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Devils Garden

A male hiker descending on top of sandstone between two larger sandstone fins along the Primitive Trail of the Devils Garden Trail. Arches National Park, Utah

The full Devils Garden Trail is a strenuous 8.35 mile loop, and has the unique distinction of being Arches National Park’s longest and hardest maintained trail. The writeup assumes that if you’re going to hike the full loop, you won’t mind the side-trips to the extra features. After all, if you’re hiking the longest maintained trail in the park, why not do all of it?

Devils Garden Trail Description

The trail begins easily enough over a well-packed and wide maintained trail, which will be the case for the first mile to Landscape Arch. From the trailhead, you’ll pass through two massive sandstone fins, emerging on the opposite side in a large clearing. It’s here that you’ll reach your first spur trail, accessing both Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch.

Descend a small hill and find Tunnel Arch on the small fork to the right, high up in the fin to your right with another companion nearby. Continue to Pine Tree Arch where you’ll find a surprisingly large arch with a spectacular view through its opening. This is the one that makes you glad you made the spur down.

A male hiker standing below Pine Tree Arch along the Devils Garden Trail. Arches National Park, Utah

Back on the main trail, continue through another set of sandstone fins and emerge at the top of a large basin. The trail will drop a bit as you approach Landscape Arch. Near the bottom you’ll see the fork for the Primitive Trail to the right. There’s no right way to go around the loop, so head in either direction, though this writeup heads left toward Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch is just past the fork, and as Arches National Park’s largest arch at 290 feet, deserves to be admired and respected. Soak in the views and continue onward when ready.

Past Landscape Arch the trail gets a bit more adventurous as you begin climbing up the crest of a sandstone fin between two much larger fins, the trail often feeling a little steep. Once you reach the top, you’ll wind through a sandy patch below the tops of the surrounding fins. It’s here that you’ll reach the next spur trail, this one for Partition Arch and Navajo Arch.

The fork for Partition Arch comes first, squeezing along the base of the sandstone fin the whole way. Once you reach Partition Arch, be sure to find the smaller arch next to it separated by a, you guessed it, partition. The initial opening is so much larger and admirable that it’s easy to overlook the smaller arch on the opposite side. Also, astute hikers will recognize that this arch was in plain sight from the vantage points by Landscape Arch.

Erosion in sandstone from wind, water, and ice leaving ghostly abstract shapes. Arches National Park, Utah

Back at the spur, head left to continue onto Navajo Arch. Along the way, you’ll see erosion in the sandstone fin resembling ghostly shapes before reaching the arch. Tucked away in the fin and heading into a small canyon is the discrete but commanding Navajo Arch. Enjoy the scenery and then head back to the main trail when you’re ready.

The main Devils Garden Trail will continue across the sand and a sandstone hilltop. You’ll climb up a small sandstone fin and hike along its crest until you reach a sign that directs you to a slightly higher fin. The fin climbs a bit in elevation, treating you to unparalleled panoramic views of the region all along the way. At the other end, signs direct you down off the fin. Shortly after, you reach a sign directing you to Double O Arch and the Black Arch Overlook.

The spur to Black Arch Overlook is literally just a few steps off the main trail to the right, ending in what was formerly the opening of an arch that’s long since collapsed. The view still remains, however, stretching out unfathomable distances to the east far beyond the Devils Garden below. Tucked away in the foreground though, is a well-shaded arch, pointing out the obvious as to how it got its name.

The Devils Garden Trail passing above the namesake feature on top of a sandstone fin as stormy weather threatens in the distance. Arches National Park, Utah

Past the Black Arch Overlook the trail climbs up sandstone and over a small fin. It then crosses through thick juniper trees and takes advantage of some flat slickrock at the base of the fin to the left. As the fin tapers off, Double O Arch comes into view to the left. The trail continues along the sandstone and turns back toward the arch. Remember to respect the park and the arch itself by staying on the trail.

To the right of Double O Arch is the spur trail for the Dark Angel, a monolithic spire of desert varnished sandstone. The trail winds around the top of the nearby basin through rocky terrain, then drops down to and out of a wash. The trail will level out as a stunning view to the west and northwest opens up over the Salt Valley. The trail continues to the back of the fins and finally at the Dark Angel itself, the destination never out of sight for very long along the way. Once you’ve admired the spire, head back to Double O Arch and look for the sign pointing you onto the Primitive Trail.

A male hiker standing at the base of the Dark Angel sandstone spire. Arches National Park, Utah

After Double O Arch, the Primitive Trail begins, providing an extra sense of adventure to an already great trail. You’ll drop into a basin as you wind along a wash, gradually dropping in elevation before dropping into the wash itself. A sign will follow pointing you out of the wash and to the left where the trail will then drop down through sandstone. It’s here you’ll reach another spur trail, this one for Private Arch to the right.

The Private Arch Trail snakes through and up and down sandstone before flattening out above a gully between fins. It begins dropping again, and it’s at the bottom that you’ll (eventually) see Private Arch tucked discretely away on the left and below you at the signed end of the trail. It’s easily accessible enough provided the sandstone is dry, and is worth venturing down to to appreciate its size.

Back in the main trail, you’ll reach an immediate cliff in the wash. Head around the sandstone on the opposite side to the bottom where the trail resumes in the wash for a short stretch. You’ll then be pointed up sandstone by a sign, following a small fin upward and over to the next cairn. Cairns will begin guiding you down between more fins as you then wind through boulders and ridges. You’ll emerge above a beautiful basin where the trail drops down to the immediate left, crossing over a sandstone fin and into a large canyon between fins.

A small juniper tree growing in a sandstone wall thanks to a small patch of cryptobiotic soil. Arches National Park, Utah

Follow the lower ledge of the fin down and into the bottom, coming out into a wash. At this point, you’ll want to hope there hasn’t been any precipitation recently (I wasn’t so lucky). On a standard dry day, this is an easy hop, skip, and jump through a small pool with logs to get you across. On a day when there’s been precipitation, the water will be higher than usual, causing one of the logs to float and lose stability. You either get wet in the deeper-than-it-looks pool, or you scramble up the sandstone cliff on the left, making a much easier descent on the other side.

However you get past that point, you’ll continue down the wash with a sign marking yet again that the trail leaves the wash. You’ll then ascend up sandy sandstone hills where you’ll reach a crest with a fantastic view of the Devils Garden behind you. The Primitive Trail continues weaving through small hills, steadily gaining elevation along the way. The nice view of the Devils Garden behind you has now morphed into a stellar panoramic view at the crest, so make sure you look back every now and then.

Beyond the small crest, you emerge above a sandy basin, winding closer to the fins off to the right. This leads directly back to the main trail near Landscape Arch, where you can head left to return to the trailhead.

Getting There

From the Arches National Park entrance station, head up the main park road for 16.5 miles where it will end at the large parking area for the Devils Garden Trailhead.

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All content © Copyright Mike Cavaroc, Free Roaming Hiker & Free Roaming Photography