The Dye Clan
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  • TR: Apr 2012
  • TR: Jul 2000

Delicate Arch Hike

Zac, Bryce, Tara, Jeremy, and Savannah in front of Delicate Arch.

The delicate arch in Arches National Park has to be one of the most famous arches in the word. When we hiked to the delicate arch in June of 2000, we left pretty late in the evening. By the time we arrived at the arch, the sun had already set, and it was getting dark. Luckily the trail was easy enough to follow, even in the dark. Where the trail crosses sandstone, rock cairns mark the way. There were tons of bats swooping around our heads on the return trip.

Trip Report: April 13, 2012


Delicate Arch in Arches National Park at EveryTrail

We hiked to the Delicate Arch on April 13, 2012. On the hike were Zac, Bryce, Jeremy, Tara, and Savannah. The parking lot was completely full, so we had to park on the shoulder of the road in the no parking zone.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Remnants of the Past

A short walk up the trail brings you to the Wolfe cabin. John Wesley Wolfe and his son Fred settled on the banks of Salt Wash around 1898. Drawn by the climate, which was drier and "healthier" than their previous home in Ohio, John and Fred spent more than a decade leading lives of solitude and hard work.

Beyond the cabing you can see rock art created by the Ute people depicting a hunting scene with riders on horseback from around the 1700s.

While the human story goes back thousands of years, the geologic story reaches much further. The remnant of rock born about 150 million years ago currently known as Delicate Arch, serves as most travelers' destination. Surrounded by sky and pierced by nature, Delicate Arch stands as an iconic image of Arches National Park.

Trail Information

The trail leading to Delicate Arch is 3 miles (4.8 km) round-trip and features a 480 foot (146 meter) elevation gain with no shade. The trail is well defined for about the first half mile then steeply climbs up an open slickrock slope. Just before reaching the arch, the trail traverses a rock ledge for about 200 yards (183 meters). Follow the cairns.

This trail can be strenuous, especially during hot weather. Carry and drink at least 2 liters of water per person.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Delicate Arch Trail

This moderately strenuous trail begins near the Wolfe Ranch cabin, crosses a bridge over Salt Wash, and continues up the 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.

Trail Data

  • Length: 1.5 miles (2.4 km) one way.
  • Elevation Change: 480 feet (146 meters) all uphill. Return - all downhill.
  • Starting and Ending Point: Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot.
  • Best Time of Day: Late afternoon is best for photographing the arch; mornings are cooler.

Be Prepared!

  • It is critical that each hiker carry and drink at least one quart (one liter) of water on this hike.
  • Trails are marked by cairns (small piles of rocks). Look carefully for cairns over the slickrock.
  • Wear comfortable footwear, such as hiking boots or athletic shoes. Avoid shoes with open toes, high heels, or slick soles.
  • Use extreme caution on the slickrock. In winter, it can be very icy and slippery. Be careful.
  • Dress for the weather. In summer, there is no shade and the sun beats down relentlessly on the slickrock and hikers.
  • If you become lost, find a shady spot and wait for someone to come to you.
  • Return to your vehicle when lightning storms are near.
  • Use caution when trails are wet, icy, or snowy.

Trail Rules

  • Pets, motorcycles, and bicycles are not permitted on trails or in the backcountry.
  • Carry out all trash.
  • All park features - both natural and cultural - are protected by law. Leave everything as you find it.
  • Firearms must not be discharged in the park.
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Wolfe Ranch

John Wesley Wolfe settles here 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 Wach for its water and grassland - enough for a few cattle.

The Wolfes built a one-room cabin, a corral, and a small dam across Salt Wash. For more than a decade they lived alone on the remote 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 cabing with a wood floor - the cabin you see 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 eighty-four.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Ute Rock Art

The stylized horse and rider surrounded by bighorn sheep and dog-like animals is typical of Ute rock art. Carved sometime between A.D. 1650 and 1850, these petroglyphs are visible along the vertical wall ahead.

Today, this rock art panel is important to many Native Americans of this region because it was created by their ancestors. Help protect the rock ary by not touching it. Oils from your skin hasten the deterioration of these fragile and irreplaceable cultural resources.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Looking back at the trailhead from the petroglyphs.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Savannah loved drinking out of the camelback.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

The people hiking up the slickrock reminded us of ants walking in a line. "The ants go marching one by one..."

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

We tried to convice Bryce that this small arch was what everyone was coming to see, but he didn't buy it.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Just in case the line of people wasn't enough to show you where to hike...

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

We ran into the Blackburns. Small world.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Rock cairns.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Here's the start of the rock ledge right before getting to Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

The trail passes right next to Frame Arch, which is named because you can frame Delicate Arch. It's also called Twisted Donut Arch - no explanation necessary.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

And off in the distance you can see another arch to the left. I can't find the name of it anywhere.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

This is the ledge across the cliff. I don't understand how it could be difficult for anyone becuase it's basically a rock sidewalk.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

And here's the picture of Delicate Arch that everyone else takes. Yay!

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Group shot in front of the arch.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Zac and Bryce took about a million pictures of this little chipmunk.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

It was pretty windy, so we hunkered down under some rocks while we ate some snacks.

Delicate Arch Hike in Arches National Park

Total round-trip time for us was 1 hour 32 minutes.

Trip Report: July 2000

We stopped in Arches on the way home from Arkansas.

We decided to hike to the Delicate Arch in the evening when it was cooler. Well, it soon got dark, and we didn't have any flashlights. But we forged ahead. Even when the people coming back warned us to turn around.

I remember bats swooping around us on the hike back and looking for rock cairns in the dark. Great fun.