The Other Devils Garden
Off Hole-In-The-Rock Road
By Golden Webb
The Navajo Sandstone, according to most geology books, originated as
a series of vast sand dunes. Apparently the sand kept blowing around and
piling up and piling up, until it was several thousand feet thick
throughout southern and central Utah.
Tectonic changes in late Triassic or early Jurassic time caused the basin
containing these vast sand deposits to subside and/or the sea level rose
until the sand dunes were covered by a shallow ocean.
As the ocean water covered and then percolated through the sand, calcium
carbonate precipitated out of the water and cemented the sand grains together,
turning the vast dunes into rock a very peculiar rock.
The most peculiar thing about the sandstone is that it doesn't have horizontal
bedding like most rock deposits. Instead it is crossbedded (because of
the way the original sand dunes were deposited).
The net result is that the entire sand column is fairly homogeneous and
the speed at which the sand is worn away or eroded depends on the amount
and strength of the calcium carbonate cement.
Calcium carbonate doesn't make a very strong cement and any acidic water
will dissolve it away, freeing the sand grains. Weak hydrochloric acid
or even strong vinegar will cause the sandstone to fizz and bubble until
the calcium carbonate is dissolved or the acid is spent.
When the calcium carbonate cemented the grains of sand together it didn't
do it uniformly or evenly. Consequently some areas of sand are harder
than other areas.
Of course, the softer sandstone (areas with less cement) erode away first
leaving the harder sandstone behind. In some places these areas of harder
sandstone take strange shapes and forms.
In a nut shell, that's how the Devil's Garden formed. As the thunder
storms beat down on the sandstone and as the flash floods carved at its
fractures and joints, the calcium carbonate cement dissolved, freeing
the sand grains. The sand was then either blown away by the wind or carried
away by the floods, leaving the harder, more resistant (better cemented)
sandstone in place.
The Devil's Garden is like a text book for differential erosion. There
are small bridges, arches, windows and an assortment of columns, pillars
and other odd shapes.
It's a great place for a day hike or for an afternoon excursion. Take
a picnic lunch and plenty of water and spend the day wandering around
the place. There is no particular destination, no set distance you have
to hike and nothing in particular you have to see. As a matter-of-fact,
the whole Devil's Garden area is only about 10 acres.
The fun comes from studying the strange shapes and climbing on and around
the bumps and knobs, poking into the small caves and holes and just climbing
all over the place.
We had a game of hide-and-seek that kept us going for hours. The kids
had a great time and even us old farts got a kick out of trying to figure
out where everyone had hidden.
The Devil's Garden is not quite 13 miles down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
There is a small sign on the right side of the road (as you travel toward
Hole-in-the-Rock) indicating the turn off. Drive for about a half mile
and the road dead-ends at the parking area.
There are a few picnic tables under some cedar trees and there is a pit
toilet, but no water.
Don't plan to camp at the Devil's Garden. Camping is prohibited and there
are signs all over the place indicating such.
Unfortunately, while we were there a family had set up camp right in
the middle of the Garden. Thev had three tents, all kinds of cooking equipment,
awnings, coolers, etc spread all over the place. Their camp was a mess
and to top it all off, they were slobs. There were empty cans and other
garbage all over the place. Their kids were running around shooting BB
guns at anything and everything that moved and in general making a nuisance
of themselves. It wasn't pretty.
Devil's Garden is an area that could quickly look like a garbage dump
if we all have the same attitude as the campers we saw there. Be sure
to clean up after yourselves, pack out any garbage and pick up after the
Don't build fire pits and don't have fires. Use camp stoves or bring
your food pre-cooked.
This is a unique area but if we are going to enjoy it, we have to keep
The Devil's Garden is on BLM land and in the Devil's Garden Outstanding
Natural Area Wilderness Study Area. The BLM report says that the area
offers outstanding opportunities for hiking, geological sightseeing and
photography. However because the outstanding area is so small (10 acres)
it does not offer primitive, unconfined recreation opportunities and the
BLM recommends that the area not be considered for permanent wilderness
Copyright Dave Webb