Hiking near Moab

Sep 6th, 2004, 05:38 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Hiking near Moab

My thinking about hikes my wife and I took near Moab last week ...

Regarding the times listed, it's doubtful than anyone would take longer than the times we used. Most people will do them in half the time or less. That's because we take the time to soak in the incredible serenery and to do some serious photography.


Notice that the hikes I list don't include those that are short walks to the many arches. Those short walks are NOT to be missed!

Park Avenue
Great for the novice hiker! It's an easy walk, not a hike, and very short. It provides the perspective of being at the bottom of towers. Out and back -- 1 1/2 hours.

Delicate Arch
Considering that this is such a popular hike, be aware that for those that are 20% or more overweight and out of shape, that most of the walk is uphill. A lot of those making the trek were noticeably uncomfortable. Even so, the setting of the arch and the arch itself are spectacular, especially in low afternoon light.

NOTE: Once you get to the ledge (it will be obvious to you) on the trail, look up and to the right. You'll see a small arch called Frame Arch. Climb the very short distance up to it. You'll stand inside Frame Arch and see a rewarding view of Delicate Arch, especially if it's your first view of Delicate Arch. Most people appear not to see Frame Arch, much less stand in it.

Out and back -- 4 hours including the hour to hang out at the two arches.

Devil's Garden
One of the longer hikes at Arches and very rewarding. There are many arches including the Double O Arch (not to be confused with Double Arch.) Many people walk on top of the arch, though doing so is not an official part of the trail. The other main feature is that you walk at the base of and on top of the fins. There are a couple places where people who have a definite fear of heights will want to return to the beginning of the hike rather than do the entire loop.

Fiery Furnace
Because there is no marked trail, it's required that you take one of the ranger-led hikes at least the first time. Reservations must be made and paid for in advance. Due to the many informative talks along the way and the slow pace required when hiking in a large group, this hike is ideal for the novice in that it doesn't test anyone's endurance. Yet the hike takes you through narrow slots and other unique situations that are lots of fun for kids or grandparents. The primary beauty of the hike is walking among the fins, at the base of tall towers, and seeing a really nice arch discovered only about 40 years ago. 3 hours (can't be done in less time because that's controlled by the park ranger.)


Elephant Hill to Chesler Park

An absolutely beautiful hike, characterized by walking among what I call the "mushrooms" (huge towers of sandstone with white tops that look like mushroom caps). This hike requires no experience, but there is a good bit of reasonably steep sections, both up and down. Once in Chesler Park, an unmistakable monolith is a great place for a picnic. Out and back -- 6 hours


Syncline Loop

The most difficult by far of all the hikes mentioned in this post. The scenery is also the most varied. This hike requires scrambling over small boulders and a very steep climb. The reward is that every footstep reveals awesome beauty. Loop -- 8 hours including a picnic lunch.


Capitol Gorge to Tanks

This is an easy, flat walk in between high walls about 20 feet apart. At the end, the trail goes upward to the "tanks," pockets of rainwater. Because of the 6-year drought, we didn't go to the tanks but it's well worth taking the trail up high for a gorgeous view looking back toward the canyon. Out and back -- 1 1/2 hours.

Hickman Bridge
A beautiful walk with ideal light late in the afternoon. (The "bridge" is an arch, and is only called a bridge because water will flow beneath it with enough rain.) No hiking experience needed. Out and back -- 2 1/2 hours.

Headquarters Canyon
Of all the trails mentioned in this post, this one is the least maintained. However, it's impossible to get lost because almost the entire hike is in a relatively narrow canyon. The beginning of the canyon is a slot canyon, at times less than 3 feet wide. Very enjoyable. Out and back including a picnic lunch -- 4 hours
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 6th, 2004, 10:40 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 174
Mike: Thanks for all the great information. This is exactly the kind of report I was looking for before my trip to Moab. At least I'll have it for the return trip.

I'll add a note about Delicate Arch -- there is little or no shade on the trail.
I'm one of those 20% overweighters and I'll agree that it was tough. Okay, honestly, it about killed me. If the hike had been my husband's idea I would have turned back, but since I was the one who forced the family into it I was bound and determined to make it to the top. And boy oh boy was it worth it! The entire family lists Delicate Arch as one of the top three highlights from our month long cross country trip. It is definitely not to be missed.
sart29 is offline  
Sep 7th, 2004, 03:26 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 861
Thanks Mike Buckley for the great report. We're leaving for our 2nd Utah trip in a few weeks and really appreciate the hiking info. Since we are both heavily into photography too, we'd love to hear your opinion on the most photogenic hikes around Moab. We did the Devils Garden last year and loved it. Any info on Tower Arch area? We're hoping to do Delicate Arch at sunset. We're also hoping to spend some time hiking in Canyonlands and only have one full day - most likely in the Islands in the Sky district. Also spending a couple days in Capitol Reef this time. Again, would love to hear your top hiking picks regarding best photo opps. Thanks so much for all your help! Sharon & Peter
sharondi is offline  
Sep 7th, 2004, 04:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 228
Thanks Mike - this is terrific. I'll be there on Friday and will take a printout with me.
bd is offline  
Sep 7th, 2004, 04:56 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 182
Great report and full of really useful info.

sharondi: Take twice as much film as you think you'll need. If digital, take lots of extra photo 'cards'. Recommend polarizing filter to bring out the deep colors in rocks and sky. Be aware that scenery looks 'different' at different times of day. Wife got tired of hearing: "I have to come back (later or earlier) to catch the light". Even seems different coming vs going. Take lots of photos of everything. Much easier to discard ones that don't 'measure up' rather than missing the shot you really wanted. Good Luck!
LarryT is offline  
Sep 11th, 2004, 08:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715

Sorry that I'm responding so late to your request about photoography on the hikes. Be aware that at the time I write this, I haven't yet reviewed any of my digital images or slides from the hikes. So, my perceptions may vary once I do that. I hope to some of my best digital images on the web this weekend. Once I do that, I'll get back to you.

Park Avenue

There are some really nice photo ops available at and very near the overlook to the hike without actually taking the hike.

Delicate Arch
David Meunch has a well publicized photo of Delicate Arch from within Frame Arch. I didn't like it nearly as much as his other stuff, but any photographer hiking to Delicate Arch should definitely see what he or she can do from Frame Arch.

I went to Delicate Arch in later afternoon rather than at sunset. The light was very good, but certainly not as dramatic as it would be at sunset. However, for the personal experience I'm glad I went earlier. Getting good light, rather than great light, and enjoying the solitude of having the entire area to myself and only a half dozen people was an especially rewarding experience. While we hiked back to our car, there was a virtual pilgrimage -- hoards of people -- going to see the arch at sunset.

Devil's Garden
I realize that you've already hiked that trail. For the photographers that haven't, there are lots of photo opportunities.

Fiery Furnace
Because most of the hike is in the shade, it's difficult to deal with the relatively flat lighting. hotographing the tall towers reaching up to the intense sunlight presents the other problem of dealing with strong contrast. A lot of the photography on this hike needs to take advantage of the people on the hike, rather than seeing the trail of hikers as a problem.

Elephant Hill to Chesler Park

I have a strong bias to the entire Elephant Hill area. I went there 13 years ago using the incredible jeep trail and loved it almost as much as taking the hike. By the way, there are lots of hikes you can do in the Elephant Hill area.

I found the area especially photogenic. That's because the hike gives you scenic views from above, in the bottom of the canyons, and in the transitional areas between the top and bottom of the canyons.

Syncline Loop

This hike offered the most diverse photo opportunities of all the hikes we took. Unfortunately, because it is also the most physically taxing hike, I didn't take advantage of that diversity because I lost my ability to muster the intense concentration needed to photograph the more subtle stuff that was in the latter part of the hike. Having said that, there are sheer cliffs, tall towers, deep canyons, shoulder-high grasses, plataus, washes, etc., etc.

Capital Gorge

I wouldn't call this hike as photogenically enjoyable as it is just plain enjoyable to take an easy stroll with tall cliffs reaching toward the sky on each side of you. However, if the light happens to be really good (it was only okay for me), there is a point at which you climb up to see the "tanks" that you can get a really beautiful view of the canyon you walked through to get there.

Hickman Bridge
A very photogenic hike, especially in the late afternoon. (I don't know how it would be early in the morning.) The "bridge" itself is a particularly challenging subject. Not having looked at my images yet, I don't know if I was successful.

Headquarters Canyon
I don't remember anything especially photogenic (which generally means that I'll be pleasantly surprised with one or two images), other than the creative possibilities of photographing a slot canyon. Be aware though that the slot part of the canyon goes straight up and does not present the swirling shapes that are icons of the classic photos of slot canyons.

NOTE: Very near Headquarters Canyon you'll also find a hike through Surprise Canyon. We didn't have the time to do both and took the park ranger's advice that Headquarters Canyon is more enjoyable. That comment was with regard to the hiking experience, not the photographic possibilities.

Hope this helps!

MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 15th, 2004, 05:53 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715

You asked about the Tower Arch area and I keep forgetting to address it. 13 years ago I did the 4-wheel drive to it. (A very easy drive so long as you follow the sign's instructions which takes you downhill through the soft sand. Otherwise you go uphill through it, which might be impossible.)

Anyhow, there are lots of photo opportunities in the Tower Arch area. It was deserted when I was there, so I still think of it as an outdoor cathedral of beautiful solitude. I had hoped to take the hike to it this year, but we ran out of time.

Sorry again for the delayed response.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Mar 11th, 2018 09:27 PM
United States
Jul 30th, 2014 12:42 PM
United States
Nov 26th, 2013 06:51 PM
United States
Jun 14th, 2009 07:04 PM
United States
Aug 4th, 2006 06:30 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:01 PM.