Arches in Arches

Arches National Park has over 2000 arches within its boundaries.   Many are on the maps and on designated trails, but many are unnamed and are found by accident when exploring the park.

The listed trails in Arches are busy ones and there are usually many people clustered around each of the highlighted arches.      For these trails, go early in the morning (or in winter).   Better yet, create your own route up the slickrock or across the sands and explore, finding unlisted arches and new viewpoints.

Shuswap River Run

Paddling down the Shuswap River is a delight at any time, but it is a special experience during the peak of the salmon run.   The sockeye spawn in the gravel shallows in the upper river.   The river is full of red-colored sockeye and black-sheaded spring salmon, most moving upstream, but some in redds near the shore, some leaping out of the water, and some dead ones along the shore.   Eagles, seagulls, and crows line the shores scavenging.   The Department of Fisheries and Oceans was there in river boats and on the shoreline counting fish and monitoring.   As we paddled over the fish, we had to be careful not to collide with the salmon in numerous shallows.

It would be nice to launch at Mabel Lake, but the rapids in Skookumchuk Rapids Provincial Park have Class 111 – Class 1V whitewater for 3km.    The Shuswap River has 10 hand launch sites from Mabel Lake to Mara Lake.   Most have a sign at the turn-off, parking areas, and a good spot to launch and many also have outhouses and picnic tables.   We launched at a designated hand launch site at Hupel, 29.5km by road from Enderby.

Shuswap River Route 1The route from Hupel to halfway between Cooke Creek and Dale's Hand Launch is mostly Class 11 water, but has some short sections of Class 111 too, all very doable, although there are some narrow spots and some obstacles too, so this section is for experienced paddlers.   The river becomes slower as it continues to Enderby.   For this last venture, we chose to exit at Riverside Hall, just past the Trinity Valley Bridge, a total of 26km.

Shuswap River Route 2The river below Ashton Creek is slower and runs through farmlands.   On a previous day of paddling, we went all the way to Enderby, taking out at the bridge (link to story).

Paddling with salmon at the height of the migration on their four year cycle is a unique experience.   We watched the fish and their predators with fascination as we quietly paddled downriver.   This is a good time to carry an underwater camera, but it is not easy to get a good photo of the fish while moving downstream in a kayak or canoe.   It is probably easier to do this from the shoreline with a bit of wading (Cooke Creek is a good place to do this).   Along the way, we stopped for lunch in Shuswap River Islands Provincial Park,  a section of oxbows, channels, islands, and sandbars.   Cottonwoods line the riparian zone in this protected area.    The upper river has an unspoiled feel to it and the huge sockeye run is indicative of a healthy river, even in rising temperatures.   We have penciled in a return paddle in October of 2018 to meet the next generation of salmon as they return to the Shuswap River.


Zoa Peak Hike

The peaks in the Coquihalla Summit area offer a number of steep hikes starting off the highway.   One of the most forgiving trails of the area is the Zoa Peak Trail.   It has a steady (but not steep) climb starting at 1238m to the top of the peak at 1856m (2027 feet climb) over 4.3 km.   The summit is a rounded hilltop in the subalpine.

zoa routeTurn off the Coquihalla at Falls Lake Road.   Drive to the end of the road and park.   Follow the double track east for 300 m.   Watch for the flagged trail going south up through the slide alder.   Go up this single track for 160 m to the upper double track.   Follow the double track for 620m to the crest of the ridge.  Look for a cairn-and-flagged trail bearing north.   This is the start of the Zoa Peak Trail.

The trail goes through the forest for less than a kilometer before emerging into the subalpine.   It climbs onto a broad ridge and follows the east side of a false summit to the north end of Zoa Peak.   There are open views of peaks to the north and east, but views to the west are blocked by trees.   There are some side trails lower down for these views.

The 8.6km return hike a rewarding hike in all 4 seasons (it is snowshoed and skied in winter), but we like to go in the fall when the colors are changing.   Most of the other hikes in the Coquihalla Summit area are steep and tough on knees and feet, especially on the downhills.   Zoa is a user-friendly, gentle cousin, a fine destination for those who love to hike.

More Information:

  • Another KamloopsTrails article on Zoa
  • Parking – N49 36.750 W121 03.877
  • Turn north/left at N49 36.878 W121 03.819
  • Turn right/east at N49 36.868 W121 936
  • Turn left/north onto the Zoa Trail at N49 37.168 W121 03.846
  • Thar Peak view at N49 37.593 W121 05.099
  • Summit at N49 37.658 W121 05.459
  • Watch for a downloadable track, map, etc. soon on


The Fiery Furnace

The Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of slots, dead-ends, slickrock ramps, and surprises in Arches National Park.   There is no designated trail, but there is at least one loop route through the fins, passing by arches, and other hidden spots.   A permit is needed to enter the area and once started, visitors have to figure out their own route, often through trial and error.   There are no cairns, signs, or markers.   Footprints may help.   Enter the lower area and start up one of the slots and see where it leads.

Fiery Furnace 2We did find the route through the maze, but we want to return to try other routes.   Even when the route goes into dead-ends, it is always interesting.   It may take hours or it can be done in an hour and a half.   Up some of the dead-ends are arches, pillars, narrow slots, and sandstone boulders.   With some scrambling, creative routes can be found.

This is a must-do route for explorers.   Get lost in the Fiery Furnace.

More information:

The Devil’s Garden

The Devil’s Garden Trail is the best hike in Arches National Park.   It starts at the end of the road and heads north through the fins.

Devils Kitchen 1Eight arches can be seen along the route.   We chose to the Primitive Loop which swung out to the east side across sand dunes and over slickrock to Fin Creek Canyon.  Some of the traverses require slickrock scrambling and the trail is interesting all the way to Double O Arch.

devils garden mapSome of the arches require a hike out on a side trail and back, but these are all rewarding diversions.   We added some of our own routes and found two more arches not shown on the Park Map.   We also took the trail over to the Dark Angel, a pinnacle of rock on the hillside.   Double O arch seems to be the stopping point for lunch for most hikers and it can be hard to get a photo that is not full of people (this is true of all of the accessible arches).   On the way back, we were surprised that the route crossed ramps, slickrock, and one section even crossed the narrow spine of a fin.   The wind was gusting so we had to sit down at one point before the final crossing.   Along the way is Landscape Arch, the longest span in the world (a separate article on this).   Spires, fins, arches, ramps, alcoves, and canyons are found around every corner of the 11.5km hike.

Every year we try to feature the best hike of the year.   This one, is one of the very best hikes we know.