How To Decide If the Fiery Furnace Hike is For You
Are you wondering about the difficulty of the Fiery Furnace hike at Arches National Park? Or have you decided to go, but are wondering whether to go with the Fiery Furnace permit or the Ranger-led hike? In our last post we let you know why we think you’ll absolutely love going on the Fiery Furnace hike. However, we had questions and doubts about going on the hike before we went. So we’ve decided to share what we learned to make your decision making process easier.
Speak with a Ranger
We highly recommend you speak with a ranger at the Visitor’s Center. At the Visitor’s Center we spoke to a very enthusiastic, and friendly ranger who assured us we would love the hike and that they encourage you to “just go in there and explore”. That was very reassuring to us personally, but we did find that not every ranger has the same point of view. (We ran into a different ranger after our hike who seemed to disagree with the idea that rangers really hope you get in there and explore.)
The park ranger at the Visitor’s Center told us that if you’re in reasonable physical condition, they recommend the hike. Overall, they are very helpful and answer all your questions. They also have pictures of the narrow parts along the hike for you to look at. The Visitor’s Center is a great first step, because both Fiery Furnace permits and spots on the Ranger-led tours are limited.
Self-Assess Your Physical Condition
So what might “reasonable physical condition" be? If you’re used to exercising, working out, running, or are a gym goer that all counts as “reasonable physical condition”. If you don’t participate in any of those, know that the hike's main challenge is agility. If your body is used to being in motion, or is comfortable being in motion, you’ll be fine. I would describe “in motion” as bending down, climbing up, crouching, crawling, jumping, or chasing after a toddler. But, if you have really bad knees, for example, you would want to take that into consideration.
The decision is yours, and only you can be the judge of your own ability, but we’re tempted to say if you’ve done the Delicate Arch hike, you can do the Fiery Furnace hike. There wasn’t anything as strenuous as the long climb on the steep slickrock slope that is found on the Delicate Arch hike. If you’ve done something like Angel’s Landing at Zion, then you’re likely more than ready. Overall, you’ll have wanted to have attempted a hike of about 3 miles before. Discuss what you feel your physical abilities are with the ranger at the Visitor’s Center and they can help you assess. Also, remember that if you opt for a permit, you can turn around and end your hike by going back the way you came at any time.
Heights don’t come into play much in the Fiery Furnace. If you have a serious fear of heights, do ask the rangers at the Visitor’s Center what they recommend though. The NPS describes the Fiery Furnace as having portions “along ledges above drop-offs”. We didn’t find there to be anything as dramatic as that sounds (because that sounds so scary), but everyone is different.
We did find that the basic common sense any visitor must use at Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and others will keep you safe. At these parks, and many others, you’ll see park signs and brochures warning you to stay a safe distance from the edges. Same applies here. There are some areas where you should stay a safe distance from the edge, but again, what you predominantly need for the Fiery Furnace is agility.
Snacks and Water
Above all, you will want to be prepared with water and snacks. Jon and I took a break two thirds of the way in to eat, listen, and take in the views. If you are not prepared with water and snacks, this is not the hike for you. No snacks available for purchase at Arches so you must bring your own. Although we didn’t have a Camelbak with us, we would recommend one so that your water is easily accessible. If like us, you don’t yet have a Camelbak, be sure to take your water and snacks in a backpack. There are parts of the hike that are not hands-free, so you don't want to be carrying your water in your hand.
If you are traveling with kids, do note that children under 5 are not allowed on the ranger-led Fiery Furnace hikes. (In our minds, the fact that children are allowed on the hike, reassured us that with a reasonable level of fitness, we wouldn’t have an issue.) Other than that, kids are allowed on both the ranger-led and permitted hikes. Do note that the Park Rangers are dedicated to preserving the serene quiet in the Fiery Furnace, so kids going on the hike should be able to use their “library voice” the entire time.
The Ranger-Led Option
The main benefit of going on the ranger-led hike is the history and background information you receive as you are hiking through. Still, if you have any concerns about the difficulty level or safety, the ranger-led hike could be a great option. We were originally looking to join a ranger-led tour, but only permitted spots were left. If you are in reasonably good physical condition, and the only way to snag a spot is to do the hike on your own with the permit, we would highly recommend that over missing the entire experience.
One Way That Won’t Help You Decide
In order to pay for your Fiery Furnace permit, you must first watch a 9-minute video. We had initially thought the video might go over safety concerns and help us make our decision, but it was more conservation driven. The video contained very important information, and was eye-opening as far as how to do your part to conserve the beauty at Arches National Park and the Fiery Furnace; just don’t expect it to help you make your decision. If you’re counting on the video to help you decide, you will probably be disappointed.
It’s Up To You
Ultimately, it’s up to you. We have only shared our experience so you can see how we decided. It is impossible for us to know you and your physical ability. Please consult with park rangers and remember the NPS rates this hike as difficult.
We enjoyed the hike more than any other we have done so far. We felt accomplished since this hike doesn’t have a set trail. We came away with a desire to explore backcountry hiking. Once we were done, we wondered why we were debating in the first place. For us, this hike reminded us why we are choosing to travel, hike, and explore now as opposed to “someday”.
We hope you find our experience helpful as you make your decision regarding the Fiery Furnace hike. As always, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and we’ll be more than happy to answer. Watch our latest YouTube video for a peek at the Fiery Furnace.