10 Best Hikes, Walks & Sights in Arches National Park
Arches National Park is one of the highlights of Utah, with its incredible landscape of arches, unique rock formations, dramatic cliffs walls, and the huge La Sal Mountains in the distance. The drive through the park is stunning, and many of the most impressive sights stand just off the road. Short walks provide easy access to many of the arches, and longer hiking trails can get you further off the main trails and into some incredible scenery. If you only have time to drive through the park, the Windows section is one of the most impressive areas. The Delicate Arch Hike is one of the most popular things to do in the park. With a full day or two to explore Arches, it's possible to see all of the main tourist attractions and hike at least one or two of the longer hiking trails, including Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, and the Devil's Garden.
See also: Where to Stay Nearby
1 Delicate Arch Hike
Delicate Arch is the most photographed and most unique arch in the park. Rather than just a window in the side of a rock wall, this free standing arch rises from the ground and frames the beautiful landscape in the distance. For close up views, you will have to hike to the arch, but you can also get a glimpse of it from a distance at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint on the road that runs below the arch.
The hike to delicate arch is three miles round-trip, with most of the hike over slickrock. This is in full sun and can be very hot on sunny days. As you get closer to the arch, the trail turns into a path that runs along a ledge hugging a wall, with a sharp drop off on the outer edge. This path curves around and opens up into a fantastic view of the arch. You can wander up to and around the arch before returning along the same route.
2 Windows Section
The Windows section is one of the most popular areas of the park, and the short, easy trails make this a fun and accessible area for everyone, even children. You can see the Windows as you drive up to the parking area. From the parking lot, an easy trail leads out to the North and South Windows and branches off to turret arch. All three of these are in very close proximity, with only minimal walking required between them. If you want to continue on and do the Windows primate trail beyond the South Window, the trail runs behind the arches and circles back to the parking lot and is a slightly longer route. The most spectacular portion is the front section, but adding on the full loop makes for a nice hike.
3 Double Arch
Almost directly across the road from the Windows parking lot is the trail to Double Arch. You can see the arch from the parking area, but it's much more incredible close up, where you can get a true sense of the size and see the sky filtering through the arches above. The trail out to Double Arch is short and suitable for everyone, even children. At the base of the arch, the trail turns into a bit of a scramble, and you can wander up the boulders beneath the arches if you choose.
4 Park Avenue Hike
The Park Avenue trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in the park but does not showcase the park's arches. Instead, the highlights here are the sheer cliff walls and spires that tower above as you walk through the valley floor. The park rates this hike as moderate. It is one mile long, but unless you have a shuttle where the hike terminates, you will need to turn around and hike back along the same route, making it a two-mile round-trip hike. Each direction offers different views, so doing this as a return hike will not disappoint. The hike begins with a descent and then meanders through the huge rock walls that rise up around you. This trail gives a truer sense of the height and size of the formations than what you experience from the road.
5 Fiery Furnace Hike and Overlook
Fiery Furnace is an incredible area of red rock fins and tower spires. From the Fiery Furnace overlook, you can get an idea of what the formations look like and the general layout, but to truly appreciate this area, you need to hike through them. The full effect comes with wandering through these giants that surround you like a maze.
This is not an area where you can simply follow a marked trail. Two options are available to hikers who want to explore this area. The best option is to take a hike with a park ranger. Ranger-led guided hikes of the Fiery Furnace are available twice daily from spring until fall, and less frequently during the winter months. These hikes will take you to the best places, are educational, and guarantee that you won't get lost. Due to the popularity of these tours, it's best to book in advance. Morning tours can be booked in advance online and almost always fill up. Afternoon tours can be booked at the visitor center and also book up quickly. There is a fee for these hikes, with half price discounts for seniors. No one under the age of five is permitted.
The second option is to get a permit and hike the area on your own. Before you can obtain a permit, you must first watch a short video. Only a limited number of permits are issued daily, and they typically sell-out in advance. There is a fee for the permit.
6 Devil's Garden Hike and Landscape Arch
The Devil's Garden Primitive Loop is at the far end of the park, where the main road terminates. This is a 7.2-mile trail, with some wonderful rock scenery and eight arches along the route. This is one of the more difficult hikes in the park, with some scrambles over slickrock and exposed ledges. This may not be the best trail for anyone with a serious fear of heights. However, you don't necessarily need to do the entire loop to experience some of the attractions in this area. A 1.6-mile round-trip hike on relatively flat ground will take you to Landscape Arch, which spans more than the length of a football field. Also in the same area are Navajo Arch and Partition Arch. Both of these hikes leave from the Devils Garden Trailhead.
7 Balanced Rock
A short walking path leads around and behind Balanced Rock, but most people come here simply to see the rock, which is close to the road and the parking area. As the name suggests, Balanced Rock is a huge boulder perched on a narrow pedestal. It stands out because there is not much else around this area. On a clear day, the La Sal Mountains can be seen far off in the distance. If you are in a hurry, you don't even need to leave the comfort of your car to see this attraction.
8 Sand Dune Arch
Sand Dune Arch is a fun area to explore, with a striking trail entrance through narrow rock fins and a walk across deep sand to a beautiful arch. The short walk into and around the arch feels like a slot canyon, with high walls creating a tunnel effect. The sand here makes this area unique and gives this arch its own character. Children enjoy playing in the sand, adults can wander through the arch and up the wall behind, and photographers will find plenty of ways to entertain themselves. It can often be quite windy in here, with the fins streaming in air like a wind tunnel.
9 Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is an area of uniquely shaped rock formations and spires, with sights similar to Balanced Rock. Climbers will sometimes tackle the stand-alone spires, but most people come here to take a short walk. This area is a nice place to wander around freely and get a feel for the enormity of the surrounding rocks. Views from this area extend out to the La Sal Mountains.
10 Petrified Dunes Lookout
The petrified dunes are quite a sight as they stretch out into the distance, with the La Sal providing a stunning backdrop. These rolling rock formations are characteristic of the area around Moab, and the Petrified Dunes Lookout is one of the best places to see them.
Camping in Arches National Park
Camping options in the park are limited to one campground with 50 sites, and it typically books out well in advance. The Devil's Garden Campground is at the very far end of the park. Most of the campsites are set around huge rocks and are quite sheltered. Some have beautiful views to the distant mountains and rock formations. The campsites are well spaced out and offer a lot of privacy.
The campground is always full during the high season. Due to some planned construction issues in the park, the campground is not accepting reservations for 2017.
Camping Near Arches National Park
A number of campgrounds are in the town of Moab, just outside the park. These are largely RV parks, designed for convenience of location rather than ambience. Other campgrounds in the area offer a variety of tent-only and RV options and are found near Canyonlands National Park, along the Colorado River, and in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. For more complete information on camping in the area see our article on the 9 Best Campgrounds near Moab.
Where to Stay Nearby: Moab Hotels
The closest town to the park, and the only community nearby, is the town of Moab. This is a lively little town in high season and a very quiet place in the off season. As a result, rates can vary significantly from month to month. Most of the hotels are mid-range, with some budget options. The best place to stay is in the downtown area if you don't want to be driving into town for meals or shopping. Below are some highly-rated hotels in central locations:
- Mid-Range Hotels: In a great location in downtown Moab, within easy walking distance of restaurants and shops, is the BEST WESTERN Plus Canyonlands Inn. This recently renovated property offers regular rooms, two room suites, and family suites with kitchenettes, as well as a seasonal pool and year-round Jacuzzi and complimentary breakfast. Also well positioned in downtown is the Gonzo Inn, with retro southwestern décor, rooms with microwaves and refrigerators, and a seasonal pool. At the north end of town, is the Comfort Suites. This hotel is a longer walk from downtown but offers modern, comfortable rooms and an outdoor pool and whirlpool.
- Budget Hotels: The Bowen Motel is conveniently located in downtown and offers a variety of room types, including family rooms. It also has a seasonal pool. Also with a good location, the Big Horn Lodge is a pet-friendly hotel with a cottage-style feel, including knotty pine walls and log pole furnishings. The single story Redstone Inn has a wooden exterior and rustic charm. Within walking distance of restaurants and shops downtown, as well as a grocery store, this hotel features clean, basic rooms.
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- Things to Do near Arches National Park: This part of Utah has some of the state's most impressive scenery. If you are interested in exploring other parks in the areas, more hikes, or biking trails, see our article 15 Things to do in Moab: Hiking, Biking, Sightseeing, & Other Activities.
- Things to Do in Utah: For general sightseeing in Utah and interesting destinations, check out our 14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Utah. If you are passing through Utah in the winter, the state has some outstanding ski resorts. For a list of the highlights see our picks for the 9 Top Ski Resorts in Utah.