Arches National Park in Utah attracts over one million visitors a year with it’s namesake geologic wonders. Most visitors head to the easily reached roadside arches and viewpoints. In contrast, the Devil’s Garden Loop is considered the only “hiker’s hike” in the park.
Time: 4-6 hours
Elevation gain: 470 ft
When to go: Year-round
Arches National Park is located just west of Moab (get directions via Google Maps) on the easter edge of Utah. The park has no food or lodging, but both are found in nearby Moab. Moab is about a ten hour drive from Los Angeles and it’s a gateway to both Arches and nearby Canyonlands National Park. There is one main road into Arches National Park, and the Devil’s Garden trailhead is all the way at the end of that road. It takes about 30 minutes to reach from the park entrance, if you can manage the trip without stopping to gawk at the beautiful rock formations. It took me closer to 90 minutes, and it was worth every stop.
When to Go
This area gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit. To hike the Devils Garden trail, you would be smart to start early. The trailhead parking fills up, but if you get here early, you can catch the sun rising over the La Sal Mountains and beat the crowds to the trail. You’ll also enjoy cooler morning temperatures.
I hiked the trail on October 18th starting a little before 8am. I had no trouble getting parking and once I passed Landscape Arch, the crowds thinned considerably. I still was able to catch the sunrise over the La Sal Mountains and check out some of the other sites on the way to the trailhead.
The Devils Garden Loop has several spur trails that total about nine miles of hiking. Note that the trails to Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch are well maintained and family-friendly, but beyond that, you’ll see signs warning of the “primitive trail.” Most of this loop is not suitable to young kids or anyone uncomfortable with heights or navigating from cairn to cairn over slick-rock. And because of the steep, slick surfaces on sections, it’s also inadvisable in rain, snow or icy conditions.
The trailhead is easy to find, and there are pit toilets and water available. It’s advisable to carry at least a liter of water in temperate weather; more if it’s hot. You’ll also need snacks, sunscreen, a hat and the ten essentials.
Each junction is well-signed, though there are some sections of the trail which require you to follow cairns to navigate. It’s important to stick to the designated trails, as soil crust is fragile and supports tiny organisms critical to desert life.
I recommend hiking the loop in a clockwise direction for the best views and fewer crowds, beginning with the famous Landscape Arch.
Landscape Arch, measuring 306 feet from base to base, is the longest arch in the park and the fifth longest arch in the world. It’s an easy 1.5 miles to the arch, and the majority of visitors to Devil’s Garden turn around here.
In 1991 a rock slab 60 feet long, 11 feet wide and four feet thick fell from the arch, and at some point in the future, the arch will likely collapse. Since that time, the park has closed the trail that once led directly beneath the impressive span.
From the Landscape Arche viewpoint, the trail begins a climb up slick-rock to Partition Arch. The photo below shows the view looking back down the “trail” just climbed.
While the namesake arches are the main attraction in the park, pay attention to the little details and you’ll discover there is much more to enjoy. The sandstone fins that dominate Devil’s Garden proved a glimpse into the formation of arches in various stages.
About 1/2 mile beyond Landscape Arch, Partition Arch actually is a pair of arches separating the fins that Landscape and Navajo arches are formed on. The main arch gives you a sweeping view to the north, and you can (carefully) find a place to sit and soak in the view on the north side of the arch.
Head through the main arch, and to the east is a sloping ledge that provides a great place to sit and soak in the grandeur of Arches.
Head back out the spur and bear left at the junction to Navajo Arch. This short spur trail leads down behind the next fin, revealing a beefy arch that feels like a doorway to a small, hidden slot canyon.
From Navajo Arch, backtrack to the main loop trail and head west. Here the trail climbs to the top of a squat fin with 360-degree views.
You scramble up this steep section to the top of the fin, then follow it for about 1/4 mile.
There are great views in all directions. Just be sure to stop before you look around. You won’t want to step off the edge!
Black Arch Overlook
At the far end of the stretch along the top of the fin, the trail drops once more to the ground and a short spur to an overlook of Black Arch.
Double O Arch
Another scramble down steep slickrock takes you to the unusual Double O Arch. What makes this arch particularly unusual is that one is stacked above the other. You can hike directly under the arches and view it from all sides.
After this, watch carefully for the junction with the spur trail to Dark Angel. The maze of use trails leading to and from Double-O Arch make it easy to miss. It’s only about 5-10 yards away from the arch.
The Dark Angel is not an arch, but a dark-colored pinnacle that sit like a sentry at the northwest extreme of the Devil’s Garden. The 1/2 mile spur trail is worth the trip for the views.
From Dark Angel, retrace your steps to rejoin the Devils’ Garden Loop. The sign once again warns that it is a primitive trail, which I found enjoyable. There were generally fewer people on this section, and it also gives you a close look at the bottom of the garden.
At six miles you reach a junction with the spur trail to Private Arch. The 1/2 mile spur trail takes you to probably one of the least viewed arches in the park.
Climb the last stretch of slickrock beyond the arch and you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the Devil’s Garden. Here you can really see the fins that erode over millions of years to create the iconic arches.
End of Private Arch TrailHead back to the main loop trail and continue on, as it descends a dry creek bed and circles the eastern edge of Devil’s Garden, finally rejoining the trail you hiked in on. Follow this trail back toward the trailhead, but stop to take the short spur trail to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.
Pine Tree Arch
This is a tall, thick arch, so-named because a pine tree is growing under the arch.
On the other side of the spur trail is the ninth tunnel on this tour– Tunnel Arch. This arch is viewed from a distance, and looks a bit like a porthole or a subway tunnel.
From this final arch it’s less than a mile back to the trailhead parking, which by now has completely filled up. And you still have half the day to explore!
Devils Garden Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Note that the mileage recorded on my GPS is over two miles longer than the National Park map mileage, likely due to signal noice hiking in narrow canyons.
Devils Garden Tips
- No permits are required for hiking.
- Water is only available in two places in Arches National Park; at the Visitor’s Center at the Park Entrance, and at the Devil’s Garden trailhead. Be sure to fill your bottles before hiking this dry, exposed trail.
- The primitive sections of the trail require hiking over sections of steep slickrock and navigating from cairn to cairn. Take you’re time to make sure you’re on the trail. Leave the cairns intact. Do not tamper with existing cairns or build your own.
More Arches National Park Resources
Arches National Park Weather Forecast
Original hiked this trail on October 18, 2016.