|Upper Salt Wash
Length: 8.25 miles one way
Description: The Upper Salt Wash Trail begins at the Sand Dune Arch Trailhead, below the Devils Garden Campground in the northern section of Arches National Park. It is an 8-mile trek up and down maze-like tamarisk and willow-choked gulches, through gnat-infested marsh, treacherous quicksand, and water too thick and dirty to purify, all the way down to the Wolfe Ranch at the Delicate Arch Trailhead. Why would anyone want to put themselves through this? Despite the hardships, the Upper Salt Wash is actually pretty popular. It offers the most isolated area in the park, an area teeming with slickrock formations, shale boulder piles, and general desert beauty. The Upper Salt Wash is a haven for the animals that live out here, an oasis where they can find the water and nourishment they need to survive. These factors draw the hardy and tenacious among Arches visitors.
From the Sand Dune Arch Trailhead, hike northwest until you reach Broken Arch. From there, turn into the gulch that lies directly behind the sandstone fin that Broken Arch hides in. That gulch eventually broadens into clover Canyon, where hikers can descend by technical route, or can hike one-third of a mile farther north until they reach the pipeline slope. This is a hike that requires a shuttle to meet visitors at the Delicate Arch Trailhead, unless they are particularly keen on hiking all the way back up the Wash, to Sand Dune Arch Trailhead.
Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch Trailhead
Part of the Devils Garden Campground loop, this trail takes visitors past Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch on their way to the gulley that eventually becomes Clover Canyon. As an easier, alternate beginning route, one-fifth of a mile after the Sand Dune Arch Trailhead, hikers will pass a pipeline that will take them all the way in to the Wash. They will miss the scenic overlook at the edge of Clover Canyon, but it will get them into the Salt Wash easier and faster.
Half a mile north of the 100-foot drop into Clover Canyon lies a rocky slope that engineers cut into the rock in order to lay pipeline—the same pipeline that visitors had to pass along the trail in order to get to the edge of Clover Canyon. Climbers with technical skill and equipment can rappel down the cliff-face and into Clover Canyon. Others must descend into the Wash at the pipeline.
Lost Spring Canyon
A small canyon that feeds into the Salt Wash, Lost Spring is located less than a third of a mile south of the Clover Canyon confluence with Salt Wash. It is detour that is fun to explore, and worth the time, if hikers have time to spare.
A half-mile north of the Delicate Arch Trailhead lies another side canyon that is fun to explore should the hikers find themselves with ample time on their hands at the end of the hike. Freshwater Canyon empties in to the Salt Wash from the west, offering almost two more miles (one way) of Arches canyon to explore.
Delicate Arch Trailhead
This homestead sits at the trailhead to the famous Delicate Arch, and was built by a disabled Civil War vet, John Wesley Wolfe, in 1888 and inhabited until 1910, when the aging owner moved back to Ohio. Delicate Arch has graced many magazine covers, mantle pieces, coffee tables, stamps, license plates, and a variety of other media.