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Delicate Arch

It’s a kajillion times bigger than the license plate would suggest, and well worth the moderately difficult hike.

Delicate Arch is the most recognizable arch in Arches National Park, and perhaps anywhere in the world. It also happens to be located along one of the most dynamic hiking trails within Arches National Park. More than 480 feet above the parking lot and trailhead in the valley below, Delicate Arch is hidden in a bowl at the top of one of the park’s famous sandstone fins. Delicate Arch is freestanding, and magnificently alone in the natural sandstone bowl, standing out against the multitude of horizontal planes around it. The arch was once part of the upper section of the fin, until erosion took its toll upon the sandstone throughout the years, and now Delicate Arch is all that remains of that Entrada sandstone formation. Trail details...

Location

Wolfe Ranch turnoff – 11.5 miles up the Arches Entrance Road. The right turn to Delicate Arch is advertised at the turnoff, and the trailhead is on the left side of the road, at the ranch.

Difficulty

Moderate; rugged and steep in some stretches.

Length

3 miles (round trip)

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Trail Details

Delicate Arch Trailhead (38.735889, -109.520618)

The trail starts at a fairly large parking lot off the side of the road, passes the old Wolfe Homestead, and then crosses a bridge over Salt Wash.

Wolfe Ranch (38.736588, -109.519914)

This homestead was built by a disabled Civil War vet, John Wesley Wolfe, in 1888 and inhabited until 1910, when the aging owner moved back to Ohio.

Ute Petroglyphs (38.737684, -109.518781)

This panel of rock art is attributed to the Ute culture. In includes a number of bighorn sheep, horses and dogs.

Frame Arch (38.744161, -109.500998)

Frame Arch is next to invisible when compared with the splendor of Delicate Arch just around the corner; most hikers barely even recognize the arch on its own merits. However, Frame Arch is famous for being the perfect window through which to photograph Delicate Arch, and many people use it to frame their shots of its more photogenic sibling, as its name suggests.

Delicate Arch (38.743754, -109.499335)

Delicate Arch has graced many magazine covers, mantle pieces, coffee tables, stamps, license plates, and a variety of other media. It is an international attraction, and has drawn its fair share of abuse over the years, including (now illegal) climbing, and ignorant pyrotechnics.

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