Friday, June 5, 2015

Tower Arch Trail and overviews at Arches NP

I originally signed up for a hike at Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park.  The park service offers this hike for $10 (in addition to park entry fees) but books up months in advance.  Since I planned my trip only a month out, taking the tour with the park rangers was not an option, but several tour companies offer this tour for about $85-90 with a smaller group of people and have more availability on shorter notice.  I struggled with paying $85 for a hike, but all the reviews I read sounded incredible and thought since I was going alone, it would be great to see part of the park I normally wouldn't.

When my friend decided to come along, I called the tour company and they said no problem getting an extra permit, but alas, when we arrived the day of for the hike, they did not have permits for us.  I was pissed, naturally, and part of my "new york" came out, fine, I couldn't go on the hike, but what happened to contacting me prior to my arrival?  Anyway, so the guy who turned me away told me about Tower Arch trail, which is 7 miles off the main paved street that goes through the park.  He said I'd like the trail because it was terrain unlike I've ever seen.  

We stop at several overlooks (courthouse towers, balanced rock, and one other) before arriving at Salt Valley (dirt) road leading to the trail.  There was only one other car there that pulled in right after us, and that group soon passed us.

Tower Arch
The trail was a good one; but certainly not terrain I've never hiked before, as the guide implied.  It starts with some stairs and inclines, then goes through a valley, a view of the Marching Men then up and through sand and soon after you reach the arch.  It isn't shady, so it gets hot, I drank 2.5 liters of water round trip.  While the elevation gain is only about 100 feet, it is up, down, up, down, up. 

Tower Arch is a 92 foot span arch, which I believe was the arch used for publicity when the park first opened.  We stopped here for a small picnic lunch and then headed back the way we came, just as the thunder started to roll in.  On our way out, we passed two other small groups on their way to the arch, so this trail is definitely off the beaten path.

After we finished our trail, we figured we'd check out some of the arches and headed north to Devils Garden trail head.  I didn't look at the map or factor being there so long, so we didn't carry our water, but I wish we had.  The day grew very hot and I started dragging from exhaustion and thirst.  The paved path to Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch was easy enough and we continued on to Landscape Arch, which has the longest span of any arch in North America at 306 feet.  We stopped for a quick view at Lower Delicate Arch viewing area so my friend can see one of the most famous arches and we left the park, exhausted.

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