This second most popular trail in Arches has a well deserved reputation for amazing scenery in a wonderfully remote setting. This is your chance to visit 8 named arches and with keen eyes you'll spot many more.
Take at least 1 quart (1 liter) of water per person, wear a hat, use sunscreen, take breaks, be self-sufficient. Visit early or late in the day if you want to avoid the crowds on the main part of this extremely popular trail. Late afternoon is thought to be the best time to photograph the fins in Devils Garden for the best color. No bikes are allowed on this trail.
This featured hike consists of first taking the busy Devils Garden Main Trail
, then escaping the hordes by completing the Devils Garden Primitive Loop
in the clockwise direction and returning to the parking lot on the Devils Garden Main Trail
. The distances listed do not include additional mileage from the numerous spur trails which are among the highlights of this outing.
From the Devils Garden trailhead, take the initially smooth path over mostly level ground between rock fins. Almost immediately, a signed fork announces the turnoff for Tunnel Arch Trail
and Pine Tree Arch Trail
. These short, easy detours are highly recommended. Return to the Devils Garden Main Trail
, heading northwest through more widely spaced rock fin valleys.
At the next trail junction, stay left on the Devils Garden Main Trail
towards Landscape Arch Trail
, for now ignoring the Devils Garden Primitive Loop
trail that heads north. From here, take the smooth path to Landscape Arch Trail
and its spectacular viewpoint (more details about this impressive arch can be found on the Landscape Arch Trail
trail page). The part of the Devils Garden Main Trail
to Landscape arch is non-taxing and very family-friendly, but past this point be advised to keep kids under close supervision.
Back on the Devils Garden Main Trail
, expect increased challenges as your route climbs over sandstone slabs and traverses narrow ledges with some exposure to heights. Carefully follow rock pile cairns and foot traffic wear marks on the slickrock to stay on the correct route. Soon, you have the option to take the short spurs Partition Arch Trail
and Navajo Arch Trail
to the southwest. These arches often have shade and make worthwhile detours, but if you're out of stamina or time it is OK to bypass them.
Further along the undulating Devils Garden Main Trail
, cross more fins hiking over exposed, sun-baked ground. After a sharp hairpin bend around the end of a fin, the Devils Garden Main Trail
ends at a 3 way junction with the Dark Angel Trail
and the Devils Garden Primitive Loop
. If you've got lots of time and energy left, visit Dark Angel and then tackle the more rugged Devils Garden Primitive Loop
. If you're already down for the count, better retrace your steps back to the parking area.
The start of the Devils Garden Primitive Loop
Trail is marked with a "Caution: Primitive Trail, Difficult Hiking" warning sign. It is worth evaluating your water levels and experience over the last half of the Devils Garden Main Trail
: if you were terrified, don't do the Primitive Loop. If you still feel energetic and successfully conquered the challenges of the Main Trail with aplomb, then you'll likely find the Primitive Loop to be similarly enjoyable.
From the 3-way junction with Devils Garden Main Trail
and the Dark Angel Trail
, the Devils Garden Primitive Loop
Trail begins with a moderately steep descent of Fin Canyon. About halfway down, and about 0.4 miles from the beginning of the loop, look for the Private Arch Trail
on the right (leading south/southeast). This detour is easy and visits an infrequently seen, isolated arch. Once back on the Devils Garden Primitive Loop
Trail, continue downhill over skinny rock spines, through sandy washes and slickrock sections, threading between mesmerizing fin canyons.
Some parts in this area become treacherous when the rock is wet or snowy. There is one rock face that must be navigated via a ledge and another tricky spot where a depression often fills with water and must be circumnavigated. In some spots rocks or tree branches are piled up to make the ledges easier to navigate. Most hikers with grippy shoes report excitement without dunkings. (If you are concerned about these obstacles, you can visit Private Arch and then retrace your steps back to the Devils Garden Main Trail
.) The remainder of the trail covers more open ground, with some sections of deeper sand.
Ascend gradually to the junction with the Devils Garden Main Trail
at the Landscape Arch
area. Rejoin the masses on your return to the parking lot via the Devils Garden Main Trail
Lizards, rabbits and chipmunks.