exploring arches national park
Arches National Park will continue to mesmerize me every time we visit! The last time we were here, we were 18 and hardly remember a thing so we made a point to spend some time here on our fall road trip across the west We spent an entire day here, including a sunrise hike to Delicate arch, and really loved it. The best thing about the park is you can get A LOT done in one day. We did quite a bit in just one day, but if you want to spend more time doing more extensive hikes, 2 days will do just fine.
Contrasting colors, cool landscapes and textures unlike any other: welcome to Arches. With over 2,000 natural stone arches, pinnacles, rock fins and balanced rocks, this red-rock wonderland is filled with so much to discover. It's also an amazing place for hiking and catching the sunrises + sunsets.
A few tips:
It will get HOT. We were there in October and still got pretty warm, so be sure to drink a TON OF WATER - more than you think - and pack plenty of snacks. I also recommend sunscreen and a good hat. There is practically no shade in the park, so be prepared.
Go early. Since the park is on the smaller side of Utah's Fab 5, it will get crowded and often times there are lines to get in the park. As we visited during the times of Covid, they ended up closing the park entrance at certain times of the day to keep the population controlled. By hitting the park early, you get to snap photos without anyone in them and can avoid fighting for parking spots.
It's really close to Moab, actually about 10 minutes to be exact, so you can camp or stay there! If you want to camp in the park, check out Devil's Garden Campground
THINGS TO DO
There is SO much to do here! Keep reading for a list of what we saw and did to add to your next itinerary when you visit.
We drove the 36 miles of the Arches Scenic Drive and made stops along the way, which felt like it was a great way to spend our time. If you don't have time to stop and explore, the scenic drive is amazing even from inside the car ;)
This will always be a favorite! Honestly, how can the view of the sunrise coming over this ever top anything else?! It's probably one of the most iconic and popular arches in the park and even a famous Utah landmark that you can catch on the state's license plates. At a whopping 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, it's the largest freestanding natural arch in the park. You can see it from afar if you're not down to hike by driving to the Lower Delicate Viewpoint BUT if you want to get up and personal with the arch, you'll need to hike the 3-mile trail from Wolfe Ranch parking lot. The lot area is also really cool if you want to see what it's like to live in the 1800's and catch some petroglyphs.
Top tip: Start this hike as early as you can, any time of year but especially in the summertime. You do not want to be on this hike in the middle of the day and suffer from heatstroke! The majority of the hike offers almost no shade from the sun and it's a steady uphill climb. It can take anywhere from 2-3 hours to complete.
We did this hike in the dark with headlamps so we could arrive just in time for sunrise and it was one of the most beautiful things I've experienced. It's amazing to be in the presence of something so grand while the world feels so quiet and is just waking up. Highly recommend this even if it's the one thing you do!
The Windows + TURRET ARCH
This is one of the most scenic locations in the park with North Window, Turret Arch and Double Arch - all spanning just over two square miles. The Windows consist of two arches - North Window and South Window and are on the same side of the parking lot as Turret Arch. It's a super accessible 1-mile roundtrip loop to see both Windows and Turret Arch. You can hike up into the Windows arch as well, which was INSANE. Look at how small we are!
This was MASSIVE. When you reach the Double Arche, you'll be standing underneath a 112 ft high landmark! It's fun to find the right angle and look through both arches at the same time, then climb through and around the arches to explore the formation.
SanD Dune Arch
Off of the Arches Scenic Drive, close to the Devil’s Garden Area, you will find a small parking area to turn into. A sandy 0.3-mile trail and some squeezing through some fun slot canyons will bring you to this impressive arch, which is surrounded by sand.
If you take the left fork from the Sand Dune arch area trail, you can reach two other fun arches: Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch. This is definitely a less-trafficked trail and it felt nice to take a break from the crowds. This hike is a 2.7-mile loop and you can also access the formations from the Devil's Garden Campground.
At the end of the Scenic Drive, we stopped at the Devil's Garden area, which is where you can find the Skyline Arch Trail, Landscape Arch Trail, Double O Arch Trail, Primitive Trail, and the Devil’s Garden Trail. This area has a high number of arches and trails to explore. You can explore them from the Devil's Garden Trailhead and even hike the full loop to check out 8 unique formations. We just walked around the lot and checked out some viewpoints and arches from afar, but definitely want to hike the trail next time.
A quick and easy trail (0.4 miles out and back) brings you to Skyline Arch. Since we were hiked out from the morning, we focused on easy, accessible trails and hiked out to Skyline Arch. I'd recommend just viewing this from the road if you're short on time, since you can't get up close + personal in the arch.
OTHER THINGS TO DO:
Landscape Arch - You can hike the trail to this, but we were pretty tired by the time we got there, so we just took a look from afar and went on our way.
Explore Fiery Furnace – Make plans ahead of time to obtain a permit to explore this natural maze on your own, or register for a ranger-led guided hike.
View the Petrified Dunes – These were created when the sand dunes hardened under other rock layers. Eventually, the top layers of rock will erode away, leaving the sand dunes behind.
Stop at The Park Avenue Viewpoint -- We drove by, but I wished we would have stopped and snapped some photos! This is the first or (the last on your way out) viewpoint you will reach on the Arches Scenic Drive. The view got its name because the towering walls of the canyon reminded visitors of tall city buildings that line the city streets.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us a DM on IG!