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

Double O Arch in 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 to Double O Arch 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 huge crowds of Delicate Arch.

How do I get there?

Devils Garden is in Arches National Park, located outside of Moab, Utah. There’s a campground at Devils Garden, so if you’re planning a trip, reserve your campsite early and stay right in the park!

If you’re driving from Denver, it’s five and a half hours without traffic, closer to six. Stop in Fruita for a pick-me-up before you cross into Utah! Moab is just under four hours from Salt Lake, but I’ve never driven that direction, so I can’t give you any pointers.

If you’re coming from Colorado, it’s a different story! Make sure to take the scenic route instead of I-70 the entire way. After you get into Utah, take the Cisco exit and follow Highway 128. This will at first seem like a very sketchy road that will definitely not take you anywhere – it’s not paved and it can be rutted out. But after a few miles, the pavement returns, the red rock canyons surrounding the Colorado River open up, and it’s just gorgeous.

Where do I go?

You gotta drive alllll the way through the park to the end of the road. But there’s only one road so it’s hard to get lost. It’s paved the whole way and driving through Arches is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. You feel like you’re on another planet!

There are two beginner-friendly options for hiking around Devils Garden (honestly, why do they call it this? It sounds terrifying). The hike to Landscape Arch (pictured below) is just under two miles round-trip, is very flat, and is all on smooth, gravel or sand pathways.

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 wild, 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.

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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.

The other beginner-friendly option is the hike to Double O Arch. This is technically listed as “strenuous” on the national park website. It’s 4.2 miles with a few steep sections. The most strenuous part is that you have to climb up on the rock fins. Like I said, it’s doable. But a little bit outside my comfort zone!

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 beginners can handle (see below).

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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.

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.

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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.

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

What should I wear and bring?

There’s essentially no shade. 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).

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.

I ended upwearing a light long-sleeve shirt, capri-length exercise leggings, a hat, and sunglasses. I also wore trail running shoes for the hike, but I wish I had worn my hiking boots and had a little bit more support on the uneven rocks later on. I saw all kinds of footwear out there, though, so wear whatever is comfortable and a little grippy!

I would highly recommend bringing at least one liter of water with you. It’s super dry in the desert, and I’m always surprised by how much water I end up drinking. Double O Arch is a great spot for lunch, so pack some food to enjoy there, too. Remember to bring everything back out with you, including all of your trash.

Is it crowded?

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 was closed for construction when I did this hike. That was generally a bummer since we couldn’t camp in the park, I think it helped with the number of people getting an early start on the trail. Now that it’s back open, it’ll probably be even more busy.

Anything else I should know?

It costs $30 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 annual pass. If you’re planning on going to Canyonlands as well, then you could opt for the Southeast Utah Parks Pass, which is valid for one month and gets you into Canyonlands, Arches, and Natural Bridges as many times as you want for $55.

If you’re planning a long weekend in Moab, check out my travel guide and itinerary >>

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Double O Arch, the pay-off at the end of the hike.

4 thoughts on “Beginner’s Trail Guide: Devils Garden at Arches National Park

  1. 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!

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    1. 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!!

      Like

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