The multitude of hikes here allow you to free yourself from the crowds if need be and choose your car proximity in case the desert heat starts to sting.
First on the list is Park Avenue, a short two-miler (only one if you have a car on the other end) that brings you under the great fins, or "buildings," and will certainly be the first rubber necking you will experience. If you're looking to see as many arches in one place as possible, just pull over and gawk for a moment at this cluster.
Nine miles down the road brings you to Balanced Rock; and it's just what you'd expect. A giant boulder balanced on a 73-foot pedestal. The view from the car pull off is fine, but a .5-mile hike offers better angles from which to view the seemingly invisible supports holding up this massive stone.
Next stop is the Windows section. Another easy view from your car, but also accessed by several short jaunts (all under a mile). Double Arch connects two arches, and its own trail, .8-mile, allows you to be overwhelmed at its base. The easy Windows Trail brings you around Turret Arch, North Window to South Window and back again.
Delicate Arch is the one you want to save for sunset. It's best experienced from the moderately difficult trail, but can also be appreciated from a more easily accessed viewpoint a half mile away.
The 1.5 mile trail is a one-way hike over slickrock, which gains 480 feet and perfectly saves the view of this precious arch until you are under its ominous roof. The trail offers no shade so, as always, bring water and wear your SPF30. We recommend a sunset view and if your timing is just right, the fat, desert moonrise over the Delicate Arch is a vision you won't soon forget.
If you can't find time for the hike, find the viewpoint one mile past the Wolf Ranch parking lot. A short, .5-mile, steep round-trip trail to the viewpoint provides a clear shot. There is also a 100-yard paved trail providing a more distant view. Bring your binoculars.
Two miles further down the winding road brings on the Fiery Furnace. Surprisingly, this maze of winding canyons under the sandstone fins offers a cool reprieve from the desert sun. The name must come from the fact that you are often below the fiery fins and wandering in the park's "basement."
Due to the easily confusing twists, turns, dead ends and molten lava pools, hiking into the Furnace mandates a permit. Okay, so there's no lava, but you need a permit just the same.
The ranger-led hikes offer an hour-and-a-half education on the geology and history of the park. Reservations need to be made at least 48 hours in advance and tend to fill up quickly in the busy season. Permits for experienced hikers are available at the visitor's center and include a disclaimer pertaining to the many twists and dead ends in the trail.
Two-and-a-half miles past Fiery Furnace are Sand Dune and Broken Arch. The 1.25-mile trail brings you to both arches and the realization that it's not really broken, just injured.
A mile further down the road exposes Skyline Arch. The simple, .4-mile hike brings you right to its cool base.
Lastly, on the 18-mile drive is the the Devil's Garden trailhead. The trail begins easily enough, but soon becomes steeper with moderate exposures. This shouldn't deter anyone from parking and experiencing Landscape Arch a quick .8-mile hike to a 306-foot long, 106-foot high stunning natural structure which, depending on how you measure it, is the longest or second longest arch in the world.
There are many other easily accessed attractions and places to park yourself and find serenity in these natural stone structures that combine to form a distinctly American National Park that no good American should miss.
Hans Prosl, burnin' in Devil's Garden for MountainZone.com