Utah Road Trip Guide: Arches National Park
Arches National Park is located 5 miles north of Moab and is one of the top national parks not just in Utah but in America. I’ve always wanted to visit Arches. Reading about it, I was bemused at the fact that over 2,000 natural sandstone arches exist today in this national park. Of course, I had to include this in our Utah Road Trip itinerary; that’s a no-brainer. There’s just no way we’re going to pass the opportunity to see these arches up close.
We only had two full days to explore Utah so I had to set aside one full day to completely immerse ourselves into this national park. After our awesome first day in Dead Horse Point, I was beyond ecstatic to see what our second day has in store for us. The next day, we woke up before sunrise, to get a head start.
Tip: The best way to beat the crowd is to wake up super early; before sunrise, preferably. I know, I know. Some of you might be thinking, are you crazy? Me? Wake up early? The answer is YES! Don’t lose out on incredible experiences such as enjoying the sunrise just because you want to continue drooling in your sleep. Time is of the essence especially in popular national parks. Hundreds of people visit them everyday and you don’t want a huge crowd blocking your view, right?
Before our trip, I researched ahead of time which arches are worth seeing. These are my top 3.
Top 3 Must-See Arches:
- Delicate Arch
- Double Arch
- Landscape Arch
1.) Delicate Arch
- Length: 3 mi (4.8 km)
- Time Required: 2.5 hours
Description: Exposed climb with no shade and 200-yard (183-m) rock ledge at end. Not recommended in peak summer heat. Parking is extremely limited.
2.) Double Arch
- Length: 0.5 mi (0.8 km)
- Time Required: 20 minutes
Description: Flat, sandy trail leads to base of the tallest arch in the park.
3.) Landscape Arch
- Length: 1.6 mi (2.6 km)
- Time Required: 50 minutes
Description: Flat, popular trail to longest arch in park. Side trips to Tunnel and Pine Tree arches.
I originally planned for us to do the Delicate Arch earlier in the day but somehow I got coerced to hike the Double Arch instead. Since the Double Arch only required a 20 minute hike, I figured we might as well start with something easy so we just went for it. As the trail progressed, we realized we made an error. We thought we were doing only a 0.5 mile hike but ended up going to the Double O Arch which had a total of 4 miles RT. The 20 minute hike became a 2-3 hour hike! It wasn’t too bad though because this trail is also the same trail that leads to the Landscape Arch, one of the arches we originally wanted to see.
Landscape Arch is the longest natural rock span in the world, this arch’s opening is 306 feet wide – 6 feet longer than a football field. A nine story building would easily fit beneath this thin span. In 1991, a massive slab of rock fell from its underside, resulting in an even thinner ribbon of rock. [Source]
Double o Arch
We got to the end of the trail and was a bit underwhelmed with the Double O Arch. We didn’t stay long and left hurriedly to make up for the time we spent here since we really wanted to hike Delicate Arch. As it turns out, we made another error. The reason why it was underwhelming it’s because we saw it from a different angle. If we went to the other side, we would’ve faced the horizon and gotten better views than just the trees as our background. What a bummer! I was a little bit disappointed but you know things happen; no need to dwell on it.
Tip: Avoid the same mistake as we did. Make sure you’re hiking the right trail. The trailhead to the Double O Arch is located at the end of the park (Devil’s Garden) while the trailhead for the Double Arch can be found on the first right turn (Windows Section) after the Visitor’s Center.
After hiking for almost 3 hours, we’re famished! But of course I forgot the sandwiches I packed for our lunch. This was definitely not my day! Before we ventured out to Moab to get some lunch, we decided to do a short hike to see the actual Double Arch. By this time, there was already a huge crowd, which wasn’t that surprising because we went on a weekend. Parking is spacious but it’s definitely difficult to find a spot during peak hours.
The Double Arch is located in the Windows Section of Arches National Park. Double Arch was used as a backdrop for portions of the 1988 movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. Numerous other movies have been filmed in Arches National Park, including Thelma and Louise in 1991. [Source] This thing is massive! The people hanging out underneath it looked like ants.
Our last stop for the day was the world-famous Delicate Arch. This is one, if not the most visited arch in the entire park. Parking here is very limited. Tip: Although the best time to photograph this arch is during late afternoon-which makes it the busiest, I do recommend an early morning visit if you want to avoid the crowd. Of course, since it’s the most popular arch (it’s even on Utah’s license plates), you will never truly have a solitary experience with this arch but at least, you only have a few people to avoid.
The trail to Delicate Arch is strenuous but manageable. It only became difficult for us because we already hiked 6 miles earlier in the day and our legs felt like jello. The first half-mile is a wide, well-defined trail. After that, a steep sandstone hill awaits you. The trail climbs gradually and levels out toward the top of this rock face.
Just as I made that final turn, the wall beside me was gone and I was faced with this freestanding sandstone beauty. I’ve seen the Delicate Arch numerous times in photographs but nothing beats seeing it in person for the very first time. It was absolutely breathtaking!
The arch sits on a natural amphitheater and has a drop in the middle so I don’t recommend this for people that are afraid of heights. Contrary to what others have said, you can take a picture with the arch alone. The people were very respectful and we all took turns in taking our pictures underneath the arch. I wish we had more time to hang out near the arch just to soak in the scenery, but that proved difficult because it began to rain. I would definitely come back and do this again!
- Lodging is not available inside the park. However, the town of Moab is only 5 miles south of the entrance and has hotels, motels, B&B and resorts.
- If you plan to camp inside the park, make sure you book in advance. You can visit this link for more info: Camping in Arches.
- There’s no restaurant inside the park. Although the visitor’s center snack items and reusable water bottles. There’s several restaurant and food options for you in the town of Moab. We found a food truck that served quesadilla and tacos. Yum!
- Try not to visit during holidays & weekends as it gets really crowded.
- Please do not leave any trash behind.
- Trails are marked by cairns (small piles of rocks). Look carefully for cairns over the slickrock.
- It is critical that each hiker carry and drink at least one liter of water on this hike.
- Wear comfortable footwear, such as hiking boots or athletic shoes.
- Dress for the weather. In summer, there is no shade and the sun beats down relentessly on hikers.
- Return to your vehicle when lightning storms are near.
- Use caution when the trails are wet, icy or snowy.
Other Nearby Attractions:
- Canyonlands National Park
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Colorado National Monument
- Park Hours: Open year round-24 hours /day
- Entrance Fee: Private vehicle-$25, Per person- $10. Or you can buy the National Parks Annual Pass for $80.
- For more information, please visit the national park website: Arches National Park