Arches Devils Garden Primitive Loop

If you take the Primitive Loop Trail and all short spur trails to nearby arches and other features, this becomes the longest maintained trail in Arches National Park. It’s also one of the most spectacular hikes you can take in any national park.

You can hike the entire loop in three to four hours, but you could also spend an entire day checking out the area and relaxing along the way. In any case, carry extra water. Also, you might want to get up early to take this hike to beat the heat — and to be sure you find a parking spot in the large but often packed parking area.

This hike starts at the Devils Garden trailhead, same as the previous hike (follow above description to Double O Arch). Just after Double O Arch, you hit a junction with a spur trail heading to the left to Dark Angel. Taking this spur trail adds nearly a mile to your trip, but it’s worth it to get a close look at this blackish sandstone spike jutting out of the desert landscape.

Also right after Double O Arch, the Primitive Loop Trail heads off to the right. The NPS has marked it “Caution, primitive trail, difficult hiking,” and the loop section of this hike is about as difficult as the section between Landscape and Partition Arches, which you have already hiked. In winter some sections can be wet or icy, making footing quite slick. If you turn back at this point, you will have seen most of the famous features of the Devils Garden Trail.

About a half mile farther up the Primitive Loop Trail, watch for a short spur trail going off to the right to Private Arch, the last arch you see on this loop. From here, instead of going from arch to arch as on the first part of this trip, the loop trail traverses a beautiful desert environment where you can study the flora and fauna — and probably have it all to yourself. Even though thousands of hikers take the first part of this loop trip, most people choose to retrace their steps on a better trail than brave the primitive loop route.

Overview: The longest, most difficult hike in Arches National Park but a good choice for solitude; includes hiking to Landscape and Double O Arches.

Start: Devils Garden Trailhead Parking Area

Distance: 7.2 miles; out and back

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Maps: USGS Arches National Park; Trails Illustrated Arches National Park

Finding the trailhead: Drive north into the park on the main road for 19 miles and park in the large parking area at the Devils Garden Trailhead. The trailhead is at the end of the road where it makes a small loop. Be sure to stay on the loop instead of turning into the Devils Garden Campground.

Trailhead GPS coordinates: 38.782876, -109.594996

Hike information adapted from Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks (FalconGuides), which includes mile-by-mile hike descriptions and maps.