Fiery Furnace Hike – Arches NP

Moab, UT

When we showed up at the Arches Visitor’s Center yesterday (Wednesday) for our Thursday ranger guided hike, we found out that they don’t do the Thursday hike on Wednesday, they only do it on Thursday.  So we went back to the park today (Thursday) hoping that this was the day for the Thursday hike.  Sure enough, they really do the Thursday hike on Thursday, just like they told us yesterday.  Who said the federal government can’t manage anything efficiently?

So at 2:00 pm we met a nice park ranger at the Fiery Furnace parking area, where she promptly led us, along with twenty-three other young hikers, into the rocks.   The Fiery Furnace gets its name not because it is like a burning oven, but because of the way the giant rock fins look on a clear day around sunset.  A permit is required for this hike if you go on your own.  We opted to sign up for a ranger-led tour, as finding the neat locations in this maze of rock fins can be difficult.

The view of the Fiery Furnace from the parking area

Our ranger guide, Kate, was an extremely knowledgeable young lady with the natural presentation skills of a great teacher.

Ranger Kate gives the group some basic rules for the hike

Into the canyon we go

Ranger Kate has a degree in Geology with a minor in Biology, so she was able to give us some great information about everything around us.  Below she is explaining the make-up of the two main layers of rock in Arches.  The lower rock is called Dewey Bridge, while the smoother rock on top is sandstone or slickrock.

Her talk helped us to understand the cause of the many balanced rocks found in the park.

Continuing deeper into the Fiery Furnace

Hiking one of the many slot canyon areas

Many times during the hike, the trail led into a small alcove at the end of a canyon, where Kate would take a few minutes to explain our surroundings.  To get into the first canyon, we walked under the first of many arches we encountered.

Coming back out of that canyon, there was an option to go around the small arch by crawling through a small opening in the rocks . . .

. . . then scramble down a narrow rocky path.  We decided to save our energy for later and by-passed the crawl through the opening.

We then made our way through an open area before entering another narrow canyon.

That led us to an area dominated by Skull Arch.  Look at the picture below upside down to get a better understanding of the name.

Much of the hike was over slickrock.  In a couple areas there were crude steps carved into the rock.

At times the nimble hiker and her youthful partner had to utilize their superb hiking skills.

Scrambling through a rocky crevasse

Leaping over a wide, bottomless chasm

In one area, the rocks narrowed to the point where they almost met, requiring some scrambling like a reverse crab-walk.  Below Ranger Kate demonstrates for the group.

For the first section you could use a forward crab walk, as demonstrated by the nimble hiker.

The last part required the reverse crab walk, again skillfully demonstrated below by the nimble hiker (with Ranger Kate nearby, just in case).

In the next clearing Ranger Kate gave a talk on the survival adaptations of the Utah Juniper Tree.

We then hiked back through another slot canyon and into a clearing.

At certain times wide vistas in the distance were observable.

Spires and fins were all around us.

We hiked through another slot canyon and were treated to a neat surprise.

As we entered a hidden alcove, we were surprised to find a large arch overhead, appropriately named the Surprise Arch.  This arch wasn’t even discovered until the park superintendent took a wrong turn during a December hike in some poor weather during the early 1960s and stumbled upon it.  Completely surrounded by high walls, Surprise Arch is only visible from inside the canyon.

Ranger Kate had everyone lie down on their backs and be absolutely quiet.  We then enjoyed the solitude of the canyon while looking at the blue sky above us outlined by the Surprise Arch.

This arch was the last stop of the hike, and we then began the climb back out of the Fiery Furnace.

Crossing an open area approaching the parking lot, a look back provided a great view of the Fiery Furnace with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains in the background.

This is one of the nicest hikes we have done during our visit in Utah.  At a little over three miles, it is not very long, but the rock scrambling needed to get into the canyons provided a bit of a challenge.  We highly recommend taking the ranger guided tour as the twists and turns of the trail are difficult to follow.  But if you plan to do it, be sure to make you reservation well in advance.  We made our reservations a couple of weeks ago and found that today’s hike was the only time available during our entire three week stay in Moab.

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29 Responses to Fiery Furnace Hike – Arches NP

  1. Upriverdavid says:

    Oh Thank-you for this post!!..I hope to be there next month and rather than poke around on my own, I’ll look for ranger Kate. Sometimes it’s better to ask for directions…
    Says David

    • placestheygo says:

      You can go alone for a $2 permit and then watching a video but you are right to be considering the guided tour. There are no markings (cairns or signs) to follow. Footprints are go everywhere. At times we were on rock for quite a while. It would be so easy to get lost. And you learn nothing about the area. Yes, ask for Kate. It seems she does the 2:00 tours, which this time of year are much warmer. It’s cool in there. Let us know how it goes.

  2. Nan and John says:

    Spectcular! Wow…..cannot find words to express my feelings….Thanks

  3. Sue says:

    Wow! That was a wonderful hike, thanks for documenting it so beautifully for us. I’m impressed by how nimble the nimble hiker is, reverse crab, eh?

  4. Janet says:

    You guys make it look pretty simple…….great job on the hike AND on sharing it with the rest of us!!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks for coming along, Janet! There were several tricky spots. I guess that is why they have a video and pictures on their website showing exactly what you need to do.

  5. Lisa says:

    What a fun field trip! Isn’t Arches the Greatest?!

    • placestheygo says:

      I love this park. We did a one afternoon drive through on the motorcycle years ago, and I have been waiting to return and spend time. Being a former teacher, having Kate as our guide was like being on a field trip. She was such a wonderful teacher and guide.

  6. Ingrid says:

    Your posts are always a pleasure to read. I love how you share all the photos….it really helps get a feel for the whole experience. That arch counter must be getting closer to that 2,000 number…lol.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Ingrid! Sometimes we don’t want to bore people with too many pictures but then there are people (like my mother) who love the pictures. Glad to read you appreciate them. We learned from Ranger Kate the other day that there are actually only about 50 large arches. To be considered an arch, it must go all the way through, be at least three feet in one direction, and be formed from one rock. So a very tiny slit three feet wide or long can be an arch. She said most of the 2500 are this way and you never see them. That made me feel better. So now I only need 50!! So far we have found 22 in the park!! Almost half way there.

  7. Gay and Joe Taylor says:

    We will for sure be looking into this hike! Way impressive how the nimble hiker made the backward crab crawl look so easy! What a neat idea to lay down and enjoy the sky!

    • placestheygo says:

      It was a great hike. There are several obstacles to cross. There is a video and many pictures on the Arches website so you can see what exactly you have to do on this hike. It was so beautiful back in the fins. Definitely check into it!!

  8. Told Steve we have to go back now! That really looked like a great hike. Pictures fantastic too! That nimble hiker is getting nimblier all the time!

    • placestheygo says:

      The Fiery Furnace hike would be worth a return trip! Our “J” in the camera moved up to the top after I tapped it several times. Then, yesterday it turned into a dot. Definitely something in there. Hope you get over the pass alright!!

  9. Well, of all the nerve to tell you to come back. Do you they know that your time is very valuable.

    That is definitely one hike I would like to have an expert with me. I think it would be awesome to have someone explain exactly what I was looking at and why? If we get to this park next fall, we WILL to the tour. Thanks for the heads up.

    Super shot of Skull Arch. I love the photo above it. So beautiful.

    Did you know you would be leaping a wide, bottomless chasm? That looks dangerous. Anyone have any trouble? Did they tell you to wear pants? Since it was three miles, how long did it take to do it? I see you didn’t leave until 2:00.

    Love the idea of lying down and looking up. How peaceful! Another delightful post!

  10. Tom & Patricia says:

    I have to add my WOW! Amazing is another description surely fitting… and It’s on our bucket list. Now all we have to do is get a bucket (RV). Right now it’s between a new Entegra or a 2008 Dynasty for half the price.

  11. Allison says:

    Great hike! Absolutely stupendous photos. We are so going back to Utah! You leap over bottomless chasms with a single bound.

  12. Spectacular, At first I doubted myself if i can do it but with a tour guide and only 3 miles it is worth it. Thank you so much for the details and pictures of your hike. This is wonderful !

  13. LuAnn says:

    This looks like a fabulous hike and to have a ranger along to give you a geology lesson and some tips on how to traverse some interesting spots made for a great day, I’m sure. Thanks for sharing it with us. Cross one more arch off the list! 🙂

  14. Erin says:

    Now that’s an amazing hike … and one to do with a guide for sure. We’ve done some hikes requiring scrambles … but leaping over a chasm would be a first for us 😉 Love the skull arch; but what a great surprise the “surprise arch” must have been for everyone. And to lie down to watch it would have afforded a fantastic point of view … or was that just an excuse to get a bit of rest ;-))

    • placestheygo says:

      While we were resting a little, Kate wanted us to just be very quiet and take a moment to enjoy the total stillness. The arch has the perfect name. It was such a wonderful surprise to come around the edge and discover it. Just an amazing hike!

  15. I just wanted to say, that first paragraph had my wife and I in tears of laughter.

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