Fiery Furnace

One of the most fun half day experiences for all the family in southern Utah.

★★★★

Wow factor

★★★★★

Overall rating

★★★

Difficulty

★★★★★

Access road

★★

Crowds

Fiery Furnace is not as terrifying as it sounds (don’t tell the kids, though!). Within Arches National Park, it’s a 0.5 square mile labyrinth of sandstone fins. Your mission is to enter this maze, with no cairns or signs to guide you, and work your way through them. The rules are that you may only walk on slickrock or along washes. Why the rules? This is a very special environment with several unique flora. In fact you must obtain a special hiking permit or join a ranger-led tour (fees payable at the visitor center). If you’re hiking on your own (recommended if you're adventurous) then you must attend a short orientation film. Please pay attention as the rangers do ask questions afterwards before giving you a permit/backpack tag with the number in your party. You must keep your group together. It’s a very special place and everyone wants to keep it that way, so please respect the rangers’ demands and tread carefully to ensure the area stays open for freestyle hikers.

 

This is not so much a hike as a walk and scramble but there’s nothing technically difficult here, ands even small children (8+), with help, should have no problems negotiating the obstacles. And there are plenty of these: pouroffs to climb, narrows to squeeze through, small crevasses to avoid. If you see steps cut into a fin then that’s an obvious route so use them.You’ll see caves, arches, pools, rare plant species. What you won’t see are many people (if any) or much daylight. For more than one reason Fiery Furnace is the coolest place in the park. If you go with a ranger tour it’s a 2 mile, 2-3 hour ‘loop’ but if you’re freestyling it on your own you could spend 3 hours or more here.

 

The trail starts at the Fiery Furnace Overlook parking area and within a couple of minutes you’re inside the maze. Routefinding is a question of trial and error but generally you’ll find yourself zig-zagging up and down along and occasionally between the many fins. If you arrive at a dead end or at some virgin ground, then you’ll need to track back and find another way. If you think you’re lost and need to exit, then just follow the fins downhill as best you can until you’re out of the maze where you’ll find a trail leading back uphill to the parking area.

 

Whenever I’ve hiked here with children they all think this is one of the best trips ever. Enjoy.

© 2015-2020 Bob Palmer.