The best of the Arches National Park hikes all go to…you guessed it, arches! As one of the Mighty 5 Utah National Parks, Arches is an ideal adventure stop when visiting Moab on a Utah road trip. A trip to Arches National Park will have you staring in amazement at a striking and ever-changing landscape as the arch structures expand and contract, threatening collapse, and new arches begin to form. No two arches are the same, and this remarkable National Park boasts 2,000 catalogued arches. The arches have a remarkable range in size and structure from a relatively small 3 foot opening to the 306 base measurement of Landscape Arch.
Though many arches, improbably balanced rocks, and unusual vast landscapes can be viewed from the road, hiking will get you up close and personal with the impressive towering arch structures. The Arches National Park hikes we’ve chosen vary in length and difficulty, but all have a rewarding finish you can’t help but appreciate. Admire the sandstone arches and fins, but as you explore, remember that you cannot walk on the arches or draw or inscribe your name on anything in the park.
Arches National Park is a beautiful desert sanctuary of natural beauty. The kind of peace and contemplation that accompanies the viewing of such works of art will have you returning to these beautiful arches again and again. Nature shows its power and unpredictability through the formations in Arches National Park from the sandstone shaped by water and ice to the underlying salt bed shaping the land from below. Any of the following hikes in Arches National Park will leave you in awe of nature’s prowess and the undeniable beauty of one of Utah’s finest landscapes.
6 Best Arches National Park Hikes You Shouldn’t Miss
Delicate Arch Is The Most Famous of The Arches National Park Hikes
Delicate Arch is not only a spectacular formation, it has become one of the most widely spread symbols of Utah. You’ve probably seen it on the license plate of a Utah resident or maybe on a postcard at a gift shop. For less mobile visitors of the park, or those short on time, this iconic arch can be viewed from an Upper or Lower Viewpoint. The Upper Viewpoint is a .5 mile rocky uphill walk, and the Lower Viewpoint is a 100 yard easy walk. Both of these viewpoints give you a look at the arch from far away. While you can still appreciate its beauty, it’s hard to fully understand the size and remarkable nature of the arch without hiking to its base.
The hike to Delicate Arch is 3 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 480 feet. Prepare to work for your views. Bring plenty of water and travel at a pace comfortable for you. Shortly after beginning the hike you’ll find a brief detour on a side trail that will take you to some beautiful rock art along the wall. Be sure to take a moment to stop here on your way to or from the arch. After passing the rock wall detour, the hiking trail changes from a meandering walk to a moderately difficult hike as you travel up and down the rolling hills. Pace yourself because the most challenging part of the hike is just around the corner.
When you find yourself gazing up at a slanted rock face that seems to stretch to eternity, you’ve hit the cardio section that’ll have your heart thumping. The path here is not particularly clear, but rock cairns mark the way along with scattered step-like carvings in the rock. And of course the constant stream of fellow tourists attempting to power up the mountain, heads down, audibly panting, will help point you in the right direction as well. When in doubt, just keep marching upwards. When you reach the top you’ll get a slight reprieve as the path levels out.
Continue following trail signs until you reach the rock ledge. The ledge starts wide and narrows as it winds its way around the side of the mountain. At no point does the ledge feel dangerous, but it is still a ledge, so exercise some basic common sense and caution as you hike along. If you gasp when you turn the corner, you likely won’t be the only one. Hidden from view until the last moment, the arch emerges in all its glory. As arguably the most popular of the Arches National Park hikes, the trail is more often than not packed with tourists heading in droves to see the famed arch.
Traffic on the trail gets particularly crowded in the late afternoon and early evening as people search out the best lighting conditions for viewing and photographing the arch. Though the lighting is remarkable, you may be waiting for a very long time to get your shot at a photograph under the arch. People anxiously await their chance to capture the beauty, and as expected, some people are more considerate about moving along at a reasonable pace than others. Patience is key if you’re visiting at this time of day. If you’re not particularly concerned about perfect lighting, we suggest starting the hike in the early morning around 6am or earlier. The morning light is still beautiful and you’ll miss the crowds that start rolling in around 9am.
You’ll have plenty of time to take pictures as well as sit in peace and quiet (relative) solitude with your back against the enormous rock wall, staring at the towering arch as the morning sun continues to burst eagerly into the sky and light up the landscape as far as your eye can see. To the right of the arch, as you face it, is a fascinating whirlpool-like swirl of rock sunken into the ground that compliments the arch rising into the air beside it. Take a moment to capture the whole scene not just on your camera, but in your mind, before making your way back to the parking lot. Though the steep downhill might be taxing on your quads and calves, the hike back is significantly easier and faster.
Double Arch Is One Of The Best Arches National Park Hikes To View In The Morning
Just when you think you’ve seen enough arches to become a snob and pooh-pooh the puny ones, along comes Double Arch and bam!…two for the price of one. Suddenly you’re re-inspired and invigorated, hungry for more. It’s an easy .5 mile stroll to see Double Arch from its base. You’ll find its parking lot right next to the parking lot for the Window’s hike. From here you can see the striking arches creating a beautiful sculpture in the distance.
Though you can see the arches from the parking lot, it’s worth walking up closer. When you reach the base of the arch you can appreciate the size of the arch and its unique natural construction. This remarkable Double Arch was shaped by downward water erosion carving away at the sandstone. Not even man could have created something so raw and perfectly imperfect. Climb up the rock and sit perched beneath the two arches on the more level surface.
Double Arch is among the Arches National Park hikes that are best viewed in the morning. Watch the sun rise on these arches as it softly backlights the already spectacular landscape. In addition to the ideal lighting, you’ll find you have the space virtually to yourself at that time of morning. Take some time to enjoy the solitude of the desert at first light before the hungry swarms of tourists come rolling in. The evening is particularly zoo-like. It’s impossible to get a picture without people in the background, and you’ll be fighting other tourists for a space under the arches. Though none of the beauty is lost in the evening, the peace of enjoying the views in relative solitude is lost.
Landscape Arch Is One Of The Longest Arches In The World
Landscape Arch is one of the most popular hikes in Arches National Park. It is not only the longest arch in Arches National Park, but it is the longest outside of China and the 5th longest in the world. It stretches like a beautiful sandstone rainbow across the desert. Over the years, pieces of this impressive arch, that spans 306 feet, have continued to break off and fall to the ground. The arch has worn so thin in many places that it looks like its days are nearing their end.
For now the arch remains proudly standing, but relatively recent rock falls have caused portions of the trail leading up to and under the arch to be closed to the public. Though you can no longer walk beneath the arch, the viewpoint you get is great for pictures and still allows you to appreciate the beauty and size of the arch. Your hike will begin at the Devil’s Garden trailhead. Though relatively large, the parking lot can fill up on particularly busy days.
Landscape Arch is an easy to moderate 1.6 mile round trip hike. Though it’s not paved, the trail is easy to navigate with hard packed terrain that remains mostly flat. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, you can continue on the Primitive Trail at Devil’s Garden for a total of 7.2 miles round trip. Past Landscape Arch the trail becomes more difficult. The most common destination beyond Landscape Arch is the 4.2 mile round trip hike to Double O Arch. Should you continue to this point or beyond, you should expect rocky trail and more elevation gain than the previous section of the hike to Landscape Arch.
Sand Dune Arch Is A Great Family Hike
Sand Dune Arch is one of the best Arches National Park hikes for kids. The hike from the parking lot is quick and easy as you head into a slot canyon thick with sand. Stick to the path so you don’t risk destroying the dunes and the vegetation growing there. Though desert plant life is sparse, you’ll find the dunes dotted with sparks of green and vibrant bursts of color from flowers in the springtime and throughout monsoon season. The landscape surrounding Sand Dune Arch is a contradiction of sorts displaying life in an otherwise fiercely tough desert.
The area is like a natural playground with rocks to climb on, sand to sift through, and shade providing a welcome respite from the summer desert sun. The sand is cool as well, making it ideal for kids to play around in. Keep in mind that it’s against park policy to climb on the arches. The structures are fragile and erode easily, and ideally they’ll remain intact for many future generations to explore. For visitors with time restrictions, this hike may take a backseat to the more popular Arches National Park hikes such as Delicate Arch, but we hope you’ll consider including it among your plans for the day because it’s beautiful in its own right.
You’ll find the parking lot just off the main Arches National Park Scenic Drive. The full hike is only .3 miles, and the first half more or less ends at the arch. Because the hike is so short, it’s an easy activity to squeeze into a tight schedule, or the perfect spot to linger at in the shade. Almost immediately, you find yourself enveloped by sandstone fins creating a cave-like atmosphere. It feels like you’re entering a secret space. The path is easy to follow and wide in most areas.
The Sand Dune Arch doesn’t appear until the end of the hike and is a remarkably great reward for having expended such little energy to get there. The arch itself is surrounded by sandstone fins that perfectly frame the main attraction. Grab your camera and take some pictures in front of the red sandstone. The lighting of this secluded, shaded area brings out the vibrant hues in the stone. If you’re looking for a longer hike or just wish to pack in more arches into your day, you can extend your hike by continuing on to Broken Arch.
The Windows Hike Takes You To Three Impressive Arches
As if you didn’t already have your pick of fascinating arches to see, the Windows section of the park packs in 3 impressive arches into one relatively small area. After you visit Double Arch at sunrise from the parking lot right next door, consider walking over to the Windows trail. If you don’t make it to the trail in the early morning, try aiming for the evening around sunset for some spectacular photo opportunities. North Window, South Window and Turret Arch make up the Windows section, and because of their striking images and relatively easy accessibility, the hike to view them ranks among the best of the Arches National Park hikes.
As one of the most popular sections of the National Park, the trail is heavily trafficked, so be prepared to be sharing the little slice of paradise with many other tourists. Parking can be difficult to find here as well during the busiest hours at the park. This hike is not very difficult and is great for families with kids of all ages. The Windows Trail to North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch is 1.0 miles round trip. With the Garden of Eden (an open area for exploration), Parade of Elephants, Elephant Butte, and Double Arch nearby, this area is an important centerpiece of the park.
North and South Window are sometimes referred to as The Spectacles. These impressive arches are sculpted from the same sandstone fin and when viewed together resemble a pair of glasses, hence their nickname. Take a moment to walk up to and under the remarkably large North Window to see the sculpted sandstone up close. You’ll be dwarfed in comparison. Just be aware that many other people will be exploring under the arch as well, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take a picture without other people in it. For avid photographers be sure climb through the arch to find the famous shot of North Window with Turret Arch framed through its center. Though it’s the least imposing of the 3 arches, Turret Arch is uniquely structured and makes a worthy companion to the Windows Arches.
Fiery Furnace Is Among The Most Challenging Arches National Park Hikes
The name of the area alone is enough to give you pause. But don’t be deterred. You’re in for a real treat if you choose to explore the impressive sandstones of Fiery Furnace. It is one of the most challenging Arches National Park hikes, but if you’re an agile, avid hiker looking to squeeze between crevices and climb through an impressive, expansive rock garden, Fiery Furnace might just be the hike you’re looking for. Though the entire hike is not particularly long (2 miles), the terrain makes the hike more challenging. Make the landscape your playground as you wind your way through the rock formations, twisting and turning as you scramble from rock to rock.
You have two possible options for entering Fiery Furnace. Your first option is to join a ranger guided hike. These are available from the spring through fall (the exact dates change year to year) for all visitors above the age of 5. It costs $10-$16 for adults and is half the price for children. If it’s your first time hiking through Fiery Furnace, exploring with a ranger might be the safest option. You’ll want to purchase your tickets in advance to guarantee a spot on the hike. Fiery Furnace is incredibly popular and tickets sell out.
Another option is to buy a day use permit from the visitor’s center if you wish to explore Fiery Furnace on your own time and at your own pace. The fee is $6 for adults, and $3 for children and senior pass holders. Another option is to buy a fiery furnace annual pass for $15. If you choose the standard day use permit option, you’ll have to watch an orientation video first to make sure you’re prepared to enter this difficult hiking zone. You’ll likely be asked to repeat information from the video to make sure you and those in your group were actually paying attention.
Fiery Furnace is located just past the turnoff for Delicate Arch. There is a paved parking lot and pit toilets at the trailhead. As you begin your hike you should be aware that there are no clearly marked trails in the Fiery Furnace and it’s unlikely your GPS unit will function during your hike. There are small arrows leading you on a counter clockwise route through the rocks, but the arrows are hard to spot and mark only one of many different routes that can be taken. The ranger led tours follow a specific route. If you’re hiking without a guide it will be more challenging to navigate your way through the furnace.
The landscape though is spectacular and worth the uncertainty of the adventure. You’ll get a good look at a number of different arches and interesting rock formations that you’ll want to pause at and admire for a minute. Be sure to take plenty of water and try to avoid the hottest times of day. When you’re fully prepared, enjoy your time in this amazing natural labyrinth!
The beauty of Arches National Park is that it is constantly being sculpted and altered by the natural elements. The landscape comes to life before your eyes with unbelievable displays of reddish hues and shapes of such imperfect perfection. Time seems to pass more slowly as you marvel at the sights in the park. We hope you’ll have the time to check out these remarkable Arches National Park hikes and appreciate the size and scope of the arches that the park is so famous for. As you pass by precariously balanced rocks and arch after spectacular arch, you’ll feel at peace and in awe of nature and its impressive ability to create such an artistic landscape. Let us know in the comments about your experiences tackling the Arches National Park hikes.