Fiery Furnace Hike in Arches National Park

Hiking in Utah

Hello, Utah!

The Annual Girls’ Adventure Tour took us to Moab, Utah, this year. My sister Lisa and I had camped in the area a very long time ago, at Dead Horse Point State Park, but she hadn’t been back since then. And her two kids, my nieces Katie and Susie, had never been to the desert.

On our second day in Utah, we hiked in the Fiery Furnace area of Arches National Park. While researching the hike before our trip, I found out that visitors are strongly advised to go with a guide, as there is no trail and it’s very easy to get lost among the very high maze-like sandstone walls. A hike with a park ranger costs $10, but those were booked through July, so we arranged to go with the Moab Adventure Center. More than $10, but worth every penny. (If you don’t go with a guide, you must get a permit at the visitor’s center.)

Hiking the Fiery Furnace

Susie, Lisa and Katie, squeezing through a narrow slot.

Our guide, Kenna, led our group of fourteen through the Fiery Furnace for three hours or more. We scrambled up and down rocks, squeezed through some very narrow slots (which meant crawling on hands and knees for those of us over the age of ten), and tried to figure out how to maneuver our bodies through some narrow canyons where we couldn’t touch the ground (butts on one rock face, feet on the other, scurry like a spider). We had a great time! Kenna pointed out various odd formations as well as holes we could crawl through. She also explained how the features were formed. A massive salt bed was laid down by an ancient seas; it was then covered with residue left behind by millions of years of floods, winds and more oceans. The residue compressed into a rock layer on top of the salt bed, and over time upheavals, collapses, wind and erosion led to the formations we see now.

Hiking the Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park, Utah

Peering at brine shrimp, in the middle of Utah.

Sharp-eyed Susie found what Kenna said was evidence of those ancient seas: a tiny brine shrimp, living in a small pool of water.

Kenna also pointed out the cryptobiotic soil, the living ground cover that is easily damaged by boots, and advised us to hike on hard surfaces only.

The hike covered about two miles and was not particularly strenuous, but it did require some scrambling on rocks and walking on ledges. It was also a cool respite from the blazing Utah June heat — we were quite comfortable throughout, and some even kept their jackets on.

Details, Details

The Moab Adventure Center guided hike is $77 for adults, $57 for kids. Call 866-904-1163. Highly recommended.

Arches National Park has ranger-led hikes through the area. To see if this is a good hike for you, take a look at photos and a video about the hike. To reserve a spot, go to or sign up in person at the Arches visitor center ($10 adults, $5 kids).

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Google Map: Fiery Furnace Trailhead

All content copyright © 2010, by Catherine Dold, Catherine Dold LLC, Boulder, Colorado. May not be reprinted or reused without permission.

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6 Responses to Fiery Furnace Hike in Arches National Park

  1. Sounds like a blast. I love Arches National Park, but haven’t been on this hike. And going with an guide adds so much depth to the experience. I’ll keep it in mind!

  2. Crabby Mommy says:

    Hi Cathy! I commented right after you on the 31DBBB Day 1 challenge. I really like your site. I like your pitch for the Certified Good Hiker Kit. I think you need to flush out the pitch a little more for the website itself. In fact, i think the first paragraph in your first blog post would make a great pitch!

  3. Cathy says:

    Thanks for visiting, ladies! Bonnie, tshirts will be available very soon. And Priscilla, I will definitely write about cryptobiotic soil soon. Might need to take another road trip to Utah for that.

  4. Bonnie Gangelhoff says:

    This is a great idea! And it’s the perfect site for visitors (and newcomers) to Colorado. I’m want a good hikers certificate and a tee-shirt.

  5. Debbie Mihal says:

    I want to go! Thanks for sharing. I never would consider a ranger-led hike, but this sounds totally worth it.

    Great site, and great idea, too. And the info is not just for kids! I remember coming out here from the East as an adult and being totally ignorant as to what to wear and bring. I ended up frying my contacts onto my eyes in the desert, bringing too little water on a hike up Angel’s Landing in Arches, and wearing light cotton clothing up to the Divide–owie, gulp, and brrr. I did know enough not to pick the flowers, though.

    This is a must-visit site for any family venturing out west, no matter their age. It’s a whole different kind of outdoor adventure here as compared to, say, the East.

  6. Priscilla says:

    Great photos of people having fun, and respectful too! That slot photo makes me want to hop in the car right now and head back to red rock country. Thanks for the great information! Will you tell us more about cryptobiotic soil sometime?

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