Delicate Arch

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by btwood2 on December 13, 2006

Distance: 1.0 mile round trip
Elevation gain: 200 feet

The ranger was skeptical that the road to Delicate Arch would open soon. More rain expected; road and trail damage already extensive. She and her truck were guarding the closed gate past the turnoff. A sign warned of massive flooding, and prosecution of those caught attempting to walk in. We’d missed this famous arch last time, and it appeared we’d miss it again now.

Not so fast. Six days later found us attempting access again, after learning at the visitor center that the road had opened. The trail to Delicate Arch is moderately strenuous, steadily uphill on slickrock. It’s the only way to get right to and underneath Delicate Arch. I suggested to Bob that I hike it, while he drive to the viewpoint, further up the road. He was not enamored of this idea, however, recalling the last time I’d hiked off somewhere and he ended up waiting an hour for me.

I was pretty miffed when Bob and I got to the viewpoint, the wimpy way to see Delicate Arch. Indeed, the lower viewpoint visible from the parking lot was not that exciting, and I started up the trail to upper viewpoint. The trail winds gradually up, with steps in steeper areas. It reaches a wide-open slickrock slope, where Delicate Arch is visible. I jealously peered through my binoculars at hikers enjoying the arch. One tiny figure stood directly under it, legs wide and arms outstretched.

Soon I noticed rock cairns on the other side of the ledge, and hopped over to see yet more cairns, leading to the edge of the chasm. This was more like it! I was amazed to find myself the only person to partake of this breathtaking view. Not only was Delicate Arch closer, but Winter Camp Wash below was full of interesting landforms. Yellowing cottonwoods lined the muddy-red wash. An imposing massive monolith jutted skywards, behind which lay a light-colored bowl, ringed in darker reds and browns.

After a couple of hikers joined me on the cliff’s edge, I walkie-talkied Bob to get on over, telling him to follow the cairns. All this time clouds had been billowing in from the west, and as they blotted out the sun, the wind blew harder, making me shiver. "Oh, great" muttered Bob, "now I’m here and the sun’s gone". I left him waiting for sunlight as I made my way down.

Halfway down I met a ranger leading a group of photographers to the viewpoint for sunset photos. With the clouds, the sunset could be really spectacular, or… increasing darkness and sounds of thunder. I was at the lower viewpoint, Bob coming down, when a ranger drove up and urged everyone to their cars.

No sooner were we inside the car than the deluge hit. Nothing like perfect timing! Flashes of lightning and drenching rain made me glad I hadn’t insisted on hiking alone to Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch
Arches National Park
Moab, Utah

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