Arches National Park is a great place for people of any age to visit because there is something here for everyone. Whether you like camping, exploring, serious hiking, photography, picnics or just learning about the geology, you will be able to find something interesting and exciting!
This is a very popular park and the busiest months to visit are between March and October. The best times to get into the park are either early in the morning (before 8:30AM) or later in the afternoon (after 4:00PM). There is an admission fee required for entry, for more information visit the Arches National Park website.
Devils Garden Campground is available if you choose to camp in the park, however it fills up extremely fast. If you do not make a reservation far in advance, chances are slim that campsites will be available. There are a lot of other campsites available not far from the park (most off scenic highway 128) and plenty of lodging options in Moab.
Once you get in the park (yay!) there is so much to see and do, so we created a guide to help you decide where you want to spend your time at Arches.
First- We always recommend stopping at the visitor center. Talk to the rangers and find out what hikes they like, where the best spots to picnic are, and where the best scenic views are. This is also your last chance to use flush toilets and real sinks – the only other restrooms throughout the park are vault toilets with hand sanitizer (sometimes). There is a water bottle filling station available at the visitor center as well. We visited in May, but if you are here in the heat of summer, temperatures can get to 100ºF (or more!). Apply some sunscreen (and maybe a little bit more) because there is not a lot of shade in this park. Make sure you have your map, water and sunscreen and you are all set to go!
This park offers a few hikes that are more strenuous, but the views at the end are so rewarding. Make sure you plan enough time to hike these trails and bring a lot of water with you. Good, grippy hiking shoes are a must for these hikes!
Delicate Arch (The Utah License Plate!)
About 3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of approximately 500 feet.
This hike starts out as a relatively flat gravel path at Wolfe Ranch. The path then begins to wind up and down rock formations until it disappears and you are climbing the side of a gently sloping rock face with only occasional trail markers to guide your way. This is the longest section of the trail so be sure to keep an eye out for those trail markers! Once you are at the top of the rock face, the trail levels out again and stays somewhat flat as you walk through a sandy, canyon-type formation guided by more trail markers. At the other side of the canyon, the trail narrows quite a bit with a steep ledge to one side. Continue on until you get to the final viewpoint- the Delicate Arch. There is a large bowl in front of the arch where you can explore and see the arch from many different angles. The arch is very well hidden so you don’t get any sneak peaks from the trail until you finally arrive at the arch itself. If you have a severe fear of heights but still want to see the iconic Delicate Arch, check out the Delicate Arch Viewpoints trail instead!
Devils Garden Loop
This is the longest hike available in the park. If you do the entire loop you will walk almost 8 miles, but you will have an opportunity to see all of the arches in Devils Garden including the Double O Arch, the Private Arch and Dark Angel Arch. The loop also includes hiking the primitive trail (very few trail markers).
Try these out for some beautiful views without as much effort as the ones listed above!
Sand Dune Arch
This very short trail (less than a half mile) takes you into a tucked away canyon. After a tight squeeze to get into the trail, it widens out and you can see all of the neat geologic features hidden within. This trail is mostly shaded and very sandy (hence the Arch’s name). It’s a great afternoon/ after lunch hike.
This Arch can be accessed from either Devils Garden Campground, or the Sand Dune Arch parking lot. We accessed the trail from the Sand Dune Arch parking lot. The trail is a half mile walk through a flat, open and grassy field. At the end, you are rewarded with the Broken Arch! This hike is fairly easy, but there is not much shade and the trail is quite sandy. If you wanted, you could continue the trail under the arch to the Devils Garden Campground (about a mile) and see an additional arch, or head back to the parking lot again. We saw so many lizards and even a few deer while we were walking to Broken Arch!
Turret Arch and the Windows
The full loop trail is about a mile long and gives you great views of the North and South Windows and Turret Arch. The trail begins from a large parking lot and is comprised of packed gravel with large stone steps in some areas.
A very easy half mile trail on packed down gravel. At the end you will get picturesque views of the Double Arch! This is another very popular stop, so if it is too crowded and you can’t find parking, check out a different arch and come back to this one later. It is very close to the Turret Arch and the Windows so be sure to make a stop there if you haven’t already!
This is a 1 mile hike (one way) that goes through a deep canyon. We didn’t get a chance to finish this hike because it started to rain and hail on us, and we ran back to the car to try this one later. There are some pretty steep sections of this trail, but you are rewarded with some very unique rock formations to see. This is probably the most strenuous of the “mild hikes” section.
Delicate Arch Viewpoints
There are 2 different options here- the Upper and Lower viewpoints. The Lower option is a very short, easy trail that is only about 100 yards on a flat surface. The Upper trail is about a half mile long and is rockier, including some steep steps to climb. If you want see Delicate Arch but do not want to hike the strenuous 3 mile trail there, these viewpoints are a great alternative.
Landscape Arch/ Pine Tree Arch
The hike to Landscape Arch begins at the Devils Garden trailhead. The journey is a little less than 2 miles and paved most of the way, but there are some sections that are steeper. About a quarter mile from the trailhead, there will be a fork in the trail for Landscape Arch or Pine Tree Arch. Pine Tree Arch is a short distance off the main trail that leads to Landscape Arch. As you approach both Landscape Arch and Pine Tree Arch, the trail becomes very sandy. If you wanted to do a longer hike, continue on past Landscape Arch to tackle the rest of Devils Garden Loop, where you can see some more arches.
Other things to see and do
Pull over and marvel at the scenic the viewpoints including Balanced rock, La Sal Mountains, Petrified Dunes, Wolfe Ranch, or Panorama Point. Have a picnic, bike around, look for wildlife or learn about the geology and history of the area at the visitor center. There are some 4 wheel drive roads available if you want to do some off the beaten path adventuring (and have the appropriate vehicle).
Things to keep in mind
This park gets very crowded, so be patient, be kind, and take your time. Have alternate plans in mind just in case the park gets too full to see anything. If you arrive and the lines to enter the park are lengthy, there are a lot of other beautiful things to see in the area instead. Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, scenic Highway 128 and hikes off that scenic highway are a short drive away, just to name a few.
There are no restaurants available within the park itself, so if you do not want to leave the park and wait in line again to re-enter the park, pack some food to bring in with you. There are a lot of great picnic spots available, just make sure you take everything with you and leave no trace!
Have fun, drink a lot of water, and let us know what you think about Arches NP, or this guide in the comments below. Happy Hiking!