March 18, 2013 by Deborah W. Trotter
You probably don’t think of solid rock when you hear the word “delicate.” Neither do I. But when you see Delicate Arch, you know that something like that can’t last forever. The fact that it is free standing, unusual for a natural arch, contributes to that thinking, but it really looks more precarious than delicate to me.
Although it must be the most photographed arch in the Park and graces auto license plates for the state of Utah, you will not find it by the roadside. If you want to get a close up view of Delicate Arch, you will have to take a hike. But never fear, anyone in reasonably good shape should be able to do it.
The trail to the Arch is 3 miles round trip with a 480-foot elevation gain. It starts out well-defined, but eventually you are climbing right up the slickrock, and the trail is marked only by occasional rock piles or “cairns.” This part of the trail is where I carried my three-year-old when our family visited in 1995. When we returned a decade later in 2005, our four teenagers ran up the slickrock and left us behind. As we parents finished walking the last couple hundred yards of the trail, anticipating the full spectacle of Delicate Arch off to the right, instead we heard voices calling us from above to the left.
No wonder these daredevils were eager to climb Angel’s Landing when we got to Zion National Park a few days later. (Click here to read my Angel’s Landing post.)
It is often crowded at the end of the trail up to Delicate Arch. But since almost everyone who hikes there wants to photograph the arch, most people are polite about not hogging the space beneath. It is usually easy with a little bit of patience and turn-taking to get family photos under the arch and photos of the arch itself without anyone else in evidence.
Arches National Park is open year round, 24 hours a day. Since I have seen and photographed Delicate Arch in daylight and near sunset many times in my life, the idea of a hike to Delicate Arch under a full moon and cloudless sky is quite appealing. What do you think?