Fiery Furnace

Round Trip Distance: 3.9 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 4634 - 4949 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 3 hrs.
Trailhead: Fiery Furnace
Fee: $10 individual - $25/vehicle
Extra Fee: $16/adult,$8/child guided tour (recommended) - $6 self guided
Attractions: Unique geology, multiple arches

The Fiery Furnace trail is located within the Arches National Park north of Moab, Utah. 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. Hiking in the Fiery Furnace can actually provide a bit of a reprieve from the sun on a hot summer day in many of its shaded corridors. There are also many places though where the rock absorbs the full effects of the sun and radiates it right back to you.

As the sign points out you need a permit to hike in the Fiery Furnace. Self guided permits are available at the Visitor Center in Arches National Park. Everyone that is going to go on the hike will need to be present and watch a short video. The highly recommended option though is to sign up for the ranger guided tour. You will need to register at least 4 days in advance. During the busy season you might not find any spots available for several weeks so it is a good idea to plan well ahead. Besides not having to worry about getting lost in the maze of rock fins the rangers on the guided tour will get you to all the hidden areas of the hike and share their wealth of information on the history, geology and the ecosystem.

The guided tour begins by following the loop to the right in a counter-clockwise direction. The trail descends into a wash that is a couple tenths of a mile from the trailhead. If you are doing a self guided tour but hoping to follow the guided tour route you will want to be sure to take a left at this point and follow the wash. There were plenty of tracks going to the right but the tour went to the left. We also met another ranger here that was escorting three people out that had been caught hiking without a permit. I don't know what the fine is for that but if it is the same as illegal wood gathering then they can expect to pay $500 each.

There are at least for destinations on the hike that are short out and backs where the ranger takes the group into an area to see a particular spot and then returns by the same route and then off to the next destination.

The first of those out and backs was to a quaint little arch that leads to a shaded alcove.

A longer out and back goes into the area below Skull Arch.

Much of the hike follows along the slickrock. If you look close at this particular part of the trail you will see that some steps have been carved into the rock.

There are numerous spots where you get to try out a particular skill to get by whatever the obstacle might be at that point. Sliding on your fanny happened to work good at this spot.

This was probably the toughest section of the trail. You to brace yourself against the opposite wall and there was a little drop at the outlet that you had to lower yourself down. The ranger explained different techniques that you could try and then, of course, led by example.

This spot called for the straddle technique. All the different scrambling spots on the trail made for a very exciting and adventuresome hike.

This section of trail had some exposure but with the dry conditions it wasn't at all scary. If it was wet or even icy then some of these areas would probably be too hazardous to attempt.

This time a straddle is combined with a narrow slot.

From the entrance some of the slots seem a little confined.

But once on the inside they might be very roomy.

This ledge just looks awesome with hikers spread out from one end to the other.

The last out and back was to a dead end area where we took a break under Surprise Arch.

Surprise Arch is over 150 feet higher in elevation than the trailhead so there are a couple of pretty good downhill sections towards the end of the hike. It is just a little over a half mile from Surprise Arch to the finish.

Some of these rocks make it look like a land of giants.

When you register for the hike they tell you to expect it to take 3 hours. Our group went really well and finished in 2 1/2 hours. The group before us said it took them exactly 3 1/2 hours. It really depends on the people in your group how long it will take. Our group ranged in age from about 15 to 60 years of age but everyone was in pretty good shape. If you think of buying a self guided permit and then trying to follow one of the guided tours the ranger will send you off on your own anyway.

The hike is billed at being 2 miles round trip. I took a Garmin and a DeLorme GPS on the guided tour. The Garmin kept losing satellites and never made a good map. The DeLorme made a perfect map and showed a total distance of 3.9 miles which is almost twice the distance the park service showed. I plan to go back sometime and try to follow my own GPS map and see if I can stay on the correct trail.

The Fiery Furnace hike is one of the funnest hikes I have been on in quite sometime. The scenery was fantastic. The ranger that guided our group made it fun and informative. And all the obstacles with their little scrambles kept the atmosphere of the hike adventurous. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.