Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah is a stunning, maze-like hike winding between closely packed sandstone fins. Officially, it is listed as 2 miles round trip. However, because there is no official or fully marked path, be prepared to hike farther. We hiked about 4 miles over 3.5 hours. Despite the extra steps, Fiery Furnace was one of our favorite hikes on our Utah roadtrip. The sense of adventure and scenery are a winning combination!
Many people are not sure if they should undertake the Fiery Furnace hike. Ultimately, that’s a decision you need to make for yourself. We’ve tried to outline a few consideratons below as well as share our personal experience. Hopefully it will help you make a choice.
Should You Hike Fiery Furnace?
Do you have children under 5 years? This includes kids in carriers. Children must be at least 5 years old to enter Fiery Furnace. Unless you can magic up some childcare, you’ll need to pass this trip.
I’ll also mention that children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. If you were planning to send your tweens alone into Fiery Furnace, then you’re tough out of luck.
Physical and Mental Challenges
Can you cope with the physical and mental challenges? The National Park Service sums up the requirement as “navigating its complex passages requires physical agility and careful observation.”
Let me be clear that Fiery Furnace is an active hike. Unlike many hikes, you don’t need to walk uphill for hours. You do need to be comfortable with walking on ledges, squeezing through narrow cracks, jumping, and climbing. You will likely encounter sheer drops while searching for a good path. Be smart and exercise normal cautions near cliff edges. In other words, don’t get too close! We NEVER had to walk on or near a dangerous edge to safely navigate Fiery Furnace.
Good humor and comfort being temporarily and mildly lost will also serve you well. Small arrows mark one counter-clockwise route, but that is only one of many paths. The arrows are helpful…but not nearly as easy to find as we expected. We don’t have a GPS, but apparently they rarely work in Fiery Furnace because of the towering standstone walls.
Ranger-Led Tour or Self-Guided?
The National Park Service recommends that all first-time visitors to the Fiery Furnace join a ranger-guided hike. That is well and good, except that the ranger-guided hike tickets sell out months in advance during peak seasons. We were there over Labor Day weekend (early September) and the next available ranger-guided tour was a week away!
Book early! If you want to go on a ranger-guided hike, try to book online as early as six months in advance for a morning hike. Afternoon hikes can be booked in-person at the Arches Visitor Center 7 days in advance. Ranger-guided hikes are available May through September.
Having successfully completed the hike, we had a great time conquering it on our own. I have heard that ranger-guided tours give you a lot of great information about the geological history and nature of the area. You also don’t need to cope with being “lost.” If you have been on a ranger-guided hike, we would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
Fiery Furnace Permits for Self-Guided Hikes
If you decide to self-guide through Fiery Furnace, you must obtain a hiking permit from the Arches Visitor Center. An adult (13+) permit costs $6 and children/senior permits cost $3.
Permits are only available in-person at the Arches Visitor Center (nope, no online or phone reservations allowed). Permits can be reserved 7-days in advance. The Visitor Center will not issue permits within 30 minutes of closing. Don’t wait until the end of the day!
All members of the hiking group must be present when the permits are issued! This includes children!
Your best bet to get a permit is for the whole group to arrive at the Arches Visitor Center just before opening on your first day. Then head straight for the permit desk and hope there are still permits available during your visit.
Make sure and read the permit requirements carefully as there are a lot of rules about when/how to get your permit. Here are some key ones to remember:
No pets allowed
No children under 5 years (including children in carriers!)
You may visit the Fiery Furnace between sunrise and sunset only on the date specified on your permit.
In order to receive your permit, all hikers (including children), must watch the Fiery Furnace orientation video. The orientation video is short and covers useful information. Some information you may already know such as Leave No Trace. Other desert-specific information may be new to you. For example, don’t step in potholes even if they are dry because you may kill Fairy shrimp. The orientation video also covers what to do if you need to use the toilet.
The Fiery Furnace trailhead is located just off the main road into Arches National Park. From Arches National Park Visitor Center drive into the park for 14.0 miles to the signed “Fiery Furnace Viewpoint” turn-off. The trailhead has a large paved parking lot and a vault toilet. 4WD is not required to reach the trailhead.
A Few More Fiery Furnace Tips
Start early! You want to finish before the high heat of the day.
Carry lots of water (minimum one liter per person) and snacks. No food is available for purchase in the park so bring snacks with you! Stow your gear in a backpack and keep your hands free for climbing.
Be safe! Make reasonable choices and don’t put yourself at risk. No death defying choices are necessary to hike Fiery Furnace.
Choose your steps wisely. Life’s tough in the desert. Please protect the wildlife and plants that inhabit sand dunes and drainages between the rock walls. The orientation video will cover this in detail.
Have you hiked Fiery Furnace? Did you enoy the adventure? Any tips to share with our readers? Please let us know in the comments below.