When we first started planning our road trip across the country, my husband chimed in with one must-see spot: Moab, Utah, to see Arches National Park. Arches is home to the iconic red-rock scenic view you probably think of when you think of Utah, and within the park is a permit-only hike into the “Fiery Furnace.”
Going off the (Literal) Beaten Path
Fiery Furnace is named after the bright red hues that bounce off the rocks during sunrise and sunset, and it’s the only unmarked hike in the park—meaning there are no trails at all— so if you want to step foot inside the furnace you must have one of 50 permits allotted for each day.
How to Experience The Fiery Furnace
How do you get a permit? You can try to snag one of 25 spots with an Arches park ranger (but then you’re in a VERY large group); you can show up a week before, at 4 am and try to grab a permit for yourself and your group and cross your fingers you get one; or you can pay a little extra and go with an outside company like Moab Adventure Center.
We went for the last option, and it was the best possible decision for us. If you want to do the Fiery Furnace during your trip to Arches, I highly recommend booking your hike months in advance. We booked ours about two to three months before our trip, which really worked in our favor.
Remember those permits I told you about? Well, they’re not guaranteed for the outside companies, so our particular group was actually short one permit on our specified day. Unfortunately, that meant one person who originally signed up, couldn’t go. Thankfully (for us), we were the first to sign up, and since they contacted the last to sign up, we were safe.
We decided to go with MAC for a few reasons. First, it was pretty much the number one recommended group on Trip Advisor, and all of the reviews gave them 5-stars. Second, they had the date we needed available. And third, there was no way we were doing the Furnace on our own, so MAC basically saved the day.
Overcoming Fears at the Fiery Furnace
I should let you know that I was literally shaking in my sneakers before the hike (don’t let the smiles in these pictures fool you)! I don’t do well in situations where I’m not sure about the outcome. For example: the last time I felt that way was before I went in for my induction with my firstborn.
I hate that excited/terrified feeling, because it just makes me really nervous. Some people may call that adrenaline, but I call it fear, and I was scared! On top of that, “outdoorsy” is a word I never ever pick to describe myself, so going on an unmarked “strenuous” hike into a place called the Fiery Furnace, really put me on edge.
Before our hike I studied up on the Furnace and noticed the crazy climbing, tight spaces you’d have to squeeze through, and intense drop-offs at some points.
I was afraid that my novice hiking skills would slow down the group.
I was really scared that I’d be too big to squeeze through some tight spots.
I was nervous that I would wear the wrong thing and look like a dork (and rip my pants, or sweat through my entire outfit).
I was terrified of slipping, falling, and dying…or at the very least, breaking a bone.
Totally rational things to be nervous about, right?
Thankfully, our guide, Molly, was an angel in disguise, because she never once made me feel inadequate during the hike. I never really voiced my fears with her (although, maybe I should’ve), but I’m sure she must’ve sensed them. She’s been a local to Moab for more than 30 years, and knows the Fiery Furnace like the back of her hand.
She would always show our group a modified (easier) version of hiking a particular section, and then she’d have an “adventurous” or more challenging way to experience it. Low and behold, I’d start out trying the easier way, and then I’d go back and at least try the harder version. And spoiler alert: I didn’t die, break any bones, or get stuck even though there were some ridiculously tight spaces!
Experiencing The Fiery Furnace
Along the way, Molly shared fund tidbits of information about the landscape surrounding us. She not only told us about the junipers that were carbon dated at least a thousand years old, but also explained how the rock formations were formed. Did you know that there are more than 200 documented arches in Arches National Park? Pretty cool, right?!
She was patient and motivational, knowing exactly when you needed a verbal or literal pat on the back for accomplishing a hard passage, and she added humor throughout the hike to break up tense moments. Oh, and she also brought a bag of snacks with her, which was very much a welcomed treat. (We brought our own snacks, but you know how other people’s food sometimes taste better? Yeah, that.)
It was completely overcast during our hike, which means my prayers were answered! It actually even rained for several minutes, which cooled things off nicely. Even though we took enough water to sustain us for a three-day hike, and I wish there were stunning blue skies in my photos, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. And really, the days surrounding our hike had 100+ degree weather, so we completely lucked out!
Overall, I can’t recommend the Fiery Furnace hike enough—even if you’re a hiking novice. The hike pushed me to my limit: I truly didn’t think I could do some of the things I did. I’m in fairly decent shape and while it was definitely strenuous, I did just fine and only came out with a few scrapes and some ridiculously sore muscles.
We “scrambled” and “scooted;” we climbed, slid, hopped, squeezed through tiny crevice, and trudged through rocks and dirt. But it was all completely worth it, because around every single bend and corner was another astonishing view or another surprising arch, filled with rich, bold colors.
Accomplishing this hike is something I’ll hold in high regard as something I’m really proud of doing in my lifetime. Yup, hiking the Fiery Furnace with getting married, moving to another country completely alone, and natural childbirth. You just can’t beat the natural beauty found in Arches National Park.
Have you hiked the Fiery Furnace before? What did you think of it?