Arches National Park, UT
by Lynn Bremner
Update May 2022: Currently, the Fiery Furance area is open to self-guided exploration permits only, available on Recreation.gov. Ranger-led tours will resume May 16 and require advance reservation, also on Recreation.gov.
What is the most thrilling hike in Arches National Park? I pulled up Trip Advisor, hoping to find an answer, as I was headed there on my long awaited vacation. Fiery Furnace was ranked number two on the site, second only to the Delicate Arch hike.
Interested, I read further. Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons, orange and tan colored fins, towers, spires and arches. The colorful sandstone lights up when the setting sun casts its rays on the canyon walls, making it look like a “fiery furnace.”
The delicate nature of the ecosystem requires that only guided tours enter the area, or hikers who have a permit. The park service offers an affordable tour into Fiery Furnace, but those tours sell out months in advance. I hadn’t planned that far ahead! I researched tour companies and turned up the Moab Adventure Center, which offered the hiking tour for $86.00 per person. They had an opening, so I quickly booked the tour online, excited to have completed my travel plans.
The morning of the hike, a shuttle picked us up at our hotel and dropped us off at the Moab Adventure Center in downtown Moab. After a brief introduction by our tour guide Cort, we piled into the tour van and started our adventure.
The first stop was the Park Visitor’s Center where we watched a video about the Fiery Furnace that included notes on how to keep our impact to a minimum while we hiked in the canyons. Cort then drove us to the trailhead where we started our hike into the Fiery Furnace.
It was overcast that day and the temperatures were in the low 90s. Fortunately, many shady corridors in the canyons keep the trail cooler than the temperatures outside, making it a pleasant trek in warmer weather.
The Fiery Furnace hike is different than any other hike at Arches. Its labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons and fins are mesmerizing. Rock formations, slots, arches and other geologic features are so abundant that we stopped often just to look up and take it all in. Every turn of the path yielded a photographic vantage. Finally, I decided to just put my camera away and marvel at the incredible terrain without the distraction of the lens.
Towering fins and canyon walls made me feel as if I was in another world. It seemed as if our group was hiking inside of a giant rock maze, walking back in time. I was glad I had chosen the guided hike. It would be easy to get lost in those canyons and lose all sense of direction.
Several times during the hike we had to cross over gaps and chasms, and to walk on narrow rock ledges. Cort showed us techniques for navigating the difficult parts of the trail. Two rocks had a gap that we had to straddle down. We crossed a chasm by bracing ourselves against the opposite wall and sidestepping the full length of it, until we reached the outlet. The rock scrambling and obstacles along the trail made the hike truly an adventure.
If you have the time and are physically able to make the hike, Fiery Furnace is definitely worth your time and effort. I’m also happy to recommend the Moab Adventure Center for their guided tour. The experience was excellent all around. Our guide Cort was informative and made the hike really fun.
Note: Our hike took about 2.5 hours. Some tours may be longer depending on the group and the tour company. Be sure to take a small backpack or waist pack to carry your drinking water (our guide recommended at least 1 litre per person). At times, you will need both hands to traverse parts of the canyon, so it is essential to have at least a small pack for hands free travel. A good pair of hiking shoes, and a hat are also essential. Don’t forget to pack a camera! Children under 5 are not permitted.
For information on the Park’s Guided Tours visit …
For information about Moab Adventure Center visit …
View Fiery Furnace in a larger map
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