Considering doing the Fiery Furnace hike in Arches? Here’s everything you need to know to do this bucket list trail!
Arches National Park is one of the most stunning, awe-inspiring National Parks in the US. Those arches! The rock formations! The colors!
However, not only does this park have really fantastic arches, but there are some epic, non-arch rock formations, too. And the best place in Arches National Park to really explore and see some wicked awesome rock formations is on the Fiery Furnace trail.
While the Delicate Arch hike has the best viewpoint and impressive arch in the park, Fiery Furnace easily, is the funnest hiking experience.
Why is Fiery Furnace Worth Hiking?
We absolutely adored this hike. First off, because permits are so limited, you hardly see anyone else when you’re hiking.
Second, although there is an “official” trail, you are strongly encouraged to deviate from it – very unusual for a national park. Instead, you explore and make your way through the tall fins and rocky areas, often feeling like you’re the first people to explore the area.
Third and finally, the landscape is just insane.
Fiery Furnace is made up of tightly packed, long rows of alternating fins and canyons. This creates a maze-like area, with narrow passageways, sheer walls, interesting rock formations, a few arches, and a ton of opportunities to scramble over the rocks.
Put all of that together, and you’ve got one of our favorite hikes in Arches National Park.
Two Ways to Experience Fiery Furnace
There are two ways to experience Fiery Furnace: on a guided ranger tour at 9am and 9:30am, OR with a self-guided permit. Tickets for both options are very limited. Ranger-guided tours are available April-October, while the self-guided permits are available year round.
Which Tour Should You Do?
We opted for the self-guided exploration tour. Although on the NPS website, it says to only do the self-guided tour if you’ve already done the ranger guided tour, I feel that anyone with a decent map, sense of direction, and a basic level of hiking skill will be totally fine doing the self-guided tour from the get go. And in practice, the rangers encourage anyone to do the self-guided tour as long as they commit to good practices and are able to physically handle it.
The ranger option is not a bad option and also a great way to see the Fiery Furnace and learn more about its history and geology, but you are in a bigger group and don’t explore all the little offshoots.
Given the choice, I personally would for sure choose the self-guided tour again. However, if you want to learn about the Fiery Furnace while you hike, or you don’t want to navigate yourself through the canyons and fins (it is easy to get a bit lost), then the ranger-guided hike may be the better choice for you.
How to Obtain a Reservation and Permit for the Fiery Furnace Hikes
The process for obtaining a reservation and permit for the Fiery Furnace ranger guided hike and self-guided hike are very similar.
Getting a Reservation
For both hikes, you will need to make a reservation. You can make reservations online here or by calling 877-444-6777. To make a reservation online, you will need to have an account with recreation.gov. I would recommend making sure you have an account (and remember your password) well before trying to get a reservation.
Reservations open up at 8am Mountain Time, one week in advance. As tickets for both the ranger guided tours and self-exploration tours are very limited, tickets regularly sell out – and fast – especially in the summer busy season.
For example, when we logged on to get tickets during June, it showed 65 tickets available for the self-guided tour. These tickets were gone within 30 seconds. My tip would be to keep refreshing the page regularly a minute or two before 8am, so you can grab them as soon as they become available.
If the tickets are gone before you can get them, DON’T GIVE UP! I stayed on and kept refreshing, and 3 minutes later 2 tickets became available (not enough for our group of 6), and then at 8:06, 6 tickets became available and I was able to grab them! So even if it says they’re completely sold out, keep trying for a few more minutes.
Note: When writing this post in September, I checked the ticket page and the ranger-guided tour was sold out for the upcoming week, but there actually were tickets available in the self-guided tours. So, tickets don’t always sell out immediately, but I would still prioritize getting on at 8am MT the week before to get your tickets, just to be sure.
Ticket Costs and Requirements:
For the self-guided tour, tickets cost $10 per person. For the ranger-led tour, tickets are $16 per person. This cost is in addition to the general entry you’ll pay for Arches National Park, which is $30 per vehicle, or the $80 America the Beautiful Pass.
Groups are capped at 6 people for the self-exploration tour. Groups are not allowed to congregate or merge together. For either tour, children under 5 years old are not allowed to do the hike.
Picking up Your Permit
The reservation you made online is not the permit.
For the self-guided tour, you will need to pick up your permit the day before at the Moab Information Center (in Moab) from 1-4pm, or same day at the Arches Visitor Center from 9am-4pm.
You will have to watch a video (about 8 minutes) and listen to a ranger presentation (another 10-15), plus fill out some paperwork. Plan for 30-45 minutes for this orientation and to get your permit.
Note: Your entire group is required to be present when you are picking up your permit.
For the ranger-guided tour, you will need to pick up your permit the day before at the Moab Information Center (in Moab) from 1-4pm, or same day at the Arches Visitor Center from 7:30am-8:30am. Note that it takes 30-45 minutes to get to the trailhead from the visitor’s center, and you need to be at the trailhead 5-10 minutes before your hike is scheduled to start.
What is the Best Time to Hike the Fiery Furnace?
While you will never have “crowds” in the Fiery Furnace due to the limited number of permits, higher demand in summer and holiday weekends will make it more difficult to get the permits. However, be aware that does snow in winter and snow (or rain for that matter) would make this hike much more difficult.
That said, most people do go during the summer, and I would recommend starting as early as possible, mainly to maximize the shade and lower the temperature for you, and also to avoid other people. We started around 8 a.m. and saw a couple people at the beginning, but often felt alone.
The ranger groups start around 9 and they did catch up to us. While it wasn’t awful being by them – we enjoyed hearing some of the tidbits the ranger shared – we did deliberately go explore a side canyon to let them get ahead of us as soon as we could.
The rest of this article is geared more towards those doing the self-guided tour. If you are doing the ranger-guided tour, you will see the same structures and rock formations, but you won’t need to navigate, and you’ll do less exploring. That said, read-on for a preview of the amazing sights in store for you!
Navigating Through the Fiery Furnace Trail
The fun part of doing the Fiery Furnace trail is that there isn’t really a trail! Sure, there is a general (sometimes marked) pathway that will take you through the maze of rocks, fins, canyons, and dead ends, but there’s no real trail to speak of.
Additionally, part of the fun of hiking Fiery Furnace is the going off the “trail” and discovering all the fun little spots, nooks and crannies, side canyons, slot canyons, rock piles, and other fun spots. You’re encouraged to wander around a lot and “get lost” – it’s part of the fun of the Fiery Furnace!
To help you not actually get lost though, there are approximately 15 little arrows throughout the rocks that indicate the direction of the main loop. These arrows were really helpful. It’s not always easy to see them, but its also not all that hard to find them.
We noticed 3 dead end signs on the route, but every time we saw one there was something cool behind it.
So, dead end = definitely a place to check out
I would also HIGHLY recommend having a trail map downloaded on your phone. We like and use Alltrails. It costs $15 for a year subscription which gives you the ability to download maps ahead of time.
There were other spots in Arches National Park we were very happy to have the trail map (e.g. Devil’s Garden, Tower Arch), so I think it’s worth the cost even if you just use it at this national park (and honestly, I’d pay for it even if it was just for this one hike).
Because there is not a clear path to follow through the maze of canyons, pillars, and dead ends, it was extremely helpful for us to be able to refer back to our map, to make sure we were on the right track.
Of course, we went ahead and explored all the little nooks and crannies that we wanted, but it was nice to know where we were and not actually get lost.
What the Hike is Like
Okay! All the logistics are taken care of, and now you’re driving up to the trailhead. Here’s what it’s like to hike Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park.
Below is the Fiery Furnace viewpoint from the parking lot. You’ll be going down and hiking in between and around all those pillars and fins!
At the trailhead, there are lots of signs saying you must have a permit and if you don’t you can get big fines and even jail time – don’t hike without a permit!
Hiking down to the “entrance”: While you can hike clockwise or counter-clockwise, it’s recommended to go counterclockwise (so take the trail to the right from the parking lot). This way, you’ll be going the same direction as the arrows that are placed throughout the Fiery Furnace and are designed to lead you through the trail.
Entering in the furnace!
You will see lots and lots of cool features and rock formations. I loved the way this canyon curved up and around us!
There are lots and lots and lots of little offshoots, nooks, and crannies to explore:
And of course, lots of places to scramble, with occasional steep drops offs.
Occasionally there were spots we had to straddle a ledge to get across. These sections were fun, not dangerous (the dropoff wasn’t big at all), though there are places you can get hurt if you aren’t careful.
This picture really helps you appreciate all the fins in Fiery Furnace (and all the little slot canyons that it creates!)
The whole thing is very maze like. If you go down a canyon, it’s unlikely that it will loop and connect to another canyon.
Climbing down and out of the Fiery Furnace through that opening in the center.
Arches to See in the Fiery Furnace
There are at least 3 big, named arches to see as you explore the trails – Surprise, Skull, and Walk Through Bridge, plus some other, smaller arches. Walk Through Bridge is pretty easy to find, even without consulting a map (it’s down a spot marked as a dead end), but the other two are much easier to find if you have a map app on your phone.
Temperatures on the Fiery Furnace Hike
Despite the name, we found the temperatures to be quite nice during most of our time in the canyon. The tall rock walls created a lot of shade (we hiked between 8am-12pm) and so we were mostly in the shade, occasionally in the sun. Thanks to the shade, it was actually a pretty good temperature and fairly comfortable, despite highs that day being 103 F.
How Long Does it Take to Hike the Fiery Furnace?
If you go straight through the trail, following the signs exactly and not doing any offshoots or extra exploring, you’ll go about 2 miles. We ended up doing about 4 miles, which took us a solid 3.5 hours, since there was a lot of technical aspects and scrambling, plus we of course took stops for pictures and snacks.
Elevation Gain: 850 feet
I feel like our elevation map really highlights the scrambly nature of the trail!
As does our our route map from Alltrails:
Zooming in on the right side of the map, it really highlights all the little side trails, side canyons, nooks and crannies that we went and explored:
Protecting the Sand Biome
The park service really encourages you to walk on stone or in the sandy washes, not on the sandy biocrust or sandy areas that have vegetation. This is to protect the fragile desert life growing in the biocrust on the sand.
The soil crust helps keep together particles in the dirt, and traps and contains water and nutrients for the plants growing.
While it doesn’t look like much, this crust takes years to develop and is crucial for maintaining the fragile ecosystem in the arid desert of Arches.
Stay on the trails, rocks, or sandy washes, and try to stay off the sandy “sidebar” areas to help maintain this important lifeform!
Always Practice Leave No Trace
Leave no trace involves packing out waste, not littering, respect wildlife, not carving into the rocks, etc. Just be mindful of what you are doing and respect nature!
Is the Fiery Furnace Hike Worth It?
If it’s not already clear from my gushing review, I absolutely think the chance to hike in the Fiery Furnace is worth the time, extra cost, and extra effort to get the permits.
This truly was one of the best hikes we have ever done, bar none. Everyone had so much fun exploring and scrambling and admiring all the absolutely incredible views. Our little girls (5, 7, 9, 11) all did great on this hike and had a ton of fun. We loved the chance to explore this area that really felt like the “backcountry” in Arches National Park.
What Do You Need to Bring With You?
The following are several essentials you should bring or wear on this hike:
Water: Make sure you bring plenty of water (recommendation is at least 1 quart per person), plus some salty snacks. We found that using camelpacks was the best way to carry enough water for everyone – this is the set we used!
Poop Bag: You also will need to pack out all solid human waste, any toilet paper you may use, and all trash.
While we made sure everyone in our group tried to use the bathroom at the trailhead before the hike, we still carried a “poop bag” with us just in case. You can buy these for a few dollars at the visitors center or order one ahead of time from Amazon. Hey – better safe than sorry.
Hiking Shoes: For this hike, you definitely want to wear closed toe shoes. Good hiking boots with good grip and traction is preferred, but at the very least wear a solid pair of tennis shoes.
Good sunscreen: The sun is intense in southern Utah, and so lathering up with sunscreen is important for any hiking day.
This sunscreen is THE BEST. A tube lasts forever, its not super thick and gloopy, and rubs in extremely easily, and lasts for a long time.
I would also recommend bringing a hat and/or sunglasses – there’s a lot of shade in the Fiery Furnace, but when you hit a sunny spot, it’s very bright.
Sunscreen stick: For faces, we always use this sunscreen stick. It spreads on smoothly and is super handy for getting around all the little contours of the face.
Portable Power Bank: This is an essential piece of gear for any travel day. You’ll certainly take plenty of pictures and videos as you explore the stunning scenery in Arches, and you don’t want your phone to die! And, if you are using a hiking app, those tend to drain you battery quickly. This power bank charges 4 times and tells you the exact percentage of power left in the bank.
Athletic Tees: These tees are great for exercising or hiking days. They are slightly boxy, breathable and wickable, making them really comfortable even in hot days. I wore this on the day we hiked Fiery Furnace to protect my shoulders from the sun – they had gotten a little redness from the previous days of hiking.
Athletic Tanks: These tanks are BOMB! Like the tees, they’re breathable and wickable and don’t cling to my body. They’re not cropped, but not too long either. I always feel great wearing these when we’re hiking. Bonus – they’re also extremely affordable!
Athletic Shorts: I’ve tried out a lot of athletic shorts, and these are my favorite for exercising and hiking! They have a 5 inch inseam (not too short, not too long), zipper pockets, a mesh liner, and are just so dang comfortable. These are the shorts I’m always reaching for first!
Sports Bras: This 3 pack of sports bras is so comfortable and supportive, which is perfect for days full of hitting the trails. After trying a whole bunch of sports bras, these are my favorites!
Final Thoughts on Hiking the Fiery Furnace
Have I convinced you to try and hike Fiery Furnace? I hope so! 😉 Along with hikes like Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch, the Navajo Loop Trail, Angel’s Landing, and Goblin Valley, this is a top favorite hike in Utah. It’s a fantastically adventurous trail among some otherworldly scenery – I hope you get the chance to experience it!