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Finally, my post about the Fiery Furnace hike in Arches! I’ve been so excited to write this but have also been putting it off because I knew it would take forever to write but it’s going better than I thought!
The one thing we knew we had to do during our week in Moab in December was the Fiery Furnace self-guided hike in Arches. We easily got a permit for it since it was a weekday in the winter but I know that can be a lot harder in the spring, summer, and fall.
All of the photos in this are in order from the trail. I did my best to keep them in order to show what the trail is like. It won’t guide you along the trail but will give you a good idea of what to expect. You’ll be able to see (or not see) what the arrows look like IRL. The photos will not match up with text around them, but I will include captions for anything relevant.
This was toward the end of our week and we weren’t in a huge rush to start the hike first thing in the morning. There was high wind in the forecast and I was pretty worried about that but for the most part, it was fine. Until the very end of the hike.
But wait, what is the Fiery Furnace in Arches? The Fiery Furnace is a section of the park, a pretty small section, that is basically a giant sandstone maze. It almost feels like a giant playground.
There is only one trail through it but you can explore all the nooks and crannies as long as you feel comfortable navigating through here off trail. But just along this trail there is so much to see!
We went to the hike orientation which didn’t take too long. We watched the video and the ranger explained that the only trail markers are little brown rectangles with white arrows that are stuck to rocks and sometimes on little posts.
They blend in with the surroundings very much. Some are hard to find others are super easy to see. She also said to do the trail counter-clockwise, starting on the trail further from the bathroom. After we got our window permit and backpack tag, off we went!
There was another group getting ready at the trailhead while we were but we didn’t run into them for quite a while. We hit the trail and saw a marker right away, which made me feel better, being able to see it in the context of the trail.
The thing I was most concerned about hiking Fiery Furnace on our own was getting lost because it’s always described as a maze. I made sure to download the AllTrails map and have tracking on for at least a little peace of mind, even if tracking isn’t perfect because of the high walls.
While there were markers here, this part of the trail was pretty easy to follow. You can see the path in the sand where everyone walks. It was sort of cloudy at the beginning but got sunnier and made photography a lot harder, but what can you do?
In no time at all, the fins were towering over us and I was already in awe. The Fiery Furnace is beautiful. There are a few, three or four, dead ends that are marked that the rangers tell you to go into.
There are arches and little slot canyon sections that you can see and explore in these dead ends. In the first one, we came across a cool little arch you can walk under and a little pothole arch.
Not long after this area it opens up a little bit and you have a nice view of the rock formations around you. I also found some moss in this part and I was very excited about that.
The next dead end is where you’ll find Skull Arch. There were at least three little arms to explore in this dead end and we actually almost missed the arch because we couldn’t find it. Then we realized we missed an arm.
I loved this dead end a lot. One arm has footholds carved into rock to get to another pot hole arch and a little slot canyon. We went up the footholds and out through the slot canyon but you can go either way.
The slot section is very narrow. We had to take our backpacks off and turn our heads sideways to get through it. The next arm here had some big boulders you either had to go over or under.
Going over freaked me out so I squeezed under. I thought this was where we would find the arch but I was wrong. There wasn’t much down here so now I had to squeeze back out.
We thought maybe we just weren’t in the right area for Skull Arch but I remembered an arm we didn’t go down so we went back there to look and what do you know, there it was. I really enjoyed this arch.
We were probably in this three or four arm area for an hour. We took our time seeing everything and relaxed a little. I want to say this was my favorite area of the hike but the next section was really great, too. Who am I kidding, it’s all great.
From here, you’ll go through a little canyon, I suppose, and there was a little jump from one side to the other but it’s not bad. There is some stemming/chimneying required in this area and it’s also where we ran into the people that were at the trailhead at the same time!
Turns out they were doing the trail backwards which, props to them, because it’s impossible to see the arrows going the wrong way. Which we found out soon enough.
This opens up into a big courtyard almost and we actually saw some people rock climbing in here. This area was so cool and it’s a good thing because we could not find our way out of here. I’m not even kidding when I say we couldn’t find our way out.
After exploring this a bit, enjoying the climbing and stemming, we decided to move on. We saw an arrow and followed it but could not find the next one. And where the one we saw was made no sense to where it was pointing.
We tried three different ways multiple times with no luck. There is what looks like a little cutout in a dip in the wall that we thought was it so we went through it and tried going to the left but there was no way that could have been it. It was SO sketchy.
So back in we went. After repeating all of this multiple times, we had no idea where to go so we resigned ourselves to turning back, going all the way out, then in from the other end to see it all.
We went back out where we ran into the other people and really were hoping we would run into them again to ask for directions out of that courtyard area. Going back out this way, even though we already saw it all, looked so different and was a little confusing to follow.
Back at the three arm area before Skull Arch, we thankfully found the other group to ask for help. I showed pictures of the little U cutout thing in the rock and he said yup, that’s it! Just go right through there!
So back we went, stemming again, over the little ledge, into the courtyard, to that darn U cutout thing. On this millionth sweep through of the area, I finally saw it. The arrow. Right on the left side of the U cutout thing! Where we were for an embarrassingly long time.
I have no idea why but we still thought we had to go left from here, so we tried that again and, shockingly, it was still incredibly sketchy. Do not go left here! I happened to look to the right and what do you know. Across the way was that darn little arrow.
From there it was pretty obvious. There was another narrow canyon that guides you right where you need to go, to the next and final dead end. There is another arch back here and I think this might have been my favorite, but they were all so cool.
We spent some time back here before heading back out. The trail through this area was pretty easy to follow and you’ll find some steps carved into the rock to help you maneuver.
You’re in the home stretch once you go down some stone steps into another sort of courtyard. In the area, we walked up a wash for a few minutes to hang out for a bit and escape the wind a little since it picked up a lot after that first courtyard.
The last little section is just regular sand trail but, surprise, it’s hard to know where to go because there are so many small social trails. You’ll want to go up, sort of straight/right, not down. After that you’re back at the parking area!
We made it out without much time to spare before sunset. We enjoyed some glow over the furnace and the La Sals from the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint before heading into town to get some much needed food and rest our tired feet.
Overall, we were in there for almost five hours and my phone says we hike somewhere between 5.7 and 8.9 miles (two different tracking things gave very different distances.) While the elevation and hiking itself in here aren’t that hard, all the rock scrambling really wore me out.
I absolutely loved this hike though and am so glad we decided to do it, especially now that we don’t live out there anymore. It’s an incredible hike and so adventurous. I love it, it’s amazing, I would for sure do it again.
I think park service makes this hike sound a lot scarier and more intimidating than it is and I think if you have any desert hiking experience, are good at navigating, aren’t afraid of rock scrambling, you should be pretty OK hiking the Fiery Furnace.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! Buy a national park journal here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
Arches National Park reservations
As of April 1, 2022, you now need a timed entry permit reservation from April 3 to October 3. You need this to enter the park between 6AM and 6PM. Your reservation allows entry in a two hour window. You can go in and out before and after that as the park is open 24/7.
Arches was facing serious overcrowding in the summer and were having to close the entrance by 10AM pretty frequently because parking would fill up. This new system is to help combat that.
The permit is $2 and you will also need to pay the park entrance fee when you get to the park. You can pay the fee or get the national park pass which covers all NPS site entry fees (but not camping, tours, parking, etc.)
If you can’t get a permit in advance, some are set aside for the next day (so April 2 entry permits would be available the evening of April 1). If you can’t get that either, your options are to skip it or enter the park before 6AM or after 6PM.
If you have a camping reservation, a Fiery Furnace permit, or a backcountry permit you do not need a timed entry permit. You also do not need the permit from October 4-April 2. You can find all the details here.
Fiery Furnace Permits
Whether you do the Fiery Furnace self-guided hike or ranger-led hike, you need a permit. I suppose if you do the ranger led one, the permit is included though. It’s an affordable permit that is a separate fee from the park entrance fee. The national park pass does not cover this permit or fee. If you have a Fiery Furnace permit you do not need a timed entry permit for the park.
Fiery Furnace permits can be reserved up to seven days in advance and must be reserved at least two days before you plan to hike it. The permit is only good from sunrise to sunset on the specified date.
Group sizes are allowed up to six people and children under five aren’t allowed. If there are more than six in your group, you need two permits and you’re not supposed to meet up and hike together.
You should pick up permits the day before your hike and watch the orientation video so you can start your hike nice and early. These can only be picked up at the Moab Information Center downtown from 1-4 PM.
You can pick them up the same day of your hike though, too and this can only be done at the Arches visitor center from 9-4 PM. For a holiday, shoulder-season, or summer visit, the permits can sell out within minutes of going online so be prepared for that when you try to get them.
We were there in December and had no problem getting a permit. They seemed pretty open for the whole week. We only saw a couple of other people in there that day.
Ranger-led hikes are run more frequently in the summer than winter, which is usually only once a week. The self-guided permit is $10 per person and the ranger-led permits are $16 per person.
You cannot hike Fiery Furnace, self-guided or otherwise, without a permit!
Where is the Fiery Furnace Trailhead?
The Fiery Furnace Trailhead is 26 minutes from the visitor center. The parking area is marked and has a sign a permit is required beyond that point. There is an overlook anyone can enjoy, but for the hike, a permit is required.
How long is the Fiery Furnace hike?
Officially, 2.1 miles, but we hiked way more than that. I tracked it on AllTrails and that said we hiked 8.9 miles but my phone health app said it way 5.7 miles. I have no idea what we actually did but I know it was a lot.
If you do a ranger-led hike it will be closer to the official 2.1 miles. If you do the Fiery Furnace self-guided hike you can stick to the trail or go explore more so it can be more than 2.1 as long as you’re comfortable exploring all over, which is what makes this hike so great.
There is only one trail through here but it is a very rustic trail. You can explore off the main trail, just keep an eye out where you’re walking to avoid the biological soil crusts.
Is the Fiery Furnace trail marked?
Yes! But not super well. There are little brown rectangles with white arrows on them marking the trail that are attached to the rock walls and occasionally on little brown posts.
Sometimes they’re super easy to see and other times they’re a lot harder to spot. Or they seem harder to spot and once you finally find it it’s incredibly obvious. If you don’t see the next one, you can always backtrack a little bit to see if you missed it.
It’s pretty easy to go the wrong way in here but the path is mostly easy to follow. We really only had issues in the middle and almost at the end. The middle area was rough for us. Just don’t go over, around, down, up, whatever anything you don’t think you can go back on.
There is no phone service in here so getting hurt or lost or stuck somewhere could be pretty bad. It’s a small area but I can definitely see how you could get lost here.
If you hike this in the wrong direction, you will not be able to see the trail markers. You can do it, we ran into people that did and they were fine, but they said it was a little hard to navigate not seeing the arrows.
Fiery Furnace hike Map
There isn’t really a good map that I’ve found of Fiery Furnace but I downloaded the trail map on AllTrails and tracked our hike that way. It can be a little all over the place on the tracking because of the canyon walls but it was very helpful being able to reference it.
It at least shows the rough path and can sort of guide you as you go if you can’t find the trail markers, which can also be hard to follow sometimes.
How long does the Fiery Furnace hike take?
The ranger-led hikes are 2.5 hours, but we were in there for like, five hours. So this can really take as long as you want it to. I would plan no less than three hours for this but know you could be in there more because there are so many cool things to see and explore.
I honestly don’t know how this could be done in 2.5 hours because there is so much to see in there. And we stuck to the trail and marked dead ends! We didn’t even explore off that that in any major way. To be fair, we were stuck in the middle part for an embarrassingly long time but still.
Is the Fiery Furnace hike hard?
Yes and no. This section I will be assuming you’re doing a self-guided Fiery Furnace hike. Reasons this hike may be difficult: you have no desert hiking experience, you hate rock scrambling, it’s extremely hot out, you aren’t good at navigating, or you’re not in shape at all, this might not be the hike for you.
If none of that bothers you or applies to you, it shouldn’t be bad. I was pretty nervous about navigating through here but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
I was definitely sore by the end from all the scrambling but I feel like we were in there more than the average visitor. But I also don’t know how long most people are in there on their own.
Should I hike Fiery Furnace on my own or with a ranger?
If you aren’t comfortable navigating through these desert rock formations (I totally get that, I was nervous about it) then a ranger-led hike might be better. If you are more limited on time, going with a ranger might be better since those seem to be consistently 2.5 hours.
Is the Fiery Furnace hike worth it?
Absolutely! I had my reservations about this because I was worried about getting lost but it worked out. We did get to a point where we couldn’t find the way after no less than 30 minutes so we turned around.
We found people we saw this did the hike backwards and confirmed the trail with them then went back. I am so glad we ended up doing this, I loved it so much and would highly recommend it if you’re visiting Arches. Plus it’s way less busy than other hikes in the park.
Tips for a Fiery Furnace self-guided hike
- If you’re visiting in peak season or even shoulder season, get online before the permits go up and be ready to get them because they do sell out fast.
- Download the trail map on AllTrails and have that on hand while you’re hiking.
- Bring lots of water and maybe some snacks.
- I wouldn’t do this in the peak heat of summer. That sounds terrible to me but it would be shady so it may be a little bit less hot but still. Bring extra water if you do this in summer.
- I would also absolutely not do this if it is snowy or icy. There are some narrow places an open sides that would be pretty sketchy if they were icy.
- Look behind you every now and then to enjoy the scenery but also to know what it looks like from the other direction, just in case.
- I wouldn’t start this too late, especially in winter with limited daylight, because getting lost in here in/trying to navigate this in the dark sounds like an absolute nightmare to me.
- Consider bringing a headlamp if you are starting in the afternoon, just in case.
- If you hike this in the winter, definitely dress in layers. It can be warm but it can be cold and windy, too.
What to bring hiking in the Fiery Furnace
Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side. They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.
Snacks – These are more important for long hikes, but you never know when you’ll get hungry! I like EPIC bars (kind of like beef jerky but different), Sahale nut mix things, and Moon Cheese. There’s always the good old Clif Bars and trail mix, too.
Fiery Furnace photo gallery
Have you done the Fiery Furnace hike at Arches? What did you think of it? Did you go on your own or with a ranger? If you went on your own, did you think it was hard navigating?