called "void, silent and almost uncanny in its solitude."

The many vertical rock walls - or fins - you see here are the result of movement, eons ago, far beneath the earth's surface. Over time erosion has been shaping the Fiery Furnace. Rain, snow and ice have deepened and widened the cracks, creating these towering fins.

The Fiery Furncae in Arches National Park
The Fiery Furncae in Arches National Park
The Fiery Furncae in Arches National Park