Arches National Park was established officially as a National Park in 1971 and is home to over 2000 rock formations. This giant National Park is full of interesting hikes and sightseeing opportunities for those of any ability level. Located outside of Moab, Utah, Arches National Park is a mere 30 minutes from Canyonlands National Park and a few hours from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado and Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. Its central location and breathtaking scenery make it the perfect stop on your United States road trip. There are so many things to do in Arches National Park that you should plan to spend a minimum of two days there. It is truly one of my favorite National Parks.
Camping Regulations: There is one campsite located in the Devil’s Garden section of the park. It has 51 spaces and must be reserved in advance as the spots fill up quickly. You are also allowed to backcountry camp, but it is rated as a strenuous style trek through the park and you must obtain a permit. We stealth camped in our car in one of the viewpoints for a few nights to stargaze and had no problems since we were completely self-contained.
Pets: No pets are allowed on trails. Pets are only allowed on leash in the campgrounds and on the official roads.
Water Accessibility: Arches National Park is located in the desert which means that water is incredibly important. All over Arches, you will see reminders to stay hydrated. This is very important as heat stroke and dehydration are common in Arches, especially in the summer months. At the park visitor center, there is a spot for you to refill any water bottles for free, I suggest that you take full advantage.
Cell Phone Service: Once you are outside of Moab and in the park, service can become very spotty. Make sure to have pre-downloaded music if you like to listen to music while you hike.
Hike to Double Arch
Double arch is a beautiful 10 minute round trip hike. Located right across from “The Window,” it is an easy location to hit quickly. These arches are breathtaking beautiful and overwhelmingly large. They can be quite crowded due to its ease of access. I would recommend getting here as early as possible in order to avoid the crowds. We went in the morning and were able to get the arch to ourselves for a whole 15 minutes! The arch is open to climb on, just be aware that this is nature that needs to be protected and that the rocks can be incredibly slippery. Wear proper shoes, get your camera, and go enjoy!
Hike to Delicate Arch
One of the most famous hikes in all of Arches is to Delicate Arch. Its name is deceiving though as this roughly 3.5 mile out and back trail has quite the ascent involved. This trail truly feels anything but delicate on the way up. This arch is particularly famous for being a completely free-standing arch. Many of the other arches are attached to mountainsides or other rock formations. Delicate arch, however, is all on its own.
The way the rock was formed makes this arch nearly an impossible feat to create naturally. It is truly beautiful and a wonderful hike. Be prepared for incredibly large crowds as Arches is a very busy national park. If you struggle with uphill hikes, be prepared to take your time and bring plenty of water as the sun can be truly brutal. The uphill struggle is incredibly worth it to experience this beautiful piece of geological wonder.
Look at the Petroglyphs
One of the coolest things to do in Arches National Park is to experience the petroglyphs or drawings on the rocks and cave walls that were made by pioneers and native Americans. Arches is full of history that was documented by the people themselves! Many of the pieces of carved art were completed between the 1600 and 1800s. The pictures show all kinds of different things: people and animals alike. It’s a first-hand account of history that you can experience by just taking a quick detour on one of your sightseeing drives or hikes. For example, if you are doing the Delicate Arch hike, there is a trail split about a quarter-mile into the trail that will take you to some easy-to-see petroglyphs.
Do the Scenic Drive
One of the most common things to do in Arches National Park is to drive the 18-mile scenic drive throughout the park. From the road, you can see most of the rock formations at least from a distance. I would recommend starting your time in Arches with a nice drive through the park if you haven’t already decided how you want to spend your time once you get there. There is truly so much to see, driving makes it possible to see a bigger percentage of the park. Likewise, there are many pull-offs at strategic points and picture locations. The park itself is split up into sections. One of the sections is called “The Windows” and is home to some of the biggest rock formations and arches in the park. In “The Windows” section you will a few short hikes such as Double Arch and the Window. This is a great place to go for quick hikes to big arches. Devil’s Garden is the other section and is home to multiple longer trails for those who like more challenging hikes. Either way, make sure that you take the time to drive through the park and enjoy what it has to offer.
Below is a graphic from the National Park Service suggesting when is the best time to see some of the more famous viewpoints.
Camp in the park
Arches National Park can get incredibly busy, especially during the summer months. The line to get into the park, even with the multiple lanes provided to enter, can get backed up extremely far. One way to avoid this cluster of cars entering is to simply camp in the park. By camping in the park you get to experience both the joys of the early morning before the crowds come and the beauty of the uninterrupted night sky. By camping in the park, you get to enjoy Arches for 24 hours a day, even after the crowds leave.
Hike to The Window
The hike to “The Window” arch is only 1-mile round trip. It is accessible through the same parking lot that you use to hike to Double Arch. The Window is famous for being the namesake of the entire “Windows” section of the park and for being an overwhelming large arch that you can stand directly under. For those who are interested in astrophotography, if you plan your timing just right, you can get a shot of the moon directly in the middle of the arch. The Window actually got its name from the way you can view the rest of the scenery through it. This is rated as an easy hike and the first 100 feet of trail are wheelchair accessible as well.
Hike to the Fiery Furnace
CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR 2021 DUE TO COVID PRECAUTIONS
The Fiery Furnace hike is one of the more famous things to do in Arches National Park. It is famous for its incredible red and orange glow that is cast across the rocks at sunset. It truly makes it look like it is on fire. This hike is a short 2-mile hike that has no assigned trail. You are required to either purchase a self-hike permit or go with a ranger-led hike in order to not get lost on the trail.
The hike has you walking across the red rocks themselves to a fantastic viewpoint while also enjoying all of the rock formations along the way. During the March-October season, ranger-led hikes happen twice a day. Make sure to book in advance as they fill up very quickly.
Last but not least, Arches National Park was labeled an “International Dark Sky Park” in 2019. This means that they have gone above and beyond to avoid light pollution and protect the park from external light sources. In doing so, it preserves the human eye’s capability to see the stars. International Dark-Sky parks are designated by how truly “dark” and free of light pollution the area is. Utah is rated as one of the best places in the United States to stargaze, and Arches National Park is no exception.
If you are interested in astrophotography, Arches provides some really cool rock formations to use as foreground in your shots. If you aren’t into astrophotography, just take a blanket and lay out under the stars and be amazed by the universe. Stargazing is one of my favorite things to do in Arches National Park because it isn’t something that I get to experience all that often living in a city. If you are lucky (or plan in advance for timing) you may even be able to see the Milky Way! I highly recommend spending at least one night looking at the stars in this beautiful park.
Are you looking to continue your Utah road trip? Head to Goblin Valley State Park. Located roughly 90 minutes from Arches National Park, Goblin Valley State Park looks like you have stepped onto mars. The stargazing there is equally incredible, and you have the chance to stay in yurts in Goblin Valley!
Which thing sounds like the most fun to you? Comment below with how you would spend your time in Arches National Park.
As always, leave no trace.
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