It was a 102 degree scorcher in late July but I was determined to conquer this 9 mi very remote trek. With 35+ arches gracing this path, the eye candy was amazing!
I knew getting to the start of this remote trek was going to be tough and I did end up getting lost in my first & second attempts, but FINALLY found the dirt path turnoff after a beautiful 10 mile drive of the Colorado National Monument rim road (a must do if you are in western Colorado).
It was slow going in my rented small SUV for 15 miles, as the potholes were ginormous. The trail map cautions you to go as far as you feel comfortable, so it was inevitable I had to hoof it about 2.5 miles from the actual trailhead. No problem since it was a steady downhill grade, but I tried to block out the fact I would have to climb this beast upon my return. More on that later.
I was ecstatic to find the trail marker and beelined to the right to begin the loop down the steep cliff side perch. It was a nice, meandering trek around the back side of the canyon and not a soul in sight. Fortunately, most was semi-shaded and I soaked it in.
As soon as you reached the curve, the arches started popping around every turn and it was mesmerizing…. all different shapes and sizes!
The crown jewel was waiting for me just prior to the hike back out at Cedar Tree Arch. The trail dead ends here and the only way out of the canyon is to head straight up it’s belly. At first glance, it seems very doable but as you start your 80 degree ascent, the jitters definitely kick in as the slippery red rock is hard to grip and there are no ropes to assist. Omg. What did I get myself into?! And I’ve scaled quite a few sketchy cliffs, but this one had me downright terrified.
But there was absolutely NO WAY I was returning the way I had dropped in as I was running low on water, so I slowly gained traction and CONQUERED this beast!
I thought the hardest physical & mental challenge had already been eclipsed, but I still had to scale the cliff to get out of the bowl & then make it back out to the car another 3 miles in the 110 degree heat without any shade. I literally had to take 2 sit down breaks under the smallest branches you can imagine just to get some reprieve. Secretly I was hoping 1 of the 3 trucks, that had made it further down the gnarly path than I, would come plowing up & feel sorry for me. Needless to say….. that didn’t happen & I struggled to get back to my coveted AC.
After 3 days of 30,000 steps each, I was DONE….. but as I headed back to the Salt Lake City airport, my car steered itself to another iconic trek along the Utah border & I somehow mustered up enough energy to squeeze another hike in!