Within Arches National Park, remains a pocket of wilderness where there is no other destination than what you discover. The Fiery Furnace is a maze of sandstone fins, weirdly shaped rocks, and confusing canyons. Just to make it an interesting scavenger hunt, the area has a number of arches scattered within its dead-end passages. Named by Mormon Pioneers for the red glow the walls give off as the sunlight is reflected. Despite its name, the Fiery Furnace is the coolest place in Arches when the temperature rises. The stone fins provide shade, and there is even a nice light draft that sometimes runs through.
The Fiery Furnace has sustained damage due to its popularity, and today, the National Park Service imposed some serious constraints for hiking within this precious resource. There are only two ways you can enter the Fiery Furnace. The first is by signing up for a $16 tour with a ranger. This is the best option for those who are prone to get lost and would like an extensive education regarding the area. If you are more like us and wish to test your dungeoneering and directional skills, then you can purchase a $6 per person, permit for your group. Everyone in the group must be present when the permit is issued. Pets and children under 5 years old are not allowed. The permit is only valid from sunup to sundown on the day you asked for. You must also display your permit on your backpack so that any ranger you encounter can verify it.
Rules of Fiery Furnace
Before you get your permit, you are required to watch an instructional video and take an oral quiz afterward. The primary goal is to teach you what you can and cannot do within the Fiery Furnace, and why it is important to follow those rules. Just to give you an idea, where is what I remember:
1) Beyond the entry trails, step only on a rock or within a wash. This is to protect the critical habitat for many rare plant species. Be sure to not damage any black-crusted cryptobiotic soil, plant communities, or even sand dunes. Avoid social trails, meaning trails that have been made by the feet of other hikers, unless they meet the “rock” or “wash” requirement.
2) Pack out all trash, including human waste. Yup, you can even buy “bathroom” bags at the store. I suggest going to the bathroom before you go.
3) Do not mark rocks, make cairns, or leave any kind of “breadcrumbs” to mark your trail. Defacing surfaces, any kind of vandalism, and graffiti in any National Park can land you in jail for up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
4) Do not take rocks, artifacts, or harvest anything from the park. Federal law prohibits the collection of any plant, animal, mineral, and archeological objects found within National Parks. Again, it could land you in jail and with a hefty fine.
5) Don’t go into the Fiery Furnace without a permit. Its $500 fine per person, if caught. And since it’s a popular spot, there are rangers patrolling within.
I also have a few tips for exploring the Fiery Furnace on your own.
1) Bring at least 2 liters of water and any snacks you desire in a backpack. You will need your hands to scramble about.
2) Wear good hiking shoes or boots. There are many rough spots to climb over and you do not want to sprain your ankle.
3) Take pictures of your path. Many times you will find yourself in a dead end and have to back your way out.
4) Bring your 10 Essentials for Hiking. Although I tend to omit extra clothing while hiking in the desert.
Our Adventure in Fiery Furnace
We decided to go on our own because we wanted to take our time exploring. Much of our exploration was around the edges of the Fiery Furnace. We found caves, balancing rocks, Walk-through Bridge, and a baby arch. We even ran into a mule deer doe and her yearling. We sat inside a cave to cool down and watched cliff sparrows dive bomb for insects. There was also a lot of climbing, scrambling, squeezing, and quite a bit of being breathless and hot. Before we knew it we were almost out of water and had to head back.