Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks
by Bill Schneider (Falcon Guides)
© 2017 Bill Schneider/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This trail is spectacular and has some really great views. Easily done in a day and it's best if you start around 6 or 7 a.m. to avoid some of the crowd and the heat. Arches has over 3,000 people visit this park everyday, 365 days / year. The beginning is easy and gradually becomes more difficult for inexperienced hikers. Follow the loop to Double-O Arch, maybe rest there, and then head back to the trailhead/parking lot.
This is a great little day hike. Anyone in good shape can make this hike including the primitive loop. The scenery is fascinating, with a lot of variety. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as well. We saw lots of deer tracks but none with the deer still in them. We did see a coyote slinking off through the sage. A great variety of arches, towers, walls, and other features. A lot of scenery packed into 7 miles.
This was easily the best hike I've ever taken, although that may be due to the fact that it was the first long hike I've taken in redrock country. The first mile is on a wide, well-groomed gravel path, turning to deep sand right beneath Landscape Arch. From here it gets fun. Heading clockwise towards Double O Arch, the trail squeezes through narrow canyons, climbs bulging sandstone hills, and even climbs up and along the back of a narrow rock fin, providing spectacular 360-degree views (watch for a step carved into the rock at waist-level; going this direction it's about the only thing that lets you know where the trail goes). Just past the rock fin you'll catch your first glimpse of Double O Arch. We were pressed for time, so didn't take the spur trail to Dark Angel, instead continuing along the now primitive trail. Take care to watch out for cairns, as it would be rather easy to lose the trail without realizing it through here. The spur out to Private Arch was a great highlight, tons of neat stuff all around (not to mention a great view of the spires with the LaSal Mtns in the background). Back on the primitive trail, it gets a bit hairy for a bit. I wouldn't want to be out here in the rain, but when dry the rock is super-grippy, making all these steep climbs a breeze. Soon the trail moves into a wash, then heads gradually uphill towards Landscape Arch. There's not a lot of shade along this route so enjoy it when you find it! We saw only 2 other hikers while on the primitive trail, probably thanks to the fact that we started around 3pm.
If you've got kids with you, or if you're afraid of heights, I would recommend turning around after Landscape Arch. If you're looking for adventure, and you've got the energy, do the whole loop. It is far and away the most fun I've ever had while hiking, not to mention incredibly scenic every step of the way.
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