This is my last hike in Arches National Park before we continue on our road trip through south-west USA, and I’m taking the Devils Garden Trail to the Dark Angel Viewpoint. The trail traverses Devils Garden, which has “arches, spires, and a large concentration of narrow rock walls called ‘fins’.” It’s regarded as one of the best hikes in Arches National Park, with one of the highest concentration of arches in the world (the trail passes a total of eight arches, if you do all the side-trips).
I’m starting early so I can enter the park before the Timed Entry system starts, and the sun’s not yet up as I head down the track.
I make good progress, and soon reach a wide “fin” of rock. It’s not immediately clear where to go, and I eventually figure out the trail goes straight up the middle of the steep rock.
As I the Devils Garden Trail passes the junction to the Partition Arch and Navajo Arch, the path follows the top of another thin fin, or ridge, of rock. There are some great views over the unusual rock formations of Devils Gardens from here, including hundreds of parallel sandstone fins. These fins eventually erode into arches, due to water soaking into the joints and pore spaces of the sandstone and expanding when it freezes.
I wait at the end of this long fin of rock for the sun to appear on the horizon.
The morning light makes the sandstone formations appear even more dramatic.
This elevated position also provides a view of the Double Arch, which I’ll visit on the way back.
I continue along the trail; now that the sun is up, it’s easy to spot the the well-worn trail down the end of the rock fin.
Just over two miles (3.3km) along the trail is the junction with the Primitive Loop Trail, an alternative route to the Dark Angel Viewpoint. I’ve decided I won’t take this route back, as I’m a bit short on time – but I venture a short distance along this trail to see what it’s like. Although it’s described as a harder route, the track is fairly obvious and no harder than the route I’ve been on.
Dark Angel Viewpoint
Once back on the main trail, it’s less than half a mile (0.5km) to the Dark Angel Monolith. You can see the tall rock formation jutting up in the distance.
The Dark Angel Monolith, a rock formation named after the dark colored sandstone, is 150 feet (45m) high and sits on a bench overlooking the Salt Valley.
While the views from the Dark Angel Viewpoint aren’t spectacular, there is a sweeping vista over the many rock formations that makes this part of Arches National Park unique.
Returning (almost) the same way, I take slight detour from the marked trail to look at the view over Salt Valley to the west – and Dark Angel looming over it.
This is the end of the the Devils Garden Trail, so I head back the same, this time making a few side-trips to some of the arches along the trail.
Double O Arch
You can see Double O Arch from some distance away, when approaching from either direction.
A short side-track takes you to the base of Double O Arch, which has large upper arch, and a smaller lower arch that are both part of the same sandstone fin. Double O Arch is the second largest arch within the Devils Garden area.
The upper, larger arch has a span span of 71 feet (21.6m), while the lower arch – which frames a view of the Dark Angel – is 21 feet (6.4m) wide..
Continuing back along the Devils Gardens Trail, the endless sandstone fins and spectacular rock rock formations now stand out starkly in the morning light.
The next arch (coming from the end of the trail) is Black Arch, seen in the distance from the Black Arch Overlook; how it got its name is fairly obvious…
The Devils Garden Trail then follows the top of a couple of long fins – one of the being where I stopped an hour ago to takes photos of the sunrise.
A side track goes to both Partition Arch and Navajo Arch; the track soon splits into two, with each of the arches being about 0.5 miles (0,8km) return from the main trail.
I’ve only got time for a quick look at the Partition Arch, which is the most spectacular of the two. Although one of the smallest arches, there are dramatic views over the Arches National Park from the window in the rock fin.
Now that the sun is up, I can see the fairly thin rock fin that the trail follows… it looks a bit more daunting when you can actually see the drop on both sides! Next to this fin are enormous boulders lying on the ground – parts of the Wall Arch which collapsed sometime during the night of 4 August 2008.
The trail gets a lot busier from here, as I get to the viewpoint for Landscape Arch, a popular destination (most people don’t hike beyond this point). Landscape Arch is not just the longest arch in Arches National Park, but with a span of 290.1 feet (88.4m) it’s the longest arch in North America, and the fifth longest in the world. At it’s narrowest point the arch is only six feet (1.8m) in diameter, and after large segments of the arch came crashing down in the 1990s Landscape Arch hangs by a thin thread, so to speack.
There are a few different vantage points, which all provide a similar vantage point of the wafer-thin and awe-inspiring arch. The Devils Garden Trail is a lot busier for the last section back to the start, and there are spectacular rock formations in every direction.
Pine Tree Arch
Another side-trip (0.4 miles / 0.6km return) from the main Devils Garden Trail goes to the Pine Tree Arch – and the Tunnel Arch. The trail descends, past a solitary rock fin.
It’s worth the short detour to Pine Arch, which offers some nice views through the natural window in the rock.
Once back on the main trail, it’s only a short (0.3 miles / 0.4km) distance back to the carpark and the start of the trail. The trail passes through some narrows gaps between tall fins of rock before emerging at the large carpark.
This has been one of the best hikes in The Arches National Park (on par with the super-busy Delicate Arch Trail), with a variety of spectacular rock formations. If time allows, do the entire loop – go out via the Primitive Loop – and do all the side-trips!
Getting to Devils Garden Trail
There is a large parking area on Devils Garden Road, which is at the very end of the main Arches National Park Road) about 18 miles (29km) or a half an hour drive from the Arches National Park entrance station. Arches National Park is accessed via the gateway town of Moab in eastern Utah, which is 235mi / 380km from Salt Lake City (Utah). As this is a popular area of the park, go very early or late in the day to avoid the crowds (and the heat in summer).
- National Park Service (NPS) – Devils Garden
- National Park Service (NPS) – Wall Arch collapses
- The Natural Arch and Bridge Society (NABS) – The Dimensions of Landscape Arch: Removing the Uncertainty