This is a Fiery Furnace trip report and, spoiler alert, an amazing place to hike! I’m saying this upfront, if you are looking for a hiking guide to Arches National Park’s Fiery Furnace this isn’t it. I won’t be responsible for someone getting lost in this maze of fiery red rock fins and search parties needing to be sent out. There is a reason the park requires a permit to enter this area of the park. First timers are highly recommended to join a park ranger guided tour. I second that recommendation.
The Mystery of the Fiery Furnace
Arches National Park’s Fiery Furnace was an unknown mystery to me the first time I traveled to this amazing park. Jennifer and I parked at the overlook for the Fiery Furnace as the light of the setting sun lit it aglow and I thought to myself, “I want to explore that area.” We tried to get on a guided tour the next morning, but they were sold out for that day. We returned to Colorado without experiencing the furnace, but I now knew the park’s secret and the next time I would be ready.
Getting Ready for the Fiery Furnace Trip
I took my mom back the following year and on day one of a five-day adventure in the Moab region we got our passes. I was stoked even though I don’t really love tour groups. We watched the mandatory video about the Fiery Furnace, the challenges we would face, and signed the waiver. We then had to wait two days to take our Fiery Furnace trip.
On our assigned day we arrived early to the little Fiery Furnace parking lot. Arches National Park’s traffic can get a little bogged down in areas and I didn’t want to miss our trip. So, we were there 30 minutes prior to the allotted time. The allotted time itself is 15 minutes prior to when the ranger guide will actually start giving instructions about the hike. So, we stood around a little anxious for quite some time.
Our Fiery Furnace Group
After the instructions, my mom, I, the ranger guide, her trainee and about 12 other strangers set out on our adventure through the furnace. Other than the ranger-in-training I was the youngest person on this Fiery Furnace trip. In fact, if you removed the rangers from the equation, I was nearly half the age of the next youngest person… who was probably my mom. Luckily these geriatric individuals were outdoor enthusiasts who didn’t let their age dictate their lifestyle. I hope to be like them when I reach that age. 😉
Most of our fellow hikers were a part of a mountain biking group out of Salt Lake City. For the most part, they were an enjoyable group to do the furnace with and a group that I didn’t have to worry about my mom being the weak link in. 🙂 The only exception was a gentleman who decided to hike in a worn out pair of boots that the sole blew out on halfway through the furnace. He left rubber particles all over the pristine environment, but to his credit, he removed the shoe and took on the rest of the Fiery Furnace trip barefoot.
The Draw of the Fiery Furnace
The highlights of a Fiery Furnace trip are hard to pinpoint. I loved the immersive environment that this hike provides. Most of Arches National Park’s trails are desert trails leading to a destination, a rock arch or perhaps multiple rock arches. The trail itself while sometimes pretty is really a means to an end. Whereas in the Fiery Furnace the opposite is true. The “trail” and its secrets are the reason to come. It is a way of challenging yourself and becoming one with this special place. There are several arches to be found in this maze, but while they add to the grandeur they are not why hikers adventure into the furnace.
The Challenges of the Fiery Furnace
In addition to at least four arches (I have been told that not all guided hikes follow the same path) we were surrounded by towering red rock fins for hours, we had to squeeze through crevices etched in the rock by thousands of years of natural water erosion that now serve as the trail itself. Other challenges include leaping over small crevices in the path and shimming through other rock crevices by using our hands and feet to push against the rock to keep from falling into the wedge at the bottom of the fissure. One crevice was so wide that shorter hikers leaned against a rock wall with their back using their feet on the opposite wall to inch themselves ahead.
As a routine hiker in my 30s I found the Fiery Furnace’s challenges to be easily overcome. For someone twice my age, this Fiery Furnace trip would have been an undertaking. Also if you are a claustrophobic person please sit this one out. If you get into the Fiery Furnace on a ranger-guided hike and need to turn back because of lack of ability then the ranger is required to take everyone back out with you. Realistically, if you are in decent shape and do not suffer from claustrophobia you can overcome the challenges of this unique hiking terrain with the helpful guidance of a park ranger.
Tips for Taking a Fiery Furnace Trip:
- Permits for a Fiery Furnace trip can now be acquired in two different ways.
- Morning permits you can register up to six months in advance. Click Here.
- Afternoon permits must be purchased in person at the Arches National Park Visitor Center up to seven days in advance. Get them the first day you arrive as they sell out.
- Ranger Guided permits are $16/person. Children from 5 – 12 are $8. Senior Citizens are $8.
- Every member of the group must be present to acquire the permits.
- Children under 5 years old are not allowed into the furnace.
- Permits are only good for the date they are issued and during daylight hours. No one is allowed in the furnace after dark.
- Despite the name, the furnace is actually a very cool spot on a hot day, because of the extensive shade within the maze of rocky fins.
- Bring snacks and water. Arches National Park is located in a high desert environment and both water and energy are needed.
- For more details on a trip into the Fiery Furnace check out the Arches National Park website.
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