The Fiery Furnace is truly the crown jewel of Arches National Park.  It is the best hike located in the park and has the most spectacular scenery.  While most of the tourists visiting the park are focused on seeing the beautiful arches such as Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch, an entire world of monolith sandstone fins and towering narrow sandstone canyons awaits within the Fiery Furnace.  However, accessing the Fiery Furnace is not as easy as just showing up at the park and following a trail for a couple of hours.  Heavy restrictions are placed on entrance into the Fiery Furnace, and for good reason.  The first issue has to do with the sensitive nature of the plants and soil within the area.  Some plants are unique to this area and some organisms within the soil can easily be crushed and trampled by careless visitors just placing a single footstep in the wrong place.  The second issue has to do with the confusing labyrinth of narrow canyons and rock formations.  It is very, very easy to get lost in the Fiery Furnace.  Trails are not marked and routes are unclear.  Once you are within the central area of the Fiery Furnace you could literally get lost for hours, walk around in circles in confusion, and completely lose your sense of direction.  On hot days, which are common in Moab, Utah during the summer, a lost hiker could be in a lot of trouble.  For these reasons, the park service requires that visitors watch an introduction video before being granted access to the Fiery Furnace.  The park service also severely limits the number of people who get to access the area each day.  Permits can be very hard to get and sell out weeks in advance during the busy season.  And most of the permits are granted to people who go on ranger-led hikes into the Fiery Furnace.  The remaining 15 or so daily permits (as of 2012) are usually snapped up early in the morning by canyoneers who are visiting secret technical areas or private guides who are leading smaller groups.  For our visit to the Fiery Furnace, we chose to use a private guide.  The reason we did this was so that we could get the best possible pictures without having large groups of tourists in every shot and also so that we could check out some exclusive areas that the public doesn't usually get to see.  And it worked out perfectly.  We highly recommend this hike if you ever find yourself in Arches National Park.
Fiery Furnace panoramic from parking area
After following the obvious trail in the panoramic seen above, the trail disappeared and we were left to fend for ourselves.  We were led cross-country into this obscure opening somewhere in the Fiery Furnace:
A small sandy wash cut through this short corridor between the rocks:
The narrow passages continued leading us into the depths of the Fiery Furnace:
This picture shows the opening of a narrow passage between massive sandstone walls:
Imagine trying to navigate your way through this tricky jumble of rocks with no markers or obvious route:
Spectacular scenery on display above a group of trees growing on the ground below:
These are sandstone fins, which are the most spectacular formations in this park other than the arches:
Notice the coloring of the sandstone walls, usually orange-red with streaks of black and white patterns on the rock:
An impenetrable wall of sandstone looms high above us:
If you keep looking, eventually you can find a way to navigate through the different sections of towering formations:
Wider canyons give way to narrow passageways through the rock:
Looking out through a passageway at spectacular scenery on display in the Fiery Furnace:
Soon we entered into this narrow passage which led to something special:
But first, we found that the passage got so tight that we had to drop down on our hands and knees and crawl through:
On the other side, we emerged into a spot with beautiful colors and rock walls high above:
On the left, you can see a very narrow passage through the rock.  On the right, you can see a wider canyon leading to another area:
The room we had entered into contained this incredible arch:
Notice there is a wide opening to walk through the bottom of this arch:
Mel, Steve, and Tiffany standing on top of the arch (which is more like a natural bridge):
One final view before leaving the area and moving on:
Dark passageways give way to the brightness of the outside world:
It is areas like this that the park is concerned with.  Visitors are encouraged to only walk on the sandy path seen to the left and avoid stepping on the grasses or banks to the right:
Despite only getting limited sun due to the towering sandstone walls, trees grow here wherever they can:
Notice the texture of the wall on the left, which is eroded with holes and intricate designs:
On our way through a section which divides two massive columns of rock:
Now we are truly into the depths of the Fiery Furnace where getting lost would be quite easy:
This passageway leads to one of the most famous landmarks within the Fiery Furnace:
More dramatic wind and water sculpted formations on one of the walls:
Once again, the key to low impact hiking is to walk either on the bottom of the sandy wash or on rock surfaces at all times:
Multiple passages ahead to choose from:
Arriving at the base of Skull Arch, one of the most well-known arches here:
Three views of Skull Arch from below it in the canyon wash:
This picture was taken near Skull Arch at my favorite spot within the Fiery Furnace:
A unique bowl shaped indentation in the sandstone:
Moving on, we have reached what appears to be a dry fall of sorts.  Someday the water will erode the rock and leave an arch behind (middle of picture above the cave):
This section of the Fiery Furnace is known as Poison Ivy Canyon for good reason:
A close-up of the poison ivy.  It's hard to avoid in some areas through here:
Talk about boulder jams.  This is going to be a tough one to get past:
Reminiscent of some of the narrow canyons of Death Valley, here we looked up and out of the twisted narrows we were walking through:
The scenery continues to impress as we are essentially lost inside the Fiery Furnace (although our guide knows where he is going):
A clear path to follow to minimize disturbance to the plants:
Here we have climbed up some rocks and entered a cave-like sandstone passage:
Not much space to squeeze through these narrows:
Epic scenery on a grand scale without anyone else around:
The sun would often shine brightly up high on the canyon walls:
Two more spectacular fins up ahead:
As we emerged from the narrow canyon we were walking through we noticed there was a third fin next to the other two:
Groups of sandstone fins can be seen in the next two pictures:
The wind and rain is constantly sculpting the shapes and colors of this place:
Yet another section of narrows.  It would be impossible to share a GE or topographical map of this place because it would be just way too confusing (plus the park service would not be happy with it):
Fins towering up into the sky like sentinels standing guard:
Narrows alert.  Another small passage up ahead:
Our visit to the Fiery Furnace was on a hot summer day with blue sky.  The temperature did hit the 100's but we hiked in the morning and mostly in shade:
Tiffany preparing to squeeze through an opening:
In between narrows, there would be some open areas to walk through:
Walls that are continuing to erode away leaving different shapes and textures:
A relatively tall tree growing within here:
In the next three pictures, we are progressing carefully up a series of ledges to try to reach a lookout point:
If you look down, you can see that we are above a deep chasm:
Tiffany looking out at the fantastic view from up here:
Behind us was this neat looking sandstone staircase with lots of fins:
Time to move on.  So here we have to enter a section of narrows and...:
Cross over rocks on top of the sandstone formations:
Colorful rocks keep the scenery interesting:
In the next four pictures, we are passing through one narrow corridor after another:
If you look through this cave-like section all the way to the back, you can see a small opening to climb out of at the other side:
This is a dramatic cliffs area we passed through that dropped off far below:
Looking out from this spot, it is evident that there is no exit or entrance to the Fiery Furnace from here:
Passing through an opening shaped like a crescent moon:
Steve getting a picture at this spot:
Notice how the walls of the sandstone seem to be sliced down the middle.  It's a wonder that the rock formation on the right doesn't fall over:
Moving on, we are preparing to enter into another important area:
Looking high above us, we could see an amazing arch stretching across the canyon:
Known as Surprise Arch, this is in an area which is almost enclosed like a room, which is why it is so dark in here:
Tiffany standing under Surprise Arch:
Three close-up views of Surprise Arch:
Mel decided to climb out of the Surprise Arch room to see the view on the other side, but it wasn't easy.  He can be seen at the top of the picture:
Looking straight up at the cloudy blue sky from underneath Surprise Arch:
Walking back out of the dark room towards the sunlight:
As we hiked out of the Fiery Furnace, we ended up looping back by way of this staircase which was cut into the rock long ago:
Looking back up the man-made staircase which is the only way in and out of this section:
Two final pictures as we exited the Fiery Furnace and headed back towards the parking lot:
Return to Home