Beginner’s Trail Guide: Devils Garden at Arches National Park

I’m not going to lie, Devils Garden tested me. Not so much my physical strength, but my willingness to get out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries. The hike is absolutely doable for beginners (or it wouldn’t be so popular) but if you have a fear of heights, it will push you.

That being said, I whole-heartedly encourage you to let this hike be a way to get out of your comfort zone in a safe, exciting, and stunningly beautiful setting. Hiking Devils Garden is challenging without being overwhelming and doesn’t have the insane crowds of Delicate Arch.

Obviously, I don’t need to sell why you should go to Arches in general. It’s a national park for a reason. It costs $25 per car to get into the park, and if you’re planning on visiting five or more parks in one year, it’s more cost-effective to spring for the $80 annual pass.

Landscape Arch, the first stop on the trail. If you’re looking for a shorter distance and totally tame trail, you can go out to Landscape and then just turn around.

Being an iconic national park, Arches is also super crowded. We got to the trailhead by 10, which I honestly was worried was going to be too late. In April, it wasn’t, but by the time we were done hiking, the parking lot was packed and there was a line of cars waiting for spots.

The campground around the corner from the trailhead is closed for construction, and while this is generally a bummer since you can’t camp in the park, I think it helped with the number of people getting an early start on the trail.

The pay-off at the end of the hike.

If you go in springtime, it will likely be chilly in the morning and you’ll be inclined to wear a bunch of layers. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t do that. Especially if it’s sunny. You’ll end up jamming them all in your backpack and cursing yourself for wearing two long-sleeved layers on a hike through the desert.

There’s essentially no shade on the entire trail – there will be some shadows among the rocks in the morning, but once the sun gets nice and high, it also gets nice and hot. This is manageable when the high is 71 (like it is in April). Not so much when it’s 107 (like it is in June).

You have a few options for hiking from the Devils Garden Trailhead (honestly, why do they call it this? It sounds terrifying). We opted to take the out-and-back route to Double O Arch, which is 4.2 miles round trip.

You can add on mileage with side trails to see other arches, but there’s a ton of scenery from the main trail so don’t feel like you’re missing out. If you want to get really crazy, you can opt for the primitive trail back from Double O that puts you at just over 7 miles. You may also want to opt for another blog because that level of adventure was not something I was looking to get into.

The part that I thought was a fun challenge since there was no immediate way to fall to your death. Also this was NOT considered the primitive trail, which is how I knew I did not want to do the primitive trail.

The first mile of Devils Garden is super tame, but once you pass Landscape Arch there’s a lot of “trail” that’s actually just slick sandstone that you’re climbing up and over. It was a little intimidating, but definitely something anyone can handle (see above).

But then you get to the “rock fin” about two-thirds of the way in.

This was when my fear sweats kicked in. You’re on a four- to five-foot-wide “fin” of rock that comes out of the ground and takes you up and over to Double O Arch….with a nice big drop-off on one side.

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but there are drop-offs on each side of Billy. The right side is particularly…exciting to look over.

I know my fear of heights is a ridiculous trick my brain is playing on me, but part of the phobia that sets in is vertigo, which only increases my fear that I’m going to plummet to my death.

I was comforted by the fact that I could look to the left side (on the way out, right side on the way back) of the rock fin to a much more tame drop-off. The north side is the doozy, although literally thousands of people do it every day and don’t die or fall off.

That is the comforting mantra I soothed myself with as I baby-stepped my way across. I may have looked like a drunk baby horse learning to walk thanks to my white-knuckled grip on my hiking poles, but I did it!

Could you skip the rock fin and just turn around? Yes, and you could still have a nice hike up to Partition Arch that may be less intimidating.

But SO.MANY.PEOPLE. do this trail and are totally fine. I wanted to push myself and not wimp out. I suggest you do the same because the pay-off at the end (Double O Arch) is pretty great, in addition to the feeling of badassery you will have. HOWEVER, do not be ashamed if you can’t do it. Just trying is brave, and you should be proud of yourself for trying something at all that scares you, no matter how far you get.

Lunch at Double O Arch at the end of the trail.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Horvat says:

    Fantastic. I’m glad you folks finally made it out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Martha Cardon Irmer says:

    Good for you! You kow I share your fear of heights and I would find that challenging but would probably give it a try, with poles!


    1. Laura Cardon says:

      Yes I was amazed at how many people didn’t find it scary! And Billy also doesn’t love heights, but had no issue. But it was totally worth pushing through – the poles helped a lot!!


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