Arches National Park Things to Do Tips by goodfish Top 5 Page for this destination

Arches National Park Things to Do: 396 reviews and 757 photos

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Delicate Arch (enhanced), Arches N.P. - Arches National Park

Delicate Arch (enhanced), Arches N.P.

Strenuous hikes: Delicate Arch

This is the most popular of the strenuous trails as it's to the one arch everyone wants to see. Three miles round-trip, the trail climbs a dirt path, continues up a large, cairn-marked expanse of slickrock, over a level wash and then up again on 200 yards of ledge to top. Delicate Arch, at 46 feet high, is the most-photographed icon of the state of Utah, and it sits on the edge of a bowl of slickrock next to a (very) sheer dropoff. From your vantage point around the rim, you can see the La Sal Mountians and the Colorado River canyon.

We had done this hike on a late, hot morning in 2004, and made it up again for sunset - the best time for photos - in 2011. It wasn't cloudless but there was enough sunshine to make the sandstone glow, and we stayed until dark to make the return trip all alone under a full moon: one awesome, awesome hike.

If you're in reasonable shape and don't mind long drop-offs, you can absolutely do this one. The worst time is in the heat of the afternoon as slickrock gets hot, and there's no shade. The best is before sunset on a clear day. You'll be joining a large cast of shutterbugs but the light will be amazing and you'll most likely get snaps without (thank heavens) any people in them: do see the note about that in my warnings-and-dangers tips. Nope, definitely NOT a time to get near the thing.

After the sunset fades, you'll have plenty of time to make the hike down before completely losing daylight but take a strong flashlight for locating cairns in case you linger too long: there are spots you do not want to stumble into - or off of - in the dark.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Directions: Trailhead is near Wolfe Ranch parking area about 12 miles into the park. This parking lot will be insane before sunset so go EARLY and pack a bag supper to have while you wait for the magic hour.

Other Contact: PO Box 907, Moab, Utah 84532-090

Phone: 435-719-2299

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/longtrails.htm

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 2, 2012
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The Windows from primitive trail - Arches N.P. - Arches National Park

The Windows from primitive trail - Arches N.P.

Easy hikes: The Windows and Turret Arch

I think that "Mask of Zorro" would have been a more creative name for these but they're officially the North and South Windows.

The trail to the Windows and Turret Arch is an easy 1-mile RT with a gentle climb. Do the North Window first, follow the trail clockwise to the South, and then around to the short spur for Turret Arch. After some photo-ops at Turret, exit the spur trail to your left and head back to the parking area. This route involves dirt paths and steps but nothing too strenuous.

Want to lose the masses? There is a primitive loop trail (recommended) around the back of the the Windows that starts at the South Window and extends the hike a bit. "Primitive" is a loose term here that doesn't mean that the route is difficult; just not groomed.

As mentioned in the previous tip, The Windows are very near Double Arch so do them both at the same time. They have separate parking areas but as parking is a bear during peak season, grab the first spot at either location and just walk the short distance to the other. A vault toilet is also available near the parking lot.

Address: Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah

Directions: Take the first left off the main branch of the scenic road, about 9 miles into the park. Drive another 2 and 1/2 miles to the parking area.

Phone: 435-719-2299

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 28, 2016
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Double Arch - Arches N.P - Arches National Park

Double Arch - Arches N.P

Easy hikes: Double Arch

Here's another easy one that's only .5 miles RT on a pretty flat sand and gravel path: no sweat. Movie buffs might recognize it as having had a small cameo in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"? You can see a still of that here

http://www.naturalarches.org/movies/index.htm#indianajones

A bonus about this one is that you can jump on the short connector trail south to The Windows and Turret Arch (see next review) and see 3 cool formations without moving the car. Yep, parking areas for both the Windows and Double Arch will be packed during peak hours so find a spot at either and kill all the birds with one stone.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Directions: To reach Double Arch Trail, take the scenic road into the park about 9 miles and then take the first branch to the right. Go another 2 and 1/2 miles to the parking area.

Phone: 435-719-2299

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/easytrails.htm

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 28, 2016
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The Scenic Drive Arch viewing by car Review

This park almost demands that you lace up your hikers and get out of the car but if that isn't possible, it has 18 miles (one-way) of paved road along some impressive formations you can see from your windows. There are also some short, easy walks to viewpoints that almost anyone can manage.

Viewpoints accessible to strollers and wheelchairs:
Park Avenue
Delicate Arch (lower)
Wolfe Ranch Cabin/petroglyphs (near Delicate Arch viewpoint)
Balanced Rock

The landscape from behind the windshield is impressive practically anywhere but some of the best formations are:
Three Gossips
Courthouse Towers
Tower of Babel
Fiery Furnace

You will receive a park map with your entrance fee that marks where all of these are located. Do try and do your viewing from frequent pullouts and NOT by slowing to a crawl for photo-ops from your window. This route can be very busy so holding up tour buses and hikers making tracks to trailheads won't make you any friends, and could get you rear-ended. If intent on puttering, kindly use the pullouts to let speedier traffic by. Pay close attention to the cars in front of you: some other scenery gazer could make an abrupt stop that won't do your bumper any good at all if you're distracted!

Review Helpfulness: 4 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 28, 2016
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Landscape Arch, Arches N.P. - Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches N.P.

Easy hikes: Landscape, Pine Tree, Turret Arches

This is the one which should have been assigned the Delicate Arch title; go figure. Landscape is the 2nd longest natural span in the world but maybe the most dramatic as it's so impossibly thin: only 6 feet in the narrowest point. It shed some large sections in 1991 and 1995, making its dainty, graceful arc appear even more fragile so who knows how many years it can hang on for dear life? The arch is on the first section of the Devil's Garden trail and is the turnaround point for most casual sightseers. It's 1.6 miles RT and has some sections of deep sand but is otherwise fairly level. It also draws big crowds so expect the route - and the parking area - to be very busy.

Landscape had a bit part in "Wild Rovers" - see a still from the movie here:
http://www.naturalarches.org/movies/index.htm#rovers

About 1/3 of a mile from the trailhead you'll see a sign for a spur trail to Tunnel and Pine Tree arches leading off the right. Tacking these onto the Landscape Arch section of Devil's Garden Trail only adds another .5 mile or so to your ramble and is a nice addition to easy-hikes list.

More robust trekkers can continue on another couple of miles from Landscape to Double O Arch with a couple of spurs to other arches along the way. You can also add a primitive loop to that for an 8-miler that's the longest and most challenging route in the park: see my tips on these if interested.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Directions: The Devil's Garden Trail is at the very end of the main scenic drive - about 18 miles or so into the park. The campground is located near here as well. Park at the Devil's Garden Trailhead parking area.

Phone: 435-719-2299

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/easytrails.htm

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 14, 2011
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- Arches National Park
Good stuff to know: grading the hikes

You'll see on the park's website that they break hikes into 3 categories: short, moderate and long. In the printed material you receive with your pass, they list these same trails as easy, moderate and strenuous...which can be confusing. A long hike isn't necessarily strenuous if it's all on flat ground, and a short hike can be a real workout if it involves a lot of difficult scrambling/steep ascents. So what's the deal?

Firstoff, Arches National Park sees visitors of all ages, nationalities and physical abilities. I've seen my share who confuse the word "park" with paved paths, water fountains and easy strolls to shady benches. I've seen tourists climb off buses in spiked sandals and Sunday clothes (see my "What not to wear" tip under "Warnings and Dangers"), enter long, hot trails with no water, carry babies about in August without sun protection, and generally issue open invitations to sprained ankles and/or nasty cases of sunstroke, sunburn or dehydration.

That said, the park folks have to err on the side of caution to get visitors who haven't done their homework to listen up. Is the Fiery Furnace really all that strenuous? Not for seasoned hikers, maybe, but it'll be a lousy experience for a chubby couch potato with back and knee problems. Is Delicate Arch really all that tough to get to? It is if you're trying to climb open slickrock with lousy shoes and no water on a blistering July afternoon.

So I've chosen to err on the side of the more cautionary as well and use the park's easy/moderate/strenuous ratings for my reviews. Best thing to do? Some reading before you come, and have a chat with a ranger at the Visitor Center before setting off. He/she will help you assess fitness levels and equipment, and recommend treks that you can do and will enjoy. And remember: just about ANY hike (with the exception of Fiery Furnace) can be scratched if you get into a situation you can't handle. Just turn around and backtrack the way you came.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/upload/2011ArchesVisitorGuide.pdf

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 28, 2016
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Delicate Arch zoom - lower viewpoint trail - Arches National Park

Delicate Arch zoom - lower viewpoint trail

Easy hikes: Delicate Arch Viewpoints

If you don't want the workout that it takes to see Delicate Arch up close (although I highly recommend it) you can still see Utah's state symbol from a vantage point on the ground. Delicate Arch Viewpoint is handicapped-accessible and the surfaced path is only 100 yards RT. You'll be viewing the arch from a distance but it's quite a sight with the sheer rock face in the foreground. Look closely for the teeny-tiny hikers up on top to get a perspective of the size of this arch - use binoculars if you have them, and pack a zoom for the camera.

You can escape the worst of the crowds and stretch your legs a little more by taking the moderately strenuous 1/2 mile (one way) trail that climbs up to a slickrock ridge and away from the lower viewpoint. It ends at a rim overlooking the steep canyon (ooh - that's a heckuva drop there) and is another great place for pictures.

Address: Arches National Park, near Moab Utah

Directions: To get to Delicate Arch Viewpoint (don't confuse this with the Delicate Arch Trail) take the second right-hand branch of the main scenic road and drive in, past Wolfe Ranch, about 2 miles to the parking area.

Phone: 435-719-2299

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 11, 2011
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Strenuous hikes: Fiery Furnace

As much as many of us like to go it alone, this is one hike that pretty much requires a guide: the furnace is a labyrinth of twists and turns, and there are no cairns. None. Nada. The park offers daily 3-hour guided hikes from March - Oct. that often fill up well in advance so reserve your spot via the web link below. It's not long - around 2-3 miles - but requires 3-point scrambling, ledge straddling, shimmies through tight cracks, jumping gaps and derrière sliding so it's not exactly a stroll in the park either. You're also not allowed to throw in the towel partway through so once in it, you're in it for the long haul.

So assuming you can lift your legs 2 feet or so, do not have knee or back problems, and aren't afraid of heights or confined spaces, you're good to go! And it's not really as scary as it can sound.

For all of the intimidating name, the Furnace has quite a lot of shade: its red glow around sunset gave it the "fiery". Your ranger will be stopping along the way for short talks about the geology, flora and fauna and for demonstrating best ways of scrambling the most challenging spots. He/she will offer to lend a hand here and there but learning how to do it yourself is all part of the experience. I'm used to canyon scrambling and still managed to get a few scrapes and scratches but enjoyed the moments of levity when some of the folks performed, er, interesting acrobatics to get themselves from point A to point B. Hey, whatever works?

If there is one drawback it's that there were few opportunities for taking photos: everything on you had to go in your backpack so the camera was tough to get to in a hurry. If you want to do some quick shooting, try to be at the front of the single-file line as the guide has to stop now and again to let slower hikers catch up and that's when you can squeeze off a few. You can also snap some when stopped for lectures but those were often in places with lots of extreme contrast or poor lighting in general. I managed a couple when the line was at a crawl but no time for futzing.

To know before you sign on the line:

You must bring 2 full bottles of water
Wear hiking shoes or boots with a good tread, no open-toe sandals allowed
Wear a backpack, both hands must be free
Everything in your pockets must go in the pack to prevent loss while sliding
Hiking poles are not permitted
No children under age 5

You CAN do this one on your own with a permit (fee), a video safety session and prior canyon navigation skills but they still strongly recommend going with someone experienced with the route. Don't rely on GPS as some of them don't work in this maze, and cairns are strictly prohibited. Don't try sneaking in, either; you'll be escorted out and fined if they catch you. Some private companies also offer tours but they're expensive; park tours are a bargain at $16 an adult and $8 for children ages 5-12.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Website: https://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/programs.htm

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 13, 2016
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Easy hikes: Balanced Rock

This isn't the only balancing act you'll see at Arches but it's probably the most impressive and certainly the most popular 'cause it's right beside the road. I'm not sure I'd even call this easy .3-mile loop a "hike" but that's what the park calls it so hey, I'll go along with that. This is a nice one for both wee people and bigger folks who can't do - or don't enjoy - longer treks.

A stroll around the base will provide some interesting perspectives and a respectable bit of dirt on your shoes. You can see from the size of the people in my second shot just how big this thing is!

Expect the parking area to be packed during peak hours.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Directions: Along the scenic road about 9 miles into the park

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 28, 2016
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Where to start

The Visitor Center at the entrance to the park - 5 miles from Moab - should be your first stop. Here you can talk to the rangers about the best activities for your abilities, check special events and ranger programs, sign up for the Fiery Furnace tours (or do that online) and fill your water bottles. It also has displays, a gift/book shop, restrooms, and is wheelchair accessible. What you can't do here is reserve campground spots or purchase food: you need to stock your packs before you come.

This is a very busy park and the campground fills months in advance so book your spot as early as possible:
http://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/camping.htm

The park is open 24/7, and the Visitor Center is open every day of the year except Dec. 25th:

April through October: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
November through March: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Address: Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Website: http://www.nps.gov/arch

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Jan 28, 2016
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