How Hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike? | Plus Size Hiker

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plus size and hiking the delicate arch

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Hello there! Today on my blog, I’m answering the question, “How hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to hike?”

In this guide to hiking the Delicate Arch Trail, I’m going to be telling you about my personal experience hiking the Delicate Arch Trail – and get into the nitty gritty of planning for this hike!

Plus Size and hiking the Delicate Arch

How hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike?

In 2021, I’ve decided that I wanted to hike the trail to the Delicate Arch.  I first started doing research, and it was clear that a lot of the reviews of the hike were from people that are very sporty.

You know, the kind of people who go to REI to hang out and have fun.

And, while I’m not trying to “yuck anyone’s yum,” um…. That’s not me.

Lol.

I don’t go to REI for fun.

It was pretty hard for me to figure out just how hard hiking Delicate Arch trail would be for me, a plus size person who has not (up until this point) willingly done a lot of outdoorsy activities.

[Aside:  I grew up in a conservative Christian religion, where i went to “Jesus Camp” two weeks every summer.  So, I have hiking experience, buuut I wouldn’t say I have, historically, enjoyed being in nature. This really messed with my relationship to the outdoors – but that’s a whole other blog post!]

Plus Size and hiking the Delicate Arch

Because it was so hard for me to find information on how hard the Delicate Arch hike is, I’m going to go into a lot of detail.

I’m going to talk about my own level of physical fitness, and talk about how hard it was to hike the trail to the Delicate Arch.  I’m kind of worried about being judged by people on the Internet, but as I type that I know that people judge me all of the time for other stuff that I do, lol.

In this guide, I’m going to share: 

  • Delicate Arch Fitness Overview: Level of physical fitness prior to going on the hike 
  • What it was like to be a plus size person on the Delicate Arch hike 
  • The different stages of the Delicate Arch hike
  • What it was like to hike the Delicate Arch trail in December (for my 31st birthday)

How fit do you have to be to hike the trail to the Delicate Arch?

How fit do you have to be to hike the trail to the Delicate Arch? // Plus size hiking tips for the Delicate Arch
“How fit do you have to be to hike the trail to the Delicate Arch?”

OKAY, so! The question you have likely been trying to figure out as you research just how hard the trail to the Delicate Arch is:

How fit do you have to be to hike the trail to the Delicate Arch?

While I can’t make a decision for you, I can share information on my own stamina and fitness level.

While I can’t make a decision for you, I can share information on my own stamina and fitness level.

Note:  I approach life through a politically body positive framework, especially fitness and joyful movement. I share the information below in an honest and open way, removed from judgement or expectations. 

plus size and hiking the Delicate Arch
Behind my back was a SHEER CLIFF.

Delicate Arch Fitness Overview:

  • I walk about 5,000 steps a day (tracked by my iPhone)
  • Prior to the hike, I had gone on nature walks with very minimal inclines (like, max 20 degrees)
  • I hadn’t been in a gym since pre-March 2020
  • I have pretty good balance & mobility

So, put another way – my level of activity was VERY low (comparatively) to other folks who hike in nature for fun. I don’t say that in a mean way or to bully myself.  This is just a factual and objective overview.

At my level of endurance, stamina and fitness – this hike was HARD.  But it wasn’t impossible.  

The Delicate Arch hike was HARD.  But it wasn’t impossible.  

Going on this hike was the beginning of me entering spaces that intimidate me (growing up, I was a chubby kid – and now I’m a plus size adult), aaaaand the trail probably would’ve been easier if I had done it later.

But, tomorrow is not guaranteed! So I just said, “Eff it! I’m doing it!”

What was It Like to Be a Plus Size Person – on the Delicate Arch Hiking Trail??? 

Being plus size and on the trail to the Delicate Arch // Plus size hiking tips for the Delicate Arch

Having grown up as a chubby kid, and I get really nervous entering into any space where people are exerting themselves.

PE class. Gyms.  Amusement Parks. Sporting Venues. Camping.  

So, I was actuallyyyy *more* nervous to be judged by other people doing the hike – than I was to do the actual hike.  Wild!

I was *more* nervous to be judged by other people doing the hike – than I was to do the actual hike

And you know what?  The other people on the Delicate Arch hiking trail were LOVELY!  Not everyone was super social, but I soon learned it is customary to smile, nod, and say “Hello” to folks as they go past.  

I was expecting to get snickers or rude comments (I was breathing HARD, folks), and that simply wasn’t the case.

While I am not naïve enough to think that no one has ever been rude to a plus size either on the Delicate Arch trail, I do want to share that I was blown away by how friendly and lovely other hikers were.

I was blown away by how friendly and lovely other hikers were.

It was very surprising and gratifying!

Also, there were a variety of ages on the hike!  There were retirees road tripping, families with kids in elementary school, couples and solo hikers. 

STAGES OF THE DELICATE ARCH TRAIL HIKE

Stages of the Hike to the Delicate  Arch // plus size hiking experience

OK, so another problem that I had when doing research on how hard the Delicate Arch trail is to hike, was figuring out the different stages or sections of the hike.

From my time spent in Jesus Camp – Nature Edition, I’ve learned that makes me a lot less anxious to do a hike if I know the different stages. This way, I know how close I am to completion.  It makes me super anxious to not know how much further I have to go, and how much more I need to push through.

So, here are some notes on stages!  These are estimates from me – I wish I had taken better notes. The info below is definitely *not* an exhaustive overview.

Delicate Arch Hike Overview: Time Spent On Hike

  • Total time to Delicate Arch: 90 minutes ish
  • Total time spent at Delicate Arch:  30 minutes 
  • Total time spent hiking back to car from the Delicate Arch: 1 hour ish

Also, it was around $32 for me to get a day pass to Arches National Park. I drove up a winding road and through GORGEOUS landmarks to get to the Delicate Arch.

I definitely want to plan a full week at Arches National Park! [Call me, Moab Tourism Board // Visit Utah! Let’s set something up!]

Delicate Arch Hike Sections or Segments

  • 0-15 Minutes:  The first part of the trail takes you past a cabin from historical figure and you are across the bridge and the road is paved.
  • 15-30 Minutes:  From this point you then go up and down a few steep hills. 
  • 30 to 60 Minutes:  This next part is a pain!  I called it, “So Freaking Steep!”  You’re climbing about a 60° incline for quite a while on smooth-ish rock.  I took a lot of breaks during this part.
  • 60-80 Minutes:  From here you have to go up and down a few more times as the trail progresses until you get to the final incline that leads to the Delicate Arch.  Because the previous segment was such a pain, this feels a lot more doable!
How Hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike?
15-30 Minutes:  From this point you then go up and down a few steep hills. 
How Hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike?
30 to 60 Minutes:  This next part is a pain!  I called it, “So Freaking Steep!”  You’re climbing about a 60° incline for quite a while on smooth-ish rock.  I took a lot of breaks during this part.
How Hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike?

Overall Hot Tip:  The hike up to the Delicate Arch is uphill for a good portion of the way.  As I hiked I would literally count to 200 steps and then take a break.

The hike to the Delicate Arch is mostly uphill, but this does make going back to your car a lot easier on the way back!

The hike up to the Delicate Arch is uphill for a good portion of the way. 

Note: Look for… poles?!

Something that stresses me out on the hike was how much I relied on the people in front of me knowing where to go.  As I took breaks, there were portions of the hike that I was alone and couldn’t see other people. The national Park service had erected a series of short black polls to show people where to go, but they’re spaced really far out and hard to see from a distance.

On my way back, I went off course on accident– and only realized it when a group of very muscular hikers lapped me.  This made things a bit stressful, but luckily there were enough people I was able to stay mostly on course!

How Hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike?
These poles are super easy to miss, as they… blend in with the scenery. A good number do not have the little sign that says, “Trail” so it can be confusing!

Wait! What about the “DEATH PIT”?

OK, I don’t know how I missed this key piece of information when I was doing research on how to hike the Delicate Arch trail.

When I arrived at the Delicate Arch, I thought I was going to have this sort of “hallelujah chorus” moment.

You know, the clouds with part and a beam of light would shine on the Delicate Arch!

I was ready for THEATRE, people!!!

While it was really cool to finally see the Delicate Arch in person (it’s huge – pictures don’t do it justice), it was not cool to see what is *in front* of the Delicate Arch.

Sitting in front of the Delicate Arch is what people call, “The Death Pit.” [I learned this name after doing some more googling at my hotel, after the hike.]

It’s hard to explain but there’s like this bowl in front of the Delicate Arch, and the bowl does it have a bottom.  Where the bowl would be is a sheer drop that would definitely injure you.

It’s a “Death Pit.”

Like, it’s such a known thing it’s a PROPER NOUN.

It’s a “Death Pit.”

I posted a video of the “Death Pit” to Twitter, below!

So to get to the Delicate Arch from the trail you have to clamber over a bunch of huge boulders, and then walk across the death pit wall, which is at like a 60 degree angle.  

As someone who is terrified of heights, this was a bit of a nightmare. I ended up getting over the boulders and slowly walking and mentally chanting four letter words as I did it.

Oh, and on the other side of the Delicate Arch? Once you, you know actually get to the Delicate Arch??

THERE IS A SHEER DROP OFF ON THE OTHER SIDE?!?! 

Like this would be an ideal situation for a video game, oh my gosh!  

My knees were KNOCKING TOGETHER as I made my way to the Delicate Arch.  I knew that one fall step would result in me likely breaking several bones – or worse.  

(As I made my way to the Delicate Arch, I started chanting // talking aloud to myself as I went.  They didn’t just stay in my head, ahem.   And, because I was chanting four letter words out loud as I made my way over, my fellow travelers let out a cheer when I finally got there! It took me a minute to realize why they were cheering, I didn’t realize that I was vocalizing my fears! It was a group effort.)

Note: Now, some people choose not to go over the boulders into the death pit and they view the Delicate Arch from a distance.  

BUT I WANTED TO TOUCH IT.

I wanted to TOUCH the Delicate Arch.

So I did. 🙂

Hiking the Delicate Arch Trail in December 

How Hard is the Delicate Arch Trail to Hike?

OK so real talk, I don’t do well in heat. I get migraines that are really painful, it’s a whole thing. So I decided to do this hike for my birthday in December – with the perk that it would be nearly as hot as in June!

The air was chilly, and I think it was about 50°F on the Delicate Arch Trail in December.  I wore jeggjngs, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt.  

It was cool, but it felt refreshing. When I did this hike there wasn’t any snow on the trail.  I did check the weather forecast leading up to my departure date, because I didn’t want to do this hike in the snow!

What I Wore on the Delicate Arch Hike

What I Wore on the Delicate Arch Hike

As a fashion blogger, I thought it would be more fun to go into exact detail on what I wore for this hike!

  • Jeggings from Torrid (size 24)
  • Black V-Neck
  • Merch sweatshirt in maroon
  • Tennis shoes from Costco (no hiking boots)
  • Black ankle socks
  • Plus Size Fanny Pack for Water & Keys
  • Cheap sunglasses (no loss if they got lost!)
  • 16 oz water bottle 

I almost didn’t bring a plus size fanny pack on the hike to the Delicate Arch, because I felt a little awkward wearing it.  (I don’t usually wear a fanny pack.). But I was worried about losing my keys on the trail, so this was safest!

Final Thoughts – Tips on Hiking the Delicate Arch Trail as a Plus Size Person

I hope that this blog post serves as a helpful guide for other plus size folks thinking of hiking to the Delicate Arch!  

Here are my top tips for the Delicate Arch Hike:

  1. Make sure to wear shoes that you’ve worn a lot – DON’T wear new shoes on a hike! You’ll get blisters!
  2. Take breaks!  I systemized these by counting steps (200-500 tracked on my phone), before taking a break.
  3. Hike with care! There are multiple start spots on this hike that could result in bad outcomes if you fall!
  4. Make sure someone *not* on the trail knows when you start the hike, and when you expect to finish.  This person should feel comfortable calling the Park Service if they don’t hear from you // you and your group!
Plus size and hiking the delicate arch

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