We were excited to find the best family hike at Arches National Park when we visited there as part of our 21-park, 31-day National Park road trip. Being the travel nerd that I am, I’d researched the park in and out, looking for the best ways to utilize our two days in Arches. We had some awesome experiences, with the highlight being the Fiery Furnace. Our kids, ages 10 through 16, had a blast!
The Fiery Furnace is a relatively small area inside Arches National Park that packs a ton of amazing experiences. It is a maze of narrow trails and passageways that have eroded into the sandstone fins over millions of years. These features create an awesome opportunity to scramble over boulders and through cracks while exploring the area. The National Park Service has a great video covering the Fiery Furnace Loop tour.
Hiking the Fiery Furnace requires some advance planning. In fact, you’re not allowed to just show up and hike it; you either need to join a ranger-led tour or get an individual permit.
Arches National Park Ratings and Facts
Our family rates each park we’ve been to on our National Park Tour and assigns ratings based on our own made-up criteria. Here’s the Family Adventure Awaits Ratings for Arches National Park:
- Landscape: 9
- Campsites: 7
- Adventure: 8.5
- X-Factor: 9 (Fiery Furnace)
- Recommended Stay: 4 days, 3 nights
- Best for: ages 5+
How to Get Tickets for the Fiery Furnace Tour
Since it was our first time, we decided to get tickets for the ranger-led hike. We got them several months in advance, which was a good thing, since they sell out quickly, which is understandable considering that this is the best family hike at Arches National Park (IMHO). You can get your advance reservations for the Fiery Furnace tour online at recreation.gov. Tickets were $16 per adult and $8 for kids ages 5-12 and can be snagged up to 6 months in advance. You can also get them at the Arches Visitor Center up to seven days in advance, but there’s no guarantee that they will be available.
How to Get a Permit to Hike the Fiery Furnace On Your Own
To go without a ranger, you need to get an individual hiking permit. You can get your permit in person at the Arches Visitor Center. Navigating the Fiery Furnace is no small feat and you can easily get lost, so we recommend going with a ranger for your first time. Either way, everyone in your group will need to watch the orientation video at the Visitor Center when you get your permit. Permits are good for a max group size of 10 people, and kids under 5 are not allowed. Cost is $6 for adults and $3 for kids ages 5-12.
Don’t forget to check in at the Arches Visitor Center one hour before the hike or up to four days in advance to go through the mandatory safety orientation.
Where to Park and Meet the Ranger
We opted for the 9:00 am tour (there is also a 9:30 am tour and afternoon tours). This time slot gave us plenty of time to enjoy breakfast at our Devils Garden campsite before heading to meet the ranger at Fiery Furnace. It took less than 15 minutes to make the drive. Parking is along the main park road near the Salt Valley Overlook.
We met up with our ranger, Ranger Sarah, in the parking lot about 10 minutes before the hike time and enjoyed getting to visit with her. We told her about our National Park tour and she was able to give us some great tips for Mt. Rainier National Park, as she had been a ranger there the year before. Park Rangers are so awesome! While in the parking lot, we took advantage of the outhouse, since there are no bathrooms once inside the Fiery Furnace.
Best Family Hike at Arches: Fiery Furnace
On to the hike itself! We had one other family with us on the tour; they limit the tour sizes to small groups, which was perfect! As we started from the parking lot towards the Fiery Furnace, Ranger Sarah pointed out plants and animal life along the trail.
We were worried that it would be super hot (summer in the desert) and had brought plenty of water with us. However, once we got inside the Fiery Furnace, we found that we were in the shade most of the time and the temperature was actually quite pleasant. We were never terribly hot, though towards the end of the hike as we headed back to the parking lot it did get a bit toastier. I’m sure it helped that we went in the morning and that afternoon hikes would be much hotter.
We then followed Ranger Sarah through a sandy trail with occasional markings indicating how to follow the trail loop. Red sandstone walls rose around us and we could see how easy it would be to get lost wandering around.
After a bit of walking we left the sandy trail and began ascending up onto the sandstone formations. The trail wove around the fins and had a slot canyon feel to it much of the time. In some places, we were jumping over cracks with long drop-offs, which gave a sense of excitement to the tour.
It was definitely at least “moderately” strenuous, and we wouldn’t recommend it for those not able to scramble on their hands over boulders or without good balance. Our kids, ages 10-16, as well as the younger kids in the other family, probably around 6 and 9, were able to handle it with ease.
Halfway through we took a break in a neat area that had some cool features, including an arch, and had the opportunity to eat a quick snack. Ranger Sarah asked all of us to lay down quietly and listen to the desert. Even the young kids in the group obliged. It was a neat experience.
After the break we were able to explore on our own for a few minutes. The kids scrambled up the rock walls and through some caves. It was like our own private desert playground!
Our favorite part of the hike was once section where the walls on either side of the trail got so close together that we couldn’t walk on the trail. Instead, we had to prop ourselves against each wall and shimmy through the trail.
Towards the end of the loop tour, Ranger Sarah led us to an area that had tremendous views of Arches National Park.
Why Fiery Furnace is the Best Family Hike at Arches
I know it can be debatable when considering such a subjective subject, but we just love the Fiery Furnace. It is a hike that can be enjoyed on so many different levels. Granted, the very young and those with limited mobility may need to opt for an alternative hike, but for active families ages 5+, this hike delivers tons of exploration, challenges, and wonderful views.
It’s short enough to be completed in a morning if needed (or if on a tour), yet packs enough fun to be a complete day if you’re on your own. The shade is fabulous for staying out of the relative heat, and the fact that you need a tour or a permit to access it means that you can escape some of the traditional Arches crowds.
Now that we’ve been once, we’d love to go back and explore more on our own. We can see why this is the best family hike at Arches National Park! It’s an amazing place in an amazing park and is perfect for a family adventure.
Do you have a recommendation for the best family hike at Arches National Park?
Other family hikes to consider:
- Oak Flat Loop Trail at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
- High Dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Arches National Park Logo
Are you visiting Arches National Park and looking for a logo? We have created our National Park logos for you to make custom family road trip T-shirts, hoodies and more. You can download our National Park Logos here.
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