When looking at a trip to Utah’s national parks, the top two that quickly come to mind are Zion and Bryce. Arches seems to find its place a little lower on the list, but don’t let that fool you. Arches is unique from the other two and is a great park for navigating as a visitor, as well as offering challenging hikes all its own. When visiting Arches, here are some experiences not to miss…
Delicate Arch First, you will want to plan to make the hike to see Delicate Arch (seen above), which is such a valued site that it even makes an appearance on Utah license plates. There are two options for viewing: 1. The Lower Viewpoint is an easy 100 yard walk to see the arch in the distance (the walk does include steps), 2. The Upper Viewpoint trail is also a short trail at a half mile one way, but it is very steep and you are mostly climbing a rock surface, It is worth it as you can walk directly under the arch for great photos. There are also petroglyphs and remnants of Wolf Ranch (operated for over 20 years by a disabled Civil War veteran) at the start of this hike, so you can get in touch with the area’s history as well.
Windows The main highlights of Arches are conveniently located in clusters, one of which is called Windows (although there are many actual windows to see throughout the park grounds). The Windows section features several short walks to get up close to some of the iconic windows and arches, as well as Balanced Rock.
Devil’s Garden When you make your way to the end of the park, you will find the Devil’s Garden trail, which is the longest in Arches and includes a primitive portion as well as difficult portions. It is 7.2 miles long and features several arches. Once you leave the visitor center, Devil’s Garden is the only other place to fill-up your water in the park.
On your way to Devil’s Garden, don’t miss stopping for Sand Dune Arch (a unique arch you won’t want to miss), and if you have more time, take the hike to Broken & Tapestry Arch.
Courthouse Towers Although the first cluster when you enter the park, I have saved it because it is a great place for a sunset hike, plus you will be driving by its towers every time you enter the park. Park Avenue trail is 1 mile long with some rock scrabbling, then flat walking on sand. Being fairly easy and close to the entrance, it is a great hike to save for the end of your day in the park. It also features samples of the local vegetation clearly identifiable after you visit the visitor center. We even had deer on the trail with us at dusk and then enjoyed the sunset on the red rock towers looming over us and a dazzling star show after that. We were also the only ones on the trail! (A more detailed post is forthcoming on this one.)
Fiery Furnace This portion of the park looks amazing – it is a stunning labyrinth of red rock fins. However, you can only access it with a permit (can reserve a week in advance) or a ranger-led tour (can reserve 6 months in advance). Our unplanned style left us out for the ranger-led tour, but it is on the list for when we go back!
- Arches sits just outside of Moab, Utah which feels like the adventure capital of the world when you are there. Outfitters can help you get set up for rafting the Colorado River, mountain biking, skiing and more. There are plenty of options for eating and accommodations as well.
- Do dress appropriately and take lots of water (only water available is at the entrance to the park and the very end of the park road). We were there in September and the temps were getting up to 110 during the afternoon. It was abnormally hot for September, but the dessert is not to be trifled with. Noontime can burn you up, and then it will be cold over night. We would hike early, then break for lunch and spend the early afternoon at our RV before heading back into the park for the evening.
- Get into the park early to avoid the heat of the day and the crowds. This park only has one entrance, so if you sleep in, you will probably be waiting in a car line to get into the park.
- Great park for families & if you don’t want to hike a lot. You can see a lot from the comfort of your vehicle, or with a short walk in multiple locations. If you only have one day at the park, you will be able to see many of the featured arches, windows and formations.
- Don’t forget to plan to be outside at night! The night sky is outstanding here. We even got to see the Super Moon there!
- You are close to Canyonlands National Park, so take a day trip there if you have time for it.
- They accepted the America the Beautiful pass.
- Map of the park
We stayed at Archview RV Resort just passed the entrance to the park on route 191. There were some spots with small trees for shade, but otherwise expect a desert feel. Great internet. If you have ATVs, there is a trail that starts right at the RV park. Additionally, there were a bunch of places for dry camping on that same road near the park – you will see other rvs there. If you dry camp, prepare for needing air conditioning. Our truck read 120 degrees when we were there – even if you escape your RV during the heat of the day, you would not want to leave a pet without air conditioning.