Arches National Park: Fiery Furnace

Weave through a maze of sandstone fins, squeeze between rock walls, and peek at hidden arches on this 2.3-mile hike in Arches National Park.
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Weave through a maze of sandstone fins, squeeze between rock walls, and peek at hidden arches on this 2.3-mile hike in Arches National Park.

The best way to experience the wild geology of Arches National Park is to get down and dirty on this 2.3-mile hike. You'll lemon-squeeze between rock walls and scramble over rock gardens to find hidden arches and remote enclaves. This hike is fun way to introduce kids to Arches, and rangers lead trips twice a day into the Fiery Furnace area.
The hike begins on a path lined with dark, crusty patches of cryptobiotic soil, some of the oldest living organisms in the world (the organisms hold the soil together and prevent erosion). Almost immediately the hike drops into a sandy wash dotted with Utah juniper and Morman tea. Weave through a maze of sandstone hoodoos and fins to a natural bridge less than three feet wide. Cross (or do the Limbo) under the bridge.
Ahead, take a spur trail into Raven Canyon to the aptly-named Skull Arch, a double arch looming high above the shaded canyon. Backtrack to main trail and turn right for more fun: scramble over a rock bridge and pinch between sandstone walls. Pause at milepoint 1.1 to see a rock shaped like a kissing turtle and shortly after to grab distant views of Balanced Rock, a gravity-defying pile of bus-sized rocks rising more than 120 feet.
Take a second sidetrip to the rocky tendon of Surprise Arch which parallels two sheer rock walls. Retrace steps. Finish the last 0.3 mile by climbing steps chiseled into the rock to exit the rocky maze. Tip: Bring along a jacket as most of the hike is in the shadow tall sandstone fins.
Note: A permit is required for this hike. Pick one up at the visitor center. Or, sign up for a three-hour tour guided by a ranger (advanced reservations are recommended to secure a spot).
Info: Arches National Park, (435) 719-2299; nps.gov/arch
-Mapped by Sarah Curry

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 3.1

Waypoints

FF001

Location: 38.7432726, -109.5657974

From the Fiery Furnace trailhead, the trail drops into the maze of sandstone fins.

FF002

Location: 38.7423605, -109.5639414

Enter a sandy wash. Surrounding shrub oaks demonstrate the presence of water. Ahead: the trail is rocky and shaded by high rock walls.

FF003

Location: 38.7435111, -109.5613316

Turn left and walk besides a tall rock. Bear left towards a rock bridge and walk under it.

FF004

Location: 38.7428709, -109.5621979

Turn left, squeeze through rocky obstacles into an open area.

FF005

Location: 38.7430404, -109.5604974

A good place for a break.

FF006

Location: 38.7449441, -109.5603499

Skull Arch looms above Raven Canyon. When filled with water, nearby potholes hold fairy shrimp. Make a U-Turn to continue on the hike.

FF007

Location: 38.7430843, -109.5605376

Turn right. Use footholds carved into rock to climb up.
Ahead: Cross a rock bridge.

FF008

Location: 38.74499, -109.561506

Pass through a tight opening between rocks. A kissing turtle rock formation above the clearing.

FF009

Location: 38.744327, -109.5620316

Around the corner,look for Balanced Rock in the distance.

FF010

Location: 38.7460047, -109.5637536

Walk across the clearing and turn right to walk between rock walls.

FF011

Location: 38.7477703, -109.5646575

Surprise Arch; backtrack.

FF012

Location: 38.7462348, -109.5638448

Go to the right of the clearing before walking down between rock walls. Follow the steps carved into the rock and hold the hand rails Leave the fin maze and return to trailhead.

Skull Arch

Location: 38.745138, -109.560385

Sandstone Fins with the La Sal Mountainsin the distance

Location: 38.742988, -109.564799

Sandstone Fins of Fiery Furnace

Location: 38.742984, -109.56461

Cryptobiotic Soil

Location: 38.742554, -109.564301

Sandy Wash

Location: 38.7431638, -109.5613208

Rock Bridge

Location: 38.7435132, -109.5613021

Climbing between the rocks

Location: 38.743294, -109.56173

Waiting to climb through the rock hole

Location: 38.743294, -109.56173

Spires in Fiery Furnace

Location: 38.74294, -109.560403

Local ranger

Location: 38.7430027, -109.5604625

Fiery Furnace area

Location: 38.7432349, -109.5601541

Side View of a Sandstone Fin

Location: 38.745037, -109.560312

Climbing between the rocks

Location: 38.7445027, -109.5611572

Overlooking Arches National Park

Location: 38.744327, -109.5619833

Family fun

Location: 38.7450173, -109.563126

Surprise Arch

Location: 38.7477682, -109.5646253