Delicate Arch could easily be called the symbol of Arches National Park. This iconic rock formation is depicted on the state license plate and appeared on a postage stamp that commemorated the 100th anniversary of Utah statehood in 1996. It is a distinctly-shaped natural arch formed from entrada sandstone, and it was called “The Chaps” and “The Schoolmarm’s Bloomers” by the cowboys of the region. It was given the more dignified name in 1934.
Unlike Balanced Rock, which can be seen from the park’s main road, a hike is required to get to Delicate Arch. This is a moderately strenuous trip about 1.5 miles in length, so set aside about 60 to 90 minutes for the round-trip trek from the parking area at Wolfe Ranch. You cannot see the arch from the trail until it suddenly becomes visible near the end of the hike. Because of the popularity of this attraction, you should try to arrive as early in the morning as possible and avoid the holidays of Easter week, Memorial and Labor Day weekends, and the Utah Education Association break (four variable days in October). During these times, parking is hard to find and the trailhead can fill up for hours at a time.
It is the erosion caused by wind and rain that created Delicate Arch and the other fantastic geologic formations for which the park is famous. Among them is Balanced Rock, a hoodoo (meaning thin) spire with a huge boulder balanced on top. At one time, another arch called “The Wall,” located along the Devils Garden Trail, was also among the formations, but it collapsed in August of 2008. This will certainly be the ultimate fate of all the existing named arches and most of the other fairylike formations—it could take millennia for nature to undo what she created over millennia, or any arch could fall at any time. However, as the existing formations erode to the point of collapse, nature is simultaneously crafting new ones.