Ode to Delicate Arch

Noun Sequitur

My Feet Hurt
Oct 24, 2012
I was digging through some photos of recent trips to see if there was anything I could build a tale around. I pulled up a few pics from a Delicate Arch hike that my son and I did in December.

I hadn’t meant to post anything about it. I mean c’mon.... It’s Delicate Arch. Who hasn’t been there? On a busy day it seems like a full third of the earth’s population is visiting. Those who haven’t visited the arch in person have seen the likeness on postage stamps, license plates, motel signs, and basketball uniforms. It’s ubiquitous here. Delicate Arch is a cliche. Delicate Arch is an advertisement.

But going over these pictures reminded me that all the attention is rightfully deserved. Delicate Arch is still the most beautiful place on God’s Red Earth.


My love for the place is probably because it is the epicenter of my best memories growing up in Southeast Utah. It had been over a decade since I’d visited. I was hoping to share with my son some of the luster that had attached itself to my old memories. Time will tell how he will remember the trip, but for me... it can pretty much be summed up with ‘Yep, Delicate Arch has still got it.’

Argh this pic is crap.jpg

If you haven’t visited yet, Delicate Arch is huge; way bigger than you think. Bigger than it looks in pictures. It is the star of the show. For all the loud conversation that takes place on the trail, the vicinity of the arch is usually all reverent undertones and smiling faces. Delicate Arch doesn’t care about the crowds and the kids and the people and the truck stop down at the trailhead. Delicate Arch just stands there, commanding attention like an arena rock star with the silence cranked up to eleven.

Back View.jpg

Even though Delicate Arch is the centerpiece, It’s not the only reason to walk three miles there and back. Here are some more reasons:

The trail is a work of art. It is a great example of the journey being worthy of the destination. The last half of the trail is epic, and has about the best end-of-hike reveal that you’re likely to see.





Trail Sign.jpg

And that last climb...


The arch and nearby vicinity sit at the edge of a tilted rock bench. The arch, the rocks, the trail, all sit at a crazy angle that lends a mind bending twist to an already convoluted geometry. It can mess with your head. It can bite into your subconsciousness and work its way into your dreams. For me, the tilt and the sheer drops on all sides give an electric rush of vertigo that makes me feel like I’m constantly on the verge of falling off an edge. I enjoy the feeling, you may not. I dare you to stand under the arch and look straight up. Be careful, it sits at the edge of a cliff.



It is interactive. I mean you can walk right up under the arch. Walk as close as you dare to the cliff edges all around. Test the point of no return as the amphitheater in the foreground curves away beneath your feet. I understand now how my parents must have felt when we visited; for me it was a playground, for them it was a panic attack.



There is lots of other stuff to see. There are huge chert boulders, petroglyphs, carved stone stairs, an old log cabin...


This arch...
Sneak Peak.jpg

...But wait to visit it until you are on your way back. Don’t spoil the surprise.


Once you’ve visited and know where it’s at, you’ll be able to pick out Delicate Arch from all over the park. It’s there to be seen, but usually at an unrecognizable angle unless you know what you’re looking for.

Side View.jpg

You can even see it from...(**SPOILER**) the parking lot

Delicate Arch is famous and popular and it definitely doesn't need me to stick up for it. Don’t visit expecting any sort of solitude or one-with-nature experience. You will cross paths with kids running around everywhere, people talking loudly about politics, smelly trailhead toilets, out of shape tourists that forgot their water. All of it. And after your visit, you’ll drive away thinking it was totally worth it.
Very well written. Got to see it for the first time last year. Lots of people, but it was sure worth seeing once in my life. It's an incredible formation and it's one of those few tourist hotspots that doesn't disappoint.
I've never seen it in person, only in photos. Now I want to see it in person, thanks.
Now that was an awesome trip report. Just goes to show, it doesn't have to be anything new or super hard. I think the last time I hiked up there in the daylight was at least 15 years ago. I did a night hike up probably 8 years ago and that was the last time I made it there. A few years after that I tried to make it up for sunset and more night photos and had the worst hiking injury I've ever had... on the smooth, graded part of the trail about a half mile from the parking area. :facepalm:
4AAFCC34-ADF7-4808-9DBF-3EC69BF16759.jpeg Last visited it the end of Feb. 2017. It was really windy that day. But the best part is that when we got to it...we were the only ones there!!
I had friends with me from Michigan and I tried to tell them how rare this was to have it all to ourselves. After about 10 minutes a few photographers showed up and started setting up their camera equipment quickly realizing no one was there but us yahoos taking photos under it.
The wind was howling, but that’s not too visible in photos...other than our clothes blowing in the wind.
When we left there were about 4 photographers lined up taking shots of the uninhabited arch.
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Nice pics. Too bad it is so crowded now. A beautiful experience no matter how many people are there.
You’ve got a way with words. Great read. I totally have a new complex now since I’ve never been there. I also have a lot of regret in driving past the Arches entrance about 10 times when I was out that way and not trying harder to find a day, or even just a few hours to go in.
Wonderful!!!! A memory I have is.......the boys and I were walking up the slickrock hill (that is a Beast on 100+ degree days) and I came to a stop. I retraced my steps and back again. I got the boys attention and we were captivated by the curious thing. It was a hollow sound. This seemingly solid surface was talking/echoing to us.
Delicate Arch was the initial stop in 2003 on our first trip to the Utah desert, which sparked a love affair with the Colorado Plateau that has led to yearly excursions since. I don't recall crowds then, other than a lot of sweaty photogs looking for sunset shots who were panting up the trail under loads of heavy camera gear, as we descended in the late afternoon.
Enjoyed revisiting via your photos, as we haven't been back to Delicate since.
Wonderful!!!! A memory I have is.......the boys and I were walking up the slickrock hill (that is a Beast on 100+ degree days) and I came to a stop. I retraced my steps and back again. I got the boys attention and we were captivated by the curious thing. It was a hollow sound. This seemingly solid surface was talking/echoing to us.
I just thought of why I am so grateful to have this trip report inspire this memory of mine. At the time I was a just a doofus dad who would drag my boys to places occasionally. (Especially Jeff....Scott was in that transition period in tolerating the outdoors I believe.). I didn't have any real answers for why the rock was talking to us but there the three of us stood discussing this aberration. It made trekking across the wilderness a magical possibility. Experiences like that are what contributes to them growing into who they are becoming..............cool!
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