Have you ever been to a place where around every corner you are like “OMG LOOK! Woaaaaaah. It’s so pretty!”. That was Arches National Park for us.
Out of the five national parks Alex and I visited in Utah, we LOVED Arches National Park the most! It was simply breathtaking! Not to say the other national parks weren’t, however, it was just… different. Everything seemed more epic in Arches and the sunsets… WOOOOF. They were B-E-A-Utiful. The red rock in the golden light had us drooling! Arches National Park is definitely a must-see.
Time needed to explore: If you are looking to hike, I would recommend allocating 2 days in Arches National Park. If you are looking to drive around and see everything that is easily accessible, you really only need 1 day. It only takes half an hour to get from the park entrance to the end of the park, so the drive goes by quick if you aren’t looking to hike!
Where to stay: If you decide to spend the night near Arches National Park, I would recommend staying in Moab. It is less than 20 minutes away from the park entrance and has everything you need in it. It has plenty of hotel and Airbnb options, an endless amount of restaurants and a great grocery store with decent prices, so you are golden if you stay here!
Things to know before you go: It will get HOT quickly in Arches National Park, so be prepared to drink lots of water, eat lots of snacks and put on lots of sunscreen. There was barely any shade in the park, so we drank over a gallon of water a day when exploring. We also brought a lot with us when we hiked. It was much needed!
Tips and Tricks: As you can imagine, Arches National Park can become very crowded. At times, the line to get into the park can extend onto the main road! This all will lead to limited parking, especially on weekends. The parking lots are relatively big, so usually you can do a loop and find a spot, however, I would recommend arriving in the park early. Getting to the park before 8:00 AM will give you plenty of time to see some of the most popular sites before everyone else arrives. That’s what we did, and we saw and hiked everything on our list in 1 day. It was a long day, but well worth it!
Things to See:
There was a lot to see in Arches National Park, but the below were our favorites! Make sure to stop at every possible viewpoint even if I don’t mention it below. Everything is well worth the stop!
1. The Windows, 2. Turret Arch, 3. Double Arch
These arches are most likely what you picture when you think of Arches National Park. I am combining them because they are all accessible from the same parking lot. These are also some of the most well-known attractions in Arches National Park, so you already know the parking lot is going to be packed! We came here during sunset, and it was beautiful! We always arrived in our sunset location over an hour early to secure a good spot.
The Windows consist of two arches - North Window and South Window and are on the same side of the parking lot as Turret Arch. These are all very easily accessible and do not require much of a hike which is nice! It’s about a 1-mile roundtrip loop to see both Windows and Turret Arch. The trail will first bring you to North Window where you can go up and into the arch. It’s pretty cool! It will then take you around to South Window which you cannot easily get into, but you can enjoy the epicness from beneath it. Once you are done enjoying the beautiful Windows, you can head back to Turret Arch. This is another arch you can walk up and through! Be careful if you do decide to go into either arch. The footing can be tricky, especially if wet.
If you are looking to get away from the crowds, I recommend hiking the Primitive Loop Trail. You can start this hike the same way as above, but instead of turning to go to Turret Arch, continue to the left around South Window to the backside of the arches. This is an awesome way to enjoy the beauty of these arches without the crowds. Alex and I hiked both trails since they were very easy but really enjoyed the Primitive Loop!
Double Arch is across the parking lot and only requires a short hike to get to it. This arch is EPIC. It’s just so big and when you walk into it, you really feel the greatness of it. I love the ability to walk into these arches! During sunset, we saw many people climb further into these arches because there was a small hole in the rock where you can sit and watch the sunset. I was jealous I didn’t see it before, but that’s okay! Anywhere over near these arches makes for an incredible sunset.
OH! And don’t forget to stop at the Garden of Eden on the way to these arches! It is really cool and worth the short stop.
4. Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is another arch you may picture when thinking about Arches National Park. It’s pretty iconic! Que every tourist ever known to mankind. Yes, the parking lot will be busy no matter what time of day you go. The best time to visit this arch is near sunrise or sunset. It is in very harsh lighting during every other part of the day.
There are three ways you can view this beauty of an arch. The first two easy ways are located at the end of Delicate Arch Road. There are two viewpoints here: Lower and Upper. The Lower Viewpoint is the easiest to hike to since it’s a mere 50 yards from the parking lot. The Upper Viewpoint is half a mile from the parking lot and requires a more steep climb.
If you are looking to get up close and personal with Delicate Arch, have no fear, there is a hike for you! The hike to Delicate Arch is 3.2 miles roundtrip and gains 500 feet of elevation. That may not seem difficult, but oh it is in the hot sun with no shade! It felt as if the hike was never going to end for us! And all of the elevation is gained at the very beginning of the trail. Was it worth the hike? Absolutely! The arch was beautiful! However, we should have done it earlier or later in the day when it may have been a bit cooler and the light would have been better for pictures.
5. Park Avenue Trail
The Park Avenue Trail is one of the first attractions in Arches National Park and is often overlooked! The easy, two-mile roundtrip hike and brings you to the bottom of a canyon through the Three Gossips, Courthouse Towers, Queen Nefertiti, Queen Victoria Rock, Organ and Tower of Babel. These all can be seen from the road, however, the Park Avenue Trail brings you up close and personal with them.
You can access the trail from two points: Park Avenue Viewpoint and Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. Either starting point is great and leads to the other parking lot, so regardless, you will be experiencing the same thing at either starting point. Make some time to stop here, you won’t regret it!
6. Devil’s Garden Loop Trail
The Devil’s Garden Loop is at the very end of Arches National Park and is the longest and most difficult trail in the park! I think it was super fun once you hike past the first mile. The crowds tend to give up after the arches, so the trail becomes very peaceful.
The trail is about 9 miles with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain and brings you past A LOT of arches. If you want to hike the full trail, I would suggest planning for 4-6 hours, especially if you want to take your time. You will also need A LOT of water. It becomes extremely hot on this trail, and you need a lot of water and snacks to hike the entire trail.
The first part of the trail is well maintained and brings you to Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Tunnel Arch. Once you get past these and see “Primitive Trail” signs, the trail is less maintained and more rugged. The fun part!! The trail is fairly well marked and if it’s not, you will see cairns, so you should have no problem following it. And of course, make sure to stick to the designated trail! The vegetation around here is so precious and does not need anyone’s shoe mark on it.
If you decide to do the full loop, you will see Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, Black Arch, Double O Arch, and Private Arch. Yup, that’s a lot of arches! And all of them are beautiful in their own way.
If you have the time, I would recommend hiking this trail. It really is the only “hiker’s hike” in Arches National Park and is well worth it!
Make sure to allocate time to visit Canyonlands National Park as well which is only a short drive from Arches National Park!