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Delicate Arch Trail

Intermediate
 4.7 (257) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

Sure, you've seen the pictures, but an in-person visit to this über-classic arch is not to be missed


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Map Key

3.1

Miles

5.0

KM

Out and Back

4,816' 1,468 m

High

4,307' 1,313 m

Low

567' 173 m

Up

567' 173 m

Down

7%

Avg Grade (4°)

32%

Max Grade (18°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views

Overview

Delicate Arch is a magnificent, free-standing arch recognized the world over. This trail to its base is fun-filled and unique- visiting petroglyphs and a smaller arch, climbing slickrock hillsides and traversing an exciting, exposed ledge.

Need to Know

Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards. This part is not scary for those without an extreme fear of heights, but a stumble here could have consequences.

Description

It is a given that everyone wants to see the Delicate Arch with their own eyes, right? But not everyone has the same time available or physical abilities. So there are 3 good options:

1.) Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail: short, flat, paved, wheelchairs OK.
2.) Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail: moderate half mile climb to viewpoint on cliffs across from the arch
3.) Delicate Arch Trail: more strenuous, 3 mile round trip to the base of Delicate Arch (described in detail below)

This is a trail description for the Delicate Arch Trail (to the base of the arch): starting from the parking lot at Wolfe Ranch, head northeast on the wide trail over mostly level ground. Almost immediately on the left, you'll pass the Old Wolfe Ranch (log cabin, root cellar, and corral used in the late 1800's). A bridge over the overgrown Salt Wash brings you to the Petroglyph Interpretive Trail. This easy loop visits a small panel of carved Ute Indian petroglyphs thought to be created after these native people acquired horses in the 1600's.

Continue on the Delicate Arch trail through dry desert terrain, occasionally passing stunted trees or rock piles providing welcome shade. Take these rare opportunities when you can, there is hardly any shade on this trail. Start ascending up red dirt hillsides before arriving at enormous tan slickrock slabs. This part of the trail crosses open rock with the route marked only with cairns. Keep an eye out for these rock piles, but if you lose the trail it helps to look for others on the trail or simply head uphill- you are likely to come across the path again.

Finally, the grade eases a bit and you leave the crevassed slickrock behind to climb smooth sandstone on the final approach to the arch. Follow the airy stone ramp on a slight incline as it contours around the backside of an imposing rock tower. This exposed part lasts about 200 yards but the path surface is about 3 feet wide at it's narrowest, so don't let this discourage you from completing this superlative trail.

Emerge through a break in the formation to be dazzled by the Delicate Arch in all its glory. One of the best features of this trail is the surprise reveal saved for the very end! Delicate Arch presides over an amphitheater-like bowl that can become over-run with admirers. It used to be part of the upper Entradea sandstone fin before erosion and wind weathered away the sandstone to leave what we see today. When you are finished ogling the arch, retrace your steps back to Wolfe Ranch. Unless you are more observant than most, you likely missed Frame Arch just around the corner (on the main path to Delicate Arch). This is worth looking for on the return trip and is also a favorite place to frame pictures of Delicate Arch through its window.

Some words to the wise: take at least 1 quart (1 liter) of water per person, wear a hat, use sunscreen, take breaks. Visit early or late in the day if you want to avoid the crowds on this extremely popular trail. Late afternoon is thought to be the best time to photograph Delicate Arch for the best color. Note: no bikes allowed on this trail.

Contacts

Shared By:

Megan W

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 257 votes

#42

Overall
  4.7 from 257 votes
5 Star
74%
4 Star
24%
3 Star
1%
2 Star
2%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#8

in Utah

#42

Overall
273 Views Last Month
14,391 Since Mar 5, 2015
Intermediate

3%
3%
77%
2%
15%
0%

Photos

Moon with Delicate Arch
Nov 2, 2017 near Moab, UT
Delicate Arch. Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
May 13, 2016 near Moab, UT
Arches National Park, UT. Getting some early season hiking in!
Apr 17, 2016 near Moab, UT
Yes, they are adorable, but don't feed them!  Hopi Chipmunk
Mar 8, 2015 near Moab, UT
The ledge here is very do-able and certainly unique
Mar 8, 2015 near Moab, UT
Delicate Arch in Winter - Worth the hike
Jan 5, 2018 near Moab, UT

Weather


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Oct 18, 2021
Oct 25, 2020
Jenny Van Veen
Oct 23, 2020
Jenny Van Veen
Oct 17, 2020
Lily Adams
Oct 11, 2020
Laurent Besson
Oct 6, 2020
Mo Brown
Sep 30, 2020
Gretchen Walker
Arches NP
Sep 22, 2020
Kylie Kuhns