Utah licenseDelicate Arch StampDelicate Arch is probably the best-known natural arch in the world.   It has been featured on both postage stamps and license plates.

Last year, during our visit to Arches National Park, we hiked to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, but decided this year to actually hike to the Arch itself.

We began early in the morning, to avoid as much heat of the day as possible.

The trail head leads first past Wolfe Ranch.  In the late 1800’s John Wesley Wolfe and his son moved here from Ohio looking for a drier climate to help with the pain from a Civil War wound.  He chose this spot along Salt Wash for its water and grassland.  They erected a crude cabin, a corral and a small dam.  More than a decade later, John’s daughter and family joined them.  Shocked at the conditions her father and brother were living in, Flora convinced them to build a new cabin with a wood floor – that cabin, still very primitive by our standards, remains today.

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Wolfe Cabin inside

  The 3 mile round trip hike then leads over a footbridge stretching across the wash.

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This first stretch of the hike climbs slightly, and runs though a rugged area with lots of scrub brush.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1015

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The next part of the hike is the most strenuous, up an incline of slickrock (a word coined by early settlers whose metal-shod horses found the expanses of barren rock slick to cross).  We stopped several times, both to catch our breath, and to take in the breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding area.

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At this point, there is no visible trail, just small cairns of rock to mark the way.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1051  2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1047 

Once you’ve scaled the slickrock, there is less of a incline, but the trail twists and turns and climbs through washes, around outcrops and between stands of twisted brush and trees. 2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1049 2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1041 2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1044

Quite abruptly, you emerge at another span of slickrock.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1050

The National Park Service has created a trail at this point around the base of the promontory.  The view is fantastic, but Delicate Arch is still nowhere in sight.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1060

Across the ravine we spot an arch

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and up a steep incline to our right is  Frame Arch.  Some hikers climbed to this arch to get their first view of Delicate Arch, but we decided not to; if you fall, it’s a long way down.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1139   
A set of stairs has been carved into the stone
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and then, just as you round a sharp bend,2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1080  2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1084

a few more steps, and2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1086

you get your first look at Delicate Arch!2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1096  

The immediate area has unguarded cliffs plunging down one hundred feet or more.  Walking across the slickrock to the arch was the hardest part of the hike for me.  If one was to lose their footing, there is nothing to catch onto, or to hinder your fall to the floor far below.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1088

What a feeling, though, to look out across the great vista stretching from horizon to horizon.

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Standing near the arch, we were able to look across at the spot we viewed the arch from last year.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1129 

We took several pictures of the arch,2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1115

and then it was time to head back across the slickrock to the trail.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1127

At the rim, another hiker offered to take a photo of the two of us.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1132

The hike back is almost all downhill, thankfully, and offers some great views.   2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1165 2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1184  2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1187

As we neared the footbridge, we took a short side trip to a Ute petroglyph panel.2010-09-14 - UT, Arches National Park - Delicate Arch Hike -1194

We have not often seen panels depicting horseback riders, as many such sites date to an era before the horse was introduced to the area.  This panel is estimated to have been created sometime between 1650 and 1850.

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It’s been a long, hot day, but the hike to Delicate Arch is one well worth the effort.

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