Julia and I arrived in Moab well after sunset after leaving Capitol Reef National Park, but early enough to grab dinner at a local restaurant. Keeping with my theme of healthy food only on this road trip, we made our way to Zax restaurant, where we both ordered the ‘all you can eat pizza’. We justified it by saying that the all you can eat salad bar was also included. I put two large bowls of salad down, but my main focus was on trying all of the different pizza offerings. Even on the fullest of stomachs, I can do some serious work on a pizza pie. On an empty stomach that had just spent a few too many hours in the car, I was lethal. I’ve been known as a Pizzaterian and a practicing Pastafarian for some time now.
After a great night of sleep at Hotel Moab, Julia and I got an early start, as we wanted to be some of the first people entering the park. Moab is located just a few miles from the gates of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Arches is the closer of the two, and we only had to drive for 8 minutes before we passed through the entry gates.
Our first stop was at the Delicate Arch trailhead. At the start of the trail for Delicate Arch, the first thing I saw was the rustic Wolfe Ranch. John Wesley Wolf moved to the area in the 1800s after a Civil War injury to his leg, forced him to seek a drier climate. The Wolfes lived at the remote cabin until 1910, when they moved back to Ohio.
The hike to Delicate Arch covers 3 miles and gains 480 feet. The end of this hike is on slabs of rock. Wear proper footwear.
After spending some time learning about Wolfe Ranch, we continued on towards Delicate Arch. The first half mile of trail is a wide and soft path. After this first half mile, much of the trail is on open slickrock that makes for a really fun hike. Make sure to keep an eye out for cairns and ducks, as you don’t want to get headed in the wrong direction. In reality, it’s nearly impossible to get lost here due to the crowds, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Just before the slick rock starts, there is an option to venture off on a side loop trail that will take you to see some Ute Indian petroglyphs. We opted to save these for the hike down, so I’ll save those photos for the later on in this post.
After the climb up the slickrock slab, the trail enters a narrow wash dotted with junipers. After passing through the wash, the trail gets back onto the slickrock, and this time, in even more spectacular fashion. The sun was beaming through a small arch to the right of the trail just as we traversed a flattened ledge that was wrapped around the parks red walls.
One of the most impressive things about the Delicate Arch Trail, is that you never actually see Delicate Arch until you make the final turn. This makes this arch all the more special. Upon first view, I could instantly see why this is arguably the most recognizable arch in the world. I’ve seen Delicate Arch in countless photos, TV shows, Utah license plates, and most National Park visitor centers, but nothing does this arch justice like seeing it in person.
Julia and I spent quite a bit of time just standing in awe of Delicate Arch and were happy that we woke up early enough to enjoy it without the large crowds. Getting up before sunrise can feel like a bit of a hassle when you’re on vacation, but views like this make it all worth it. Our feeling of zen was quickly shattered though when I heard the crack of plastic on the slickrock behind me. While Julia was taking off her gloves, the wrist strap to her camera went with it. Unfortunately, her camera body was not fixable. On the positive side, her lens and memory card are just fine.
We made our way back on the trail the same way we arrived, only this time we took the small detour to see the Ute Indian petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are estimated to have been carved in the rocks here by Ute Indians sometime between 1650 and 1850. On the rocks you’ll see a horse and rider, big horn sheep, and dogs. It truly is a special piece of art.
The trail for the petroglyphs continues on past the rock art and meets back up with the main trail right near the entrance. It was a morning full of beautiful views and ineffable natural beauty, and the best part was that our day was just getting started.