Arches Fiery Furnance

The Fiery Furnace isn’t named for its average temperature. Actually, it belies its name and remains fairly cool even in midsummer due to the many shady canyons. Instead, the area was named for the reddish glow it often takes on at sunset, which resembles a furnace. It's an unusual and moderately difficult hike thanks to narrow passages and some rough terrain, and it's a hike you won't soon forget.

The best way to see the Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park is to take a ranger-led tour. You can explore the area by yourself with a hiking permit obtained at the park’s visitor center (there is a nominal charge either way), but on a guided tour you’ll learn ten times what you would on your own. Also, you will have much less impact on this fragile desert environment.

During prime season the guided trips can fill up fast, sometimes weeks or even months in advance, so call in advance (435-719-2299) to reserve a spot. Because of the rough terrain, the NPS only allows hikers over 5 years old. For current information on Fiery Furnace tours, visit the park’s website.

Two defined trails leave the trailhead, but they soon melt away into a fascinating puzzle of crevasses, fins, and boulders. This maze of canyons may be one of the most difficult areas to hike in the park, but it’s also one of the most remarkable. The scenery, especially the steep-sided canyons and weirdly shaped rocks, along with several arches and bridges, is unforgettable.

The Fiery Furnace also provides critical habitat for many rare plant species, such as the Canyonlands biscuitroot, so please be careful not to step on black-crusted cryptobiotic soil (desert topsoil) or delicate plant communities. Try to walk exclusively on rock or in sandy washes.

Overview: A ranger-led (or permit required) hike to a rare desert environment named for the reddish glow it often takes on at sunset, which resembles a furnace.

Start: Fiery Furnace Parking Area

Distance: 2 miles; loop

Difficulty: Moderate

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

Finding the trailhead: Drive north into the park on the main road for 14.5 miles and turn right (east) at well-signed Fiery Furnace Road (just after the Salt Valley Overlook). Park in the Fiery Furnace Parking Area, which is a short drive from the main road.

Trailhead GPS: 38.742929, -109.565722

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