Hike to Delicate Arch really is worth the hype

Melinda Mawdsley takes a photo with Delicate Arch in the background. The round-trip hike to this arch, which is in Arches National Park, is three miles.

Melinda Mawdsley appears to be staring right at Fisher Towers in Professor Valley off Utah Highway 128.

Even though I had to repeatedly remove sand and other debris from my eyes, Delicate Arch was worth it.

My wind-whipped skin was parched and red by the end of the hike. But I would do it again. And again.

Sacrifices sometimes have to be made to witness iconic beauty.

The windy weather on the March day of our hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park north of Moab, Utah, prompted features writer Rachel Sauer to compare herself, features writer Melinda Mawdsley and me to the landscape.

“We are the arches,” Rachel said, only half joking. “We are eroding like they are.”

The three-mile round-trip hike begins at the Wolfe Ranch parking lot on the northeast side of Arches National Park. To get to the trail head, follow the marked signs as you drive through the park. The hike is well worth the nearly two-hour drive from Grand Junction, particularly as spring arrives and the weather gets nicer.

And what’s better than the easy drive to Arches National Park? The price to enter. It’s only $10 per vehicle, and the pass is valid for an entire week.

At the start of our blustery exploration, a sign informed us that this hike would be “moderately strenuous.” I agree with the sign.

I wore athletic shoes, and we set a moderate pace, which allowed us more time to take in the majestic landscape. This was the first time I had ever done this hike, and I’m honestly not sure how long it took us. It was easy to completely lose track of time.

Half a mile in, the trail became less noticeable and rock cairns led the way. Rock cairns are man-made stacks of flat rocks.

During the hike, which has a steady elevation gain of 480 feet, there were a few occasions when my legs felt strained. But, like I said, sacrifices sometimes have to be made in order to witness true beauty.

After walking on a rock ledge for a couple hundred yards, we reached the glorious Delicate Arch. I was taken aback by its magnificence. I immediately understood why this arch is printed on Utah’s license plates.

The arch inspired me to paint. Or sculpt. And I don’t do either.

Later, when I viewed the photos Rachel took of Melinda and me under Delicate Arch, I was struck by how we appeared to be just specks of insignificant dust compared to the towering sandstone arch.

I “Googled” the height of the Delicate Arch, but several different measurements came up. I guess I will trust National Geographic’s answer. According to its website, the tallest point of the arch is 45 feet.

Get going: Find information about Arches National Park and Delicate Arch at http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm. The hike to Delicate Arch is best done in the springtime or fall. If you must do it in the summertime, plan to hike early in the day to avoid the desert’s hot temperatures. Wear a hat and sunscreen and take plenty of water with you.


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