The Best Hikes In Arches National Park
Arches National Park may lack the super challenging or multi-day hikes, but its spectacular landscape and rock formations found nowhere else in such high concentration turn every excuse to get out of the car into a memorable outing. In this guide, we’ll explore ten of the best hikes in Arches National Park.
I visited Southern Utah on an extensive road trip in the American Southwest, exploring the state’s national parks and driving up and down its scenic roads. This guide to the best hikes in Arches National Park itinerary is primarily based on my experience exploring the park.
Be sure to browse through additional Arches NP resources, including sample itineraries and essential planning. Then, combine your visit with other members of Utah’s “Mighty Five” using in-depth Southern Utah travel guides.
What’s it Like to Hike in Arches NP?
Arches National Park is not a “hiker’s paradise” per se. You won’t find as many long or challenging hikes as you’ll discover in neighboring national parks, such as Canyonlands or Capitol Reef. Most hikes in Arches NP are short and relatively easy. Some involve a brief stroll from the parking area, so they’re suitable for families and “non-hikers.” In this guide to the best hikes in Arches National Hikes, I’ll highlight both the easier and more challenging options.
Arches National Park Hiking Tips
If you plan to combine hiking with sightseeing during your visit to Arches NP, here are a few things to keep in mind. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.
- Buy a copy of “Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.” This guide contains detailed descriptions of over 60 hikes in the region.
- Due to natural lighting, some hikes are better done at specific times of the day. Keep that in mind when arranging your daily itinerary. For example, Delicate Arch is better in the afternoon.
- That said, try hiking longer or more “crowd-prone” trails early in the day when the park’s limited parking spots pose less of a challenge.
- Check trail conditions on the park’s website or the visitor center before arrival. Some trails might be closed for maintenance or search and rescue missions.
- Secure a permit if you wish to hike in Fiery Furnace.
- Download trail maps to your smartphone so you’ll be able to navigate even if offline. I particularly like All Trails Pro.
- Bring more water than you need, especially in the summer months. Refilling stations are available at the visitor center and Devils Garden.
- Wear proper hiking shoes, especially for the longer hikes. Shoes with a good grip are essential as you often hike on the hard sandstone.
- Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. If there’s a chance of rain, exercise caution and pack accordingly, as flash floods can occur.
- Protect yourself from the sun.
- There are no dining options in Arches NP. Pack snacks and a picnic lunch.
- Do not hike on the arches!
The Best Hikes In Arches National Park
The following section highlights ten of the best hikes in Arches National Park. It is quite a complete list, mixing the best trails in all hiking levels. For more hiking information, visit the park’s official website.
Delicate Arch Hike
Distance: 3 miles, 4.8 km | Difficulty: hard | Trail Map
The hike to Delicate Arch is the top thing to do in Arches NP. Not only is Delicate Arch visually stunning, but it’s also an iconic symbol of both America as a whole and Utah in particular.
Hiking to Delicate Arch is better in the afternoon. If you hike in the morning, the sun will shine directly at you when facing the arch. However, morning is a good time to see the arch from a distance at the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The trailhead to the viewpoint is a mile down the road from the Delicate Arch trailhead. A lower viewpoint is available if the short climb is too challenging.
The Delicate Arch Trail begins at the Wolfe Ranch. Peak through the window of the one-bedroom cabin that served one of the first families to settle in the area. The Ute Indian Petroglyphs are a short walk behind the cabin. The petroglyphs panel is believed to have been carved between 1650 and 1850 as images depict men on horseback. The walk to the petroglyphs adds about 10 minutes to the hike.
The next section is the most challenging as it involves a short but steep hike over the rockface to a plateau slightly further up. Take your time and cover yourself from the elements as there is no shade.
The last leg is the most thrilling. Once you clear the sandy plateau, a narrow trail carved into the sandstone leads to Delicate Arch. This is a tightrope act that involves two-way patience. Once you clear the final bend, Delicate Arch magnificently comes into view.
Finding a parking spot close to the Delicate Arch trailhead is challenging. You might be instructed to park at Delicate Arch Viewpoint, adding one mile to your hike in each direction.
Devils Garden Hike
Distance: 7.8 miles, 12.6 km | Difficulty: hard | Trail Map
Devils Garden is the longest hike in Arches National Park, but it consists of three sections, so you don’t have to hike it entirely. Devils Garden is home to the largest concentration of arches (hence the name), but other stunning rock formations such as spires and fins (narrow rock walls) turn this hike into a memorable experience.
The first section of the Devils Garden Trail is to Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America, with an opening of 306 feet (93m). Unfortunately, in 1991, a 60-foot-long rock slab broke away from the arch, shaving 180 tons from its weight and leaving just a thin sliver. Landscape Arch will likely crack in the near future, so hurry up to see this gem.
The next section is to Double O Arch, but it requires climbing on the rockface. Right after the first climb, you’ll reach Black Arch Overlook, one of the most stunning vistas on the trail. Double O Arch itself is small but interesting due to its uniqueness.
From Double O Arch, the Primitive Trail continues to Private Arch. This trail is less maintained (hence the name), so you must keep your bearings (an offline digital map comes in handy). Be on the lookout for trail markers and rock piles that point in the right direction. The Primitive Trail is a beautiful section of the hike, with fewer hikers and exciting spots where you need to scramble over the sandstone.
Once you reach Private Arch, continue climbing on the rock that appears to naturally continue the trail’s end for fabulous views of the arch below (climb at your own risk).
The next section of the Primitive Trail, until it rejoins the main trail, can be extra challenging if conditions are wet. There are sections with steep descents, and you might need to somehow bypass pools of water that have accumulated in the sandstone. Once you clear the cliffs, a sandy open section with good panoramic views continues until connecting with the main trail.
(1) You can also visit Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch on your way out or after Landscape Arch. (2) It is possible to hike to Tower Arch from Double O Arch, but this is quite a long journey that requires two cars. (3) Carry lots of water if hiking the complete loop, wear sturdy shoes, and protect yourself from the elements. A water-filling station is available at the trailhead.
Windows Loop Trail
Distance: 1 mile, 1.6 km | Difficulty: easy | Trail Map
The Windows Section is one of the top highlights in Arches National Park. Windows are basically arches, but their walls are much thicker. The Windows Loop Trail takes you to the North and South Windows.
From the South Window, the trail extends to Turret Arch, a unique arch with two large openings. If you want to make the hike a bit more challenging, return to the trailhead via the Primitive Trail, which basically goes behind the North and South Windows and provides splendid views of “the Spectacles.”
Double Arch Trail
Distance: 0.5 miles, 0.8 km | Difficulty: easy | Trail Map
The trailhead to Double Arch is just across the parking lot from the Windows Loop Trail. Double Arch is the third largest arch in the national park (144 feet wide), but it is the tallest arch with a height of 112 feet (33m). Double Arch formed when the weight of water that had previously accumulated on its “roof” caused the rock to crack and form the skyline we see today.
Park Avenue Trail
Distance: 2 miles, 3.2 km | Difficulty: moderate | Trail Map
The Park Avenue Trail is not a loop hike. Instead, it stretches from the Park Avenue Viewpoint to the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. This area of the park demonstrates how Arches National Park is not just about the arches.
Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers have been featured in many films, most famously in Thelma & Louise. Here, sandstone monoliths, giant fins, and balanced rocks dwarf onlookers and hikers, sort of resembling the man-made version of this experience of walking down Manhattan’s famous avenue. This is as “Wild West” as it gets inside the park.
(1) It’s possible to skip the hike and drive from the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint to Park Avenue Viewpoint. (2) Get a nice panoramic shot of the area from the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint.
Balanced Rock Trail
Distance: 0.3 miles, 0.5 km | Difficulty: easy | Trail Map
This short loop trail takes you around Balanced Rock, a unique feature that seems to defy the forces of gravity. This 128-foot pinnacle is topped by a 3,600-ton “head” that seems to defy gravity. However, the body is currently attached to the head but not for long as the forces of erosion are still at work, and nothing can stop them.
Tower Arch Trail
Distance: 2.6 miles, 4.2 km | Difficulty: moderate | Trail Map
If you want to escape the crowds, head to the remotest section of the park at the Klondike Cliffs via an eight-mile dirt road accessible to regular vehicles in the dry months of the year. The reason for driving here is not only for a bit of relative privacy, but mainly to hike to the impressive Tower Arch. On the hike, you’ll also see the Marching Men, orange and white rocky needles seen in greater numbers in the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.
Fiery Furnace Hike
Distance: 3.3 miles, 5.3 km | Difficulty: hard | Trail Map
Fiery Furnace gets its name from the red glow reflected by its cliffs in the late hours of the day. It’s currently the only park section requiring a special permit, but you can also view this dense cluster of rocky fins and needles from the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. Hikers in Fiery Furnace must navigate a dense maze of narrow canyons and gullies. Signs guide the way, but joining a ranger-led walk is safer.
Skyline Arch Trail
Distance: 0.4 miles, 0.6 km | Difficulty: easy | Trail Map
Also viewed from the main road, hike to Skyline Arch and see this bizarre formation from up close. Its peculiar shape resulted from a 1940 incident in which a large boulder detached itself from the rockface, creating the large opening we see today.
Sand Dune & Broken Arch Trail
Distance: 0.3-1.3 miles, 0.5-2.1 km | Difficulty: easy | Trail Map
Sort of a “secret spot,” Sand Dune Arch is concealed between two sandstone cliffs and provides excellent shade on a hot day. The arch is reached via a short and easy trail, and the experience can be extended with a hike to neighboring Broken Arch.
This wraps up my list of ten of the best hikes in Arches National Park. As you’ve seen, most of the hikes in this national park are short and not too challenging. However, if you do want to do some “serious” hiking, a few options are available. Check out more Arches NP resources, including in-depth sample itineraries and essential planning advice. If you’re visiting additional parks in Utah, more travel guides are available.
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