Arches: Devil’s Garden

After our Monday morning “shift” at Delicate Arch, we drove back to the hotel and had plenty of time to partake in the hotel’s free breakfast before it shut down for the day. It was an odd feeling walking into the hotel around 8:30am after having been awake for four hours and being surrounded by people who just woke up. I thought, “These people are losers!”

Oh, how two mornings of 4 o’clock waking can change a person’s view on life. Experiences also change a person’s view on life and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience so much at a time in my life when I’m old enough to appreciate the experiences and young/active enough to fully experience them.

A very long and narrow fin located somewhere between Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.

After breakfast, we drove back to the park entrance and joined the queue of 100 cars waiting to pass through the entrance gates (2 lanes with 50 cars in each lane). I was excited to begin our midday shift even though it was risky because (a) we were going to the park at the most popular time of day and (b) temperatures were going to be close to 100° F during that time of day.

I estimate it took us 25 minutes to get through the entrance gate and then another 25 minutes to drive to Devil’s Garden which is the furthest point in the park to which you can drive. I was again worried about finding a parking spot but we did not have an issue.

We lathered up in sunscreen in the fierce sun and began our journey to Double O Arch (passing Landscape Arch on the way). Five minutes into the hike, Peter realized that he forgot his watch on the roof of the car. We weren’t worried about anyone stealing his $2.99 Walmart watch but we were worried about it melting on our rental car so he went back to the car to retrieve it. Whilst waiting I took photos and swatted away the swarms of bugs. Why are there bugs in the high desert in 100° F heat in the middle of the day?

The landscape of Devil’s Garden was different from The Windows Section and Delicate Arch. The area of Devil’s Garden was once solid sandstone and over time, the following occurred… and is still occurring…

  • Stresses in the rock made the rock layers crack.
  • Water entered the cracks and eroded and expanded the cracks.
  • Fins and arches were formed in the cracks.

The landscape was different in every direction I looked. There were large groupings of stone like these:

And there were distinct fins like these:

Sometimes we walked through the beaches between the fins.

Devil’s Garden Trail is the longest trail in the park and goes by seven arches but I must admit, I did not see all seven of the arches. The section of the trail from Landscape Arch to Double O Arch is slightly technical and one misstep will lead to a serious injury or death so I was paying full attention to where I was walking.

Note: A few days after our hike in Devil’s Garden, I hiked to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion which was one of the most terrifying and rewarding things I have done in my life. All prior hikes in my life now fall into the wimpy category.

The sandy trail to Landscape Arch is .8 miles one way and is an easy and flat leisurely stroll. Landscape Arch is the longest natural arch in Arches National Park and is the fifth-longest natural arch in the world. Its span in 2004 was 290.1 feet / 88.4 meters.

Landscape Arch is hard to spot from the trail bend because it blends into the background but a few steps after the bend and it is fully visible.

In September 1991, visitors sitting under Landscape Arch heard loud cracking and popping noises which seemed to come from the arch itself. The visitors sprinted away from the arch and small rocks fell from the span and moments later, a 60-foot long rock slab separated from the arch’s right side.

When it was all said and done, 180 tons (163,293 kg) of rock had fallen from the arch, leaving the ultra-slender arch that exists today.

From Landscape Arch, it is another 1.2 miles to Double O Arch. As mentioned previously, this section of the trail is a bit technical and care must be taken with every step you take. We climbed up fins, walked on top of fins, climbed down fins, climbed over boulders, and finally hoisted ourselves through the lower O of Double O Arch.

During our hike to Double O Arch, I was successful at talking Peter into taking a few steps on a fin so that we could get a photo of together. I can feel the heat of the sun through these photos.

Although we were only hiking a short distance, our progress was slow. The photo below is one of my favorite views because it shows the enormity of the park.

The trail got a little bit confusing after we left the overlook from which I took the above photo. We relied on infrequent but expertly placed cairns to guide us to Double O.

I was totally underwhelmed when we finally reached Double O Arch. Due to the enormity of the structure, all I could see and focus on was the lower O. People were crawling through the lower O to the other side and I asked a lass who was resting near the lower O if it was worth climbing through the lower O and she said, “You must do it.” And I hesitated and said, “Mmm kay”.

Peter had already scaled the lower O by the time I approached it.

The lower portion of the lower O is about 10 feet off the ground. I tried to climb it but was unable to and by that time, Peter had climbed up to the viewing perch and not able to assist me. Almost immediately, a friendly French woman standing on the lower O came to my rescue by reaching her arm out for me to grab her hand and she pulled me up onto the lower O!

The view from the perch of Double O from the other side of the lower O is arguably one of the best in the park.

We spent about 20 minutes sitting on the perch at Double O. Peter ate an energy bar while I took photos and then we applied sunscreen before beginning the two-mile hike back to the car park.

If I could visit Devil’s Garden again, I’d do it exactly how we did it the first time.

1 comment on “Arches: Devil’s Garden

  1. Wow what stunning geology! I’ve added this walk to my bucket list now :)

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