Don’t Miss These 11 Amazing Things to do in Arches National Park Utah (for 1st time visitors)

0
12

Looking for tips on the best things to do in Arches National Park Utah?

We spent almost two days exploring this park, and down below are our tips on what to do in Arches National Park including the best hikes, scenic drive points, how to get there, where to stay, and much more. Keep reading!

Delicate Arch Trail
About Arches National Park Utah

This is one of the most popular National Parks in Utah. There are more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches in the Arches National Park that frame the beauty of this park.

It has the highest density of natural arches in the world that have been created over 100 million years of erosion.

Perfection takes time. Patience my friends!

It’s quite amazing to see how they are formed and to contemplate the power of water and ice, extreme temperatures and underground salt movement – all of which are responsible for the diverse and unique rock scenery of Arches NP.

This is an amazing display of the gentle power of Mother Earth. She can use wind and water to move mountains!

The orange and red rock arches appear beside you as you drive along the scenic drive, and far into the distance you get glimpses of the towering spires, pinnacles, and balanced rocks you are soon to explore.

They range in size from a small baby with just a three-foot opening to Landscape Arch – the longest at a span of 306 feet.

Kalyra walking up to one half of The Windows Arch

This landscape is constantly changing and new arches being formed and old ones destroyed.

This happens pretty slowly, but sometimes more dramatically.

In 1991, a large slab of rock fell from Landscape Arch leaving behind a thinner arch and a bunch of scared people who heard the rumbling and thought it was a nearby thunderstorm.

Lucky no one was hurt when it fell.

An 18-mile paved loop road will share with you a vibrant and colorful landscape filled with fins and pinnacles and hiking trails that wind under arches and windows.

Prepare to be amazed.

Arches Park Utah is one of the best national parks with kids as many of the hikes are short, easy and fun.

You can see a lot from the car on the scenic drive, but we highly recommend getting the kids out so they can appreciate scale, power, silence, patience and gradual change.

Things to do in Arches National Park
Best Hikes in Arches National Park

There are some incredible Arches National Park hiking trails. Put these on your list of things to do in Utah National Parks.

Delicate Arch

  • Distance: 3 miles return
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Rated: Difficult

If you’ve seen any promotional materials for visiting Utah, you’ve seen Delicate Arch.

It is probably the most famous arch in the world, at least the most famous of the Utah arches, and the most popular of the Arches National Park hikes!

You can visit Wolfe Ranch at the beginning of this hike, and just before you get to Delicate Arch there is short section of the trail with a drop off.

It’s nothing to be too frightened off, just be sure to keep an eye on your kids.

Immediately before this section is a gap above on the slip rock. Walk up it (with care) for a unique first glimpse at Delicate Arch.

The kids enjoyed sitting here for a breather in the shade to stare at it. It motivated them to finish off the trail.

Actually they did ask if they could just end it there, but we insisted they complete it!

Sitting at the edge of the surrounding cliffs looking over Delicate Arch and across the bowl it sits at the edge of, I felt like I was in an ancient Roman amphitheater

Stand under the arch (look at me below for a scale of how big this thing is) and then stand on the brink of the canon, with the dramatic La Sal Mountains in the background (snow capped when we visited in April) making for a contrasting desert image.

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit Delicate Arch, especially for photographers, and especially in the heat of summer. OR, late afternoon, which is when we visited to have the sun shining on the front of the arch.

Hot Tip:

Sunrise should get you fewer crowds.

Delicate Arch Viewpoint

If you don’t want to hike to Delicate Arch, there is a viewpoint spot around the corner from the trailhead. There is a lower and an upper viewpoint.

We just went to the lower viewpoint after our hike. It was only 100 yards and we were too tired after our hike to do the 0.5 miles to the Upper viewpoint on the rocky uphill route.

I can’t say for sure what the upper viewpoint is like, but the lower viewpoint is not worth a stop If you have hiked to Delicate Arch. It will just be ho hum.

It’s very far in the distance and doesn’t give you any wow factor. I HIGHLY recommend you hike to Delicate Arch.

If you can’t, then see about making the Upper Viewpoint as I’m sure the views will be better.

Landscape Arch

  • Distance: 1.6 miles return
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Rated: Easy

Another one of the best Arches National Park hikes not to be missed!

Landscape Arch is the beginning section of the longer and more challenging 7.9 mile Devil’s Garden Trail – which we did not want to attempt with the kids.

But Landscape is an easy walk, some hills to go up and over and gives you an opportunity to see a couple of more arches along the way making it one of the best things to do in Arches National Park.

Short side trails lead to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arches.

Pine Tree Arch in Arches National Park, UtahPine Tree Arch

I love how I was staring at Pine Tree Arch wondering where the pine trees were, and then later discovered I actually had my back resting on a pine tree!

Step back behind that and you’ll see it appear in the world of the arch.

You can continue on this path for another 1.3 miles to Double O arch. It’s a more difficult route with elevation changes. You can see the Double O Arch to the right of Landscape Arch when you approach it.

The trail just takes you closer to it. Side trails lead to Navajo and Partition Arches.

The Windows and Turret Arch

  • Distance: 1 mile round trip
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

Three arches in one makes this a very efficient hike!

From the North and South Window head on the loop to Turret Arch. Do NOT miss this.

Turn around and look back at the North and South Window. That is where you will see the MASK!

It’s probably my favorite view in Arches National Park Utah.

I couldn’t work out how people had taken that mask photo of North and South Window and thought that perhaps they had taken the time to hike the primitive trail behind the north and south window.

Too tired to go on that adventure, I turned around disappointed and decided I might as well check out Turret Arch as it’s just over there.

Then I heard Craig say, “Did you turn around and see the view?”

I turned and Wow! Out popped the mask. There it was.

Always make sure you turn around to see views behind you. Nature is so cool. I just love this view.

Sand Dune Arch

  • Distance: 0.3 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

One of the best hikes in Arches National Park with kids!

Sand Dune Arch is a super easy trail and a respite from the desert heat.

This trail goes between some fins and has a giant sandy floor aka sandpit for the kids. Let them wrestle in the sand or jump off the small ledges (not the arch).

A little way into the sand pit, you will see the sand dune arch tucked away into the fins. This gives a great perspective on how these arches are formed in the middle of fins – it’s quite mind boggling.

Rest awhile in the cool sand while the kids play.

If you had loads of energy, there is a trail breaking off from Sand Dune Arch that goes over to Broken Arch (1.3 miles return). It’s an easy flat trail cross open grassland.

You can see the Broken Arch in the distance from the Sand Dune Arch entry.

Double Arch

  • Distance: 0.5 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

Just across from Windows and Turret Arch is Double Arch. So even better, you get four arches you can do in the space of an hour.

We were maxed out at this stage so didn’t hike over to stand under it, but we could see it clearly from the parking lot.

Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park and you can climb on the rocks under the arch.

Skyline Arch

  • Distance: 0.4 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

If you have loads of time, you may want to stop off to walk to Skyline Arch. It’s an easy walk over rocks to a closer view of the arch.

Skyline Arch is between Sand Dune Arch and Landscape Arch on the Devils’ Garden Drive. You can see it easily from the road, which is why we didn’t get out to hike to it.

Balanced Rock

  • Distance: 0.3 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

One of the shortest Arches National Park trails is around the perimeter of Balanced Rock. You also get beautiful views here across to the Windows.

Fiery Furnace Hike

  • Distance: no trail
  • Rated: Difficult

Looking for adventurous Arches National Park hikes? This is one of the top things to do in Arches National Park Moab Utah.

Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons that requires agility to explore. To enter the Fiery Furnace, you must accompany a ranger-guided hike or obtain a day-use permit at the Arches NP visitor center.

There is a marked route, but you can get lost.

Fiery Furnace hike is named for its sunset reddish glow. You can see it from the overlook viewpoint or join the guided ranger hike.

We wanted to do the Fiery Furnace hike but didn’t make it happen. It can get busy and booked out so plan ahead.

The Fiery Furnace Trail is a ranger led guided hike that is 2 miles through a maze of canyons formed by the sandstone fins. It’s listed as strenuous and adventurous.

Only if you are experienced should you attempt it yourself because you could get lost in there. They do not recommend hiking solo!

Scenic Drive Viewpoints

Arches NP makes it easy for sightseeing.

There is a 19-mile Arches Scenic Drive running through Arches Park that starts from the park entrance at Highway 191 and goes to the Devils Garden trailhead.

Leave yourself plenty of time to stop off at viewpoints and the many trailheads along the way.

There are loads of places to pull over along the scenic drive for viewpoints.

But be aware parking is limited at all destinations, and popular trailheads like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden can fill up for hours, especially on weekends and holidays.

Some of the places we stopped at were:

  • Panorama Point
  • Petrified Dunes Viewpoint
  • Courthouse Towers Viewpoint

Pull over anywhere (safely) to get your shot of the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the background.

There is a specific view point called LA Sal Mountains Viewpoint that gives you 360 degree views of the park and the mountains.

But really you can get that at numerous places along the first part of the drive as you enter the park.

La Sal Mountains in the background.

Park Avenue is a short hike that takes you past huge rock formations such as the Three Gossips and Courthouse Towers – we did not have time to do this.

Junior Ranger Program

As we recommend for all National Park visits with kids, stop in at the Arches National Park Visitor Center and pick up the Junior Ranger Program books.

This is one of the best things to do in Arches National Park with kids!

Be sure to do the required activities for your age level, and stop back in when you are finished to say your pledge and pick up your Juniper Ranger badge.

This is the BEST way to engage the kids in the park and what they are experiencing and learning.

I LOVE this program so much.

The Arches National Park Junior Ranger program book was fun as there were activities like form your own arch shapes with your bodies and have your partner guess what it is.

So cool. Engaging the kinesthetic learners.

Savannah was all over that one. You’ll see it in our video when published (subscribe so you don’t miss it).

Planning a Trip to Arches National Park
Where is Arches National Park Located?

Arches NP is one of the National Parks near Moab, Utah – it is practically on its doorstep that some refer to it as the Moab National Park.

The main entrance gate is a 10-minute drive from Moab. You could even bike there from town.

Directions to Arches National Park

Salt Lake City to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 230 miles
  • Time: 3.5 hours

Las Vegas to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 453 miles
  • Time: 6.5 hours

Zion National Park to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 310 miles
  • Time: 5 hours

Grand Canyon to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 333 miles
  • Time:  5.45 hours

Denver to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 351 miles
  • Time: 5.15 hours

Bryce Canyon to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 244 miles
  • Time: 4 hours

The closest airport to Arches NP as far as major airports go is located in Salt Lake City (236 miles from Moab – 4 hour drive).

Best Time to Visit Arches National Park

It’s going to be baking hot in summer in Arches NationalPark.

I remember feeling completely wiped out after a few hikes when Craig and I visited in the summer in 2006 (pre-kids).

Strangely, the heat does not keep people away so expect large crowds in summer exploring all the amazing things to do in Arches National Park.

If you visit in summer, carry enough water (fill up at a the visitor center). They recommend at least 1 gallon (4 L) per person per day.

We carry our 6 gallon Igloo water containers in the back of our F250 truck and make sure they are filled. For hiking, we carry our 21 oz Hydro flasks as our hiking water bottles.

Fall and Spring will typically be the best time to visit Arches National Park.

Winter will be less crowded but expect snow and cold temperatures.

Entrance Fees

Entrance Fees are $30 per vehicle, which is good for 7 days.

Our annual National Parks Pass (America the Beautiful) gives unlimited access to federal lands for $80 annually.

If you are visiting all of the National Parks in Utah, or more national parks in the USA, this will be worth it.

How Long Should You Spend in Arches National Park?

I recommend two days to enjoy all of top attractions.

They will not need to be full days either so you can enjoy a more relaxed pace and include other Moab attractions, like bike riding along the Colorado River on the same day.

One Day in Arches National Park Itinerary
View from Delicate Arch Trail

If you only have one day in Arches National Park, you can still do a lot, but I recommend an early start and be prepared for a late finish.

I recommend the following points of interest:

  • Landscape Arch
  • Sand Dune Arch
  • North and South Window
  • Delicate Arch

You can enjoy the scenic drive as you move from one place to the other.

Tips for Visiting Arches National Park

  • Don’t climb on the arches or balanced rock- sandstone is dangerous as it crumbles easily. It’s easier to climb up than down. Be careful.
  • Don’t stop in the middle of the road at sightseeing viewpoints.
  • Bikes cannot ride on trails or backcountry
  • No ATV/ORV are allowed in the park
  • Pets are not allowed on trails. Must be leashed at all times if on park roads, parking lots or campsites
  • Backpacking permits must be gotten at the visitor center
  • Don’t expect Wi-Fi or cell phone service to work.

Where to Stay in Arches National Park
Camping in Arches NP

For Arches National Park camping, the Devils Garden Campground has 52 sites with water and flush toilets.

It is the ONLY Arches National Park campground.

You can reserve campsites for the busy season between March 1 and October 31, but the campground is usually full every night – make reservations at least six months in advance.

  • For camping near Arches National Park, there are many options around the Moab area. See here and here. 
  • FREE camping near Arches National Park is possible, we camped just north of Arches off Hwy 191 and Willow Springs Road (BLM378).

Our camping spot on Willow Springs Road (BLM378).
Hotels Near Arches National Park

There are no Arches National Park hotels inside the park, but for places to stay near Arches National Park, look no further than Moab.

There are many options of places to stay in Moab at several price points.

Top rated picks on Booking.com include:

  • Budget: MainStay Suites and Sleep In & Suites
  • Mid-Range: SpringHill Suites by Marriott and Archway Inn
  • Top End: Hyatt Place and Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa

See all hotels in Moab on offer via our affiliate partner Booking.com

Airbnb in Moab

Looking for more of a home or apartment stay? You can often find great deals on Airbnb rentals for Moab.

Currently there are 300+ homes in Moab to book. 

Rental Cars and RV Rental

RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.

For RV Rentals, check Outdoorsy, or RVShare if you want to rent a unique campervan or RV and explore further afield.

Tours of Arches National Park

If you don’t want to visit Arches National Park by yourself, below are some Arches National Park tours from Moab:

More Places to Visit in Utah

Looking for more places to go in Utah? Start here:

  • Utlimate guide of things to do in Zion National Park
  • 15 amazing things to do in Monument Valley
  • ATV Adventures in St. George
  • Canyonlands National Park (blog post coming soon)
  • Snow Canyon State Park (blog post coming soon)

Pin Below To Save On Pinterest:

I hope this guide about Arches National Park things to do helps you plan your own trip? If you still have questions about what to see in Arches National Park, leave a comment below!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here