|Elevation Gain||1329 ft|
|My Time||4 hr 12 min|
The Devils Garden was my favorite hike at Arches National Park. It is long if you do the entire loop but it gives you access to eight arches and some of the most amazing scenery you will see. I am going to break it down into three sections that also have different difficulty levels if you don’t think you can do the whole loop. Warning: Long Post incoming.
The Landscape Third
To start the loop head to the Devils Garden trailhead and parking area. You might want to plan to get there early as this is one of the more popular area’s of the park and it fills up quick. I got there around 8 am and parked pretty far away.
The lower third is a pretty easy trail to follow without any really significant elevation gains. The first half mile takes you on a path through some large red rock formations. At the half mile mark you will come to a junction and a spur trail will lead to the Tunnel Arch and the Pine Tree Arch.
Tunnel Arch is the first arch that you will see when you take the spur off of the main trail. The trail will head down a small hill and then split off again at the bottom. To the right is the short path to the Tunnel Arch view point.
Ok, I’m not a linguistical expert or anything but I feel this is more of a hole or circle than an Arch. But the experts call it an arch so who am I am to argue. If nothing else it is a good starting point and the arches get better from here.
Pine Tree Arch
Turning around and heading back down this path you will find yourself at the Pine Tree Arch. It is only about a third of a mile to make it to the Pine Tree Arch and again doesn’t have much as far as elevation gains.
Pine Tree Arch is the first arch that I saw with the the traditional Arch structure. It is also named for the pine tree that grows in the middle of it!
After visiting Pine Tree Arch it is time to retrace your steps and head back to the main trail that you came in on. Once you hit the main trail you will have about a half mile to make it to Landscape Arch. Although you will be able to see it before hand.
Landscape Arch is the Grand Daddy of them all. It is was the biggest arch I could find on the trail but the one that you couldn’t really get close to. As you approach the arch you will come to a bit of a junction. To the right is the Primitive Trail. This is a very difficult trail that gets a little technical and I wouldn’t suggest it. To the left you head to the Landscape Arch Viewing area and past that is the the Double O loop.
The Landscape Arch is very cool. It stretches across 306 feet and is one of the longest stone arches in the world. It is pretty thin at points as well which made me wonder how it actually stays up there. You can’t get very close to the arch but the views from the trail and the viewing area are pretty cool.
The Landscape viewing area is the end of the “Easy” section of the trail. If you are not confident walking on rocks and with heights this would be a good place to stop. At this point you would have gone about two miles for a total of four miles roundtrip. Again, the trail gets more difficult from this point on so keep that in mind before proceeding.
The Double O Arch Loop
Continuing from the Landscape Arch gets much more difficult and the proof is immediate. The first obstacle between you and the upper Arches is a tenth of a mile rock scramble with grades up to 35%.
While this is steep the rock isn’t too hard to make it up. Make sure to take some breaks if you need to. I did it with a hiking pole and didn’t need to put my hands down but some people needed their hands.
Thankfully when you get to the top of this rock climb the trail will flatten out for a while. It is still walking on sand and rock but at least it is flat.
Now you can head directly to the Double O but I would suggest taking the spur to the west that leads to the Partition and Navajo Arches.
The Partition Arch is the closest and is just about a half mile from the top of the rock climb. This arch is similar to the Tunnel Arch but you can walk right up to it and it gives a picturesque view back into the park.
After the quick out and back to Partition the next trail is to the Navajo Arch.
Navajo Arch might have been my favorite arch at the park but so many people seemed to skip it. After coming back towards the main trail from Partition, Navajo is located to the west of where you were. I don’t know if people don’t see the sign or just want to get back on the main trail but this one was very worth it for me.
What I liked the most about Navajo Arch is that you can actually walk completely under it. On the backside of the arch is this small isolated area surrounded by rock and it really is a cool place just to relax and take in the moment.
The Walk to Double O and Black Arch Overlook
From Navajo you will make your way back to the main trail. The Trail is going to get a little trickier here. A lot of this section is walking up and down rocks. One section in particular can be a little tough if you have a fear of heights and it kind of sneaks up on you.
While you are heading on the trail you get to a point that I like to call “Pucker Spine”. This is a narrow spine that you walk across with a pretty large drop off. Plus, the way the trail sets up you don’t really know that you are on the edge of leaving the Earth until you are too far along to do something about it!
In the end it is pretty cool and I am glad I did it. Apparently this is also the Black Arch Overlook but I wasn’t sure if I found the right spot for that. First a look at the walk.
If you didn’t get a sense of how high up that was from the video, here are some pictures of someone walking at the same spot from the ground level.
Here is what I think might have been Black Arch but to be honest from up there I wasn’t exactly focusing on Arches!
Once you make it over the Pucker Spine there is one more section of the trail really close to Double O where you will have to walk across a much shorter, and a little narrower spine that leads you right to Double O Arch.
Double O Arch
The Double O Arch was the last of the Arches on this moderate section of trail. It is a very cool spot with twin Arches. It is also where a lot of people congregated and stopped for snacks and a bit of a break.
This is also a spot where a lot of people were deciding to turn around or continue on the Primitive Trail to complete the Loop. The Primitive Trail has some difficult sections that can get a little technical so if you thought the last part was tough, Primitive might not be for you. The only exception would be the trip to Dark Angel. That isn’t too difficult to get to but I am going to include it on the Primitive Loop.
Time Lapse of Trailhead to Double O Arch
I am trying to add more video to give you all a better feel for the hikes that I am describing. This is a time lapse of the roughly two hours that the first part of the trail took me. There is also a more narrative edit further down this post if this hikers edit isn’t your style!
The Primitive Loop
The Primitive Loop is the most challenging section of this complete loop so make sure you are ready for it if you are going to keep going. You will need to do some butt sliding, a lot of rock walking, have to clear a small water area, and there are some tight trail spots. You have been warned.
Now that I have scared you a bit, an exception is Dark Angel. If you would like to go from Double O Arch to Dark Angel and then head back from there you can do so without being on Primitive very much.
The Dark Angel is the opposite of an arch and more of an obelisk. The spire stands around 125 feet tall and is a bit isolated in the park which makes it stand out even more. It is roughly a half mile from the Double O Arch and mostly flat after a descent from the Arch itself. It is pretty cool.
If you make it down to this point you will have to take the same trail to get back to the Double O Arch area to either return to the trailhead or start on the primitive trail.
Private Arch is the next major landmark on the primitive trail. The trail is not to challenging to get to the arch other than a series of large rocks that you will have to walk the face of. Private Arch is about a mile away from the start of Primitive and has its own spur trail that is about a third of a mile long. Don’t expect to be by yourself at this arch but it is tucked away and offers a bit of privacy from the rest of the park.
Private Arch to Finish Primitive Loop
After Private Arch is when the trail gets a bit more rugged and a bit more challenging. It is also absolutely stunning! The rock formations on this part of the trail were some of my favorites. You are pretty consistently walking on slick rock or it is surrounding you.
While there are a lot of up and downs and tight trail sections around trees and rocks there are four distinct sections that pose a challenge that you don’t see on every trail. (All names made up by me)
- Leap of Faith – This is a small section near Private Arch where you will have a decision to either butt slide down a crevice or jump across it. The jump is only about a foot to a foot and a half and the launch and landing are both flat. But if you don’t feel comfortable with a little leap you will have to slide down the crevice.
- The Butt Slide – A half mile from the spur trail to Private Arch you will come to an area with a large, somewhat narrow rock that heads towards the center of the loop. This has great views. Back at the beginning of this rock is where the trail goes. You will need to butt slide down this section.
- The Wall Hug – Right after the Butt Slide is a narrow, maybe 8 inches wide section, that you will have to walk on to get down the rock. Most people leaned up against the rock for support and walked foot over foot.
- The Watering Hole – Depending on season there is a section that has a small water hole surrounded by large round rocks. The three options here are to walk through the water and climb up the rock, walk across the middle section of the rock above the rock. This one gets tricky and you will probably have to hug the wall or get someone on the other side to pull you across. Or you can scramble up and over the large round rock. I was not athletic enough for the third option.
Video of the Primitive Trail
Here is the Hiker Edit of the Primitive Rock trail. My battery died at the water hazard but you can get a feel for it at the end.
Finishing up Primitive Loop
Once you clear those hazards the trail becomes much easier and more of a walk. The views are still pretty amazing. This loop will connect you with the main trail at the Landscape Arch intersection that I mentioned earlier. From there it is an easy walk back to the parking area!
I know this is a lot of information to take in. If you are more interested in the hike from a narrative perspective maybe this video will work for you. I hope you enjoy it. If you do please hit the subscribe button so you can get updates when new video’s are available.
Elevation and Distance
If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 9.22 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1329 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 5,553 feet. I was also moving for a total of 4 hours and 12 minutes.
Wow this one was a bit of a challenge. The biggest challenge was the constantly changing terrain and elevation gains. Some times you are on flat easy paths while others you are climbing up chimneys or butt sliding down rock faces. There is a lot of ups and downs as well that keep the legs working. There are several shorter loops that can avoids some of the more difficult areas as well if you aren’t comfortable with everything. Here are some stats from my Garmin Instinct watch.
A big mixture in terrains on this hike. A majority of the front half of the hike is on a sandy path that varies from well packed at the beginning to a bit looser sand the further you go. About a third of the way you will have to start walking and even scrambling on rocks. The primitive portion of the trail is a lot of walking on rocks, butt sliding and scrambling. A pair of hiking shoes with really good grip is strongly suggested if you are going to do the whole loop.
The Devils Garden trail is located on the northern section of Arches National Park. The parking are is large but is the park is also very crowded so I suggest getting there early. I think I was there by 8 am to find parking. There are pit toilets at the trailhead. Arches is part of the National Park system and there is a $30 charge per private vehicle to enter. A valid national parks pass can be used to enter.
Wrapping up the Devils Garden Loop
The Devils Garden is an amazing hike and exactly what I thought Arches National Park was going to be like. The three options I laid out here should set up most skill levels with a plan on how to enjoy the trail.
The Arches are magnificent and there are so many to see on this trail. The trail got a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!