Guide To Arches National Park: Things To Do + Tips For Visiting

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When it comes to natural wonders that blow your mind, Utah is not short of them, and arguably some of the most mind-blowing sites of nature can be found in Arches National Park.

Famous for having the highest density of natural stone arches in the world (2,000 to be exact), this national park is full of incredible sites to see, as well as amazing hikes, scenic drive points, ranger experiences for kids, and much more.

Needless to say, there are many things to do in Arches National Park, and so many amazing monuments to see!

people standing in front of delicate arch
Delicate Arch Trail

If you’re stuck for ideas of what to see in Arches NP, then keep reading. We’ve shared our top things to see, plus tips on how to get there, where to stay, and how to plan your visit.

About Arches National Park Utah

girl sitting in front of rock arches

Arches National Park is known to have more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches which frame the beauty of this park.

It has the highest density of natural arches in the world that have been created over 100 million years of erosion.

Perfection takes time. Patience my friends!

It’s quite amazing to see how they are formed and to contemplate the power of water and ice, extreme temperatures and underground salt movement – all of which are responsible for the diverse and unique rock scenery of Arches NP.

This is an amazing display of the gentle power of Mother Earth. She can use wind and water to move mountains!

The orange and red rock arches appear beside you as you drive along the scenic drive, and far into the distance you get glimpses of the towering spires, pinnacles, and balanced rocks you are soon to explore.

They range in size from a small baby with just a three-foot opening to Landscape Arch – the longest at a span of 306 feet.

child walking up to windows arch
Kalyra walking up to one half of The Windows Arch

This landscape is constantly changing and new arches being formed and old ones destroyed.

This happens pretty slowly, but sometimes more dramatically.

In 1991, a large slab of rock fell from Landscape Arch leaving behind a thinner arch and a bunch of scared people who heard the rumbling and thought it was a nearby thunderstorm.

Lucky no one was hurt when it fell.

An 18-mile paved loop road traverses through the park and reveals to you a vibrant and colorful landscape filled with fins and pinnacles and hiking trails that wind under arches and windows.

Prepare to be amazed.

Best Things to do in Arches National Park with Kids

kids hiking over a rock

Arches Park Utah is one of the best national parks to visit in the USA with kids as many of the hikes are short, easy and fun.

You can see a lot from the car on the scenic drive, but we highly recommend getting the kids out so they can appreciate scale, power, silence, patience and gradual change.

Don’t miss the following in Arches NP…

1. Go Hiking in Arches National Park

There are some incredible Arches National Park hiking trails.

Put these on your list of things to do in Arches National Park!

Delicate Arch Hike

family hiking near delicate arch
Delicate Arch Hilke Utah
  • Distance: 3 miles return
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Rated: Difficult

If you’ve seen any promotional materials for visiting Utah, you’ve seen Delicate Arch.

It is probably the most famous arch in the world, at least the most famous of the Utah arches, and the most popular of the Arches National Park hikes!

You can visit Wolfe Ranch at the beginning of this hike. Note that just before you get to Delicate Arch there is short section of the trail with a drop off – it’s nothing to be too frightened off, just be sure to keep an eye on your kids.

Immediately before this section is a gap above on the slip rock. Walk up it (with care) for a unique first glimpse at Delicate Arch.

The kids enjoyed sitting here for a breather in the shade to stare at it. It motivated them to finish off the trail.

Actually they did ask if they could just end it there, but we insisted they complete it!

Sitting at the edge of the surrounding cliffs looking over Delicate Arch, I felt like I was in an ancient Roman amphitheater.

Stand under the arch (look at me below for a scale of how big this thing is) and then stand on the brink of the canon, with the dramatic La Sal Mountains in the background (snow capped when we visited in April) making for a contrasting desert image.

snow capped mountains in the background and in the middle of delicate arch
April is a great time to visit Arches for those snow capped views.

Sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit Delicate Arch, especially for photographers, and especially in the heat of summer. OR, late afternoon, which is when we visited to have the sun shining on the front of the arch.

Hot Tip: Go for sunrise or early morning and you should get fewer crowds.

Alternate Delicate Arch Viewpoint

If you don’t want to hike to Delicate Arch, there is a viewpoint spot around the corner from the trailhead. There is a lower and an upper viewpoint.

We just went to the lower viewpoint after our hike. It was only 100 yards and we were too tired after our hike to do the 0.5 miles to the Upper viewpoint on the rocky uphill route.

I can’t say for sure what the upper viewpoint is like, but the lower Delicate Arch viewpoint is not worth a stop. If you have hiked to Delicate Arch, it will just be ho hum.

It’s very far in the distance and doesn’t give you any wow factor. I HIGHLY recommend you hike to Delicate Arch.

If you can’t, then see about making the Upper Viewpoint as I’m sure the views will be better.

Landscape Arch Hike

family hiking up to landscape arch
Easy hike with kids in Arches National Park
  • Distance: 1.6 miles return
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Rated: Easy

Another one of the best Arches National Park hikes not to be missed is the Landscape Arch hike!

Landscape Arch is the beginning section of the longer and more challenging 7.9 mile Devil’s Garden Trail, which we did not want to attempt with the kids.

But Landscape Arch is an easy walk, some hills to go up and over and gives you an opportunity to see a couple of more arches along the way. There are short side trails that lead to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arches.

kids posing under tunnel arch
Pine Tree Arch – the kids will love posing under it

I love how I was staring at Pine Tree Arch wondering where the pine trees were, and then later discovered I actually had my back resting on a pine tree!

Step back behind that and you’ll see it appear in the world of the arch.

You can continue on this path for another 1.3 miles to Double O Arch. It’s a more difficult route with elevation changes. You can see the Double O Arch to the right of Landscape Arch when you approach it.

The trail just takes you closer to it. Side trails lead to Navajo Arch and Partition Arches.

The Windows and Turret Arch

people walking up to windows arch
I loved this hike in Arches NP with the kids
  • Distance: 1 mile round trip
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

Three arches in one makes this a very efficient hike! From the North Window and South Window, head on the loop to Turret Arch. Do NOT miss this.

Turn around and look back at the North and South Window. That is where you will see the MASK!

It’s probably my favorite panoramic view in Arches National Park Utah.

I couldn’t work out how people had taken that mask photo of North and South Window and thought that perhaps they had taken the time to hike the primitive trail behind the north and south window.

Too tired to go on that adventure, I turned around disappointed and decided I might as well check out Turret Arch as it’s just over there.

Then I heard Craig say, “Did you turn around and see the view?”

I turned and out popped the mask. There it was.

woman taking photo of double window arch
What a view of Windows Arch

Always make sure you turn around to see views behind you. Nature is so cool. I just love this view.

Sand Dune Arch

kids playing at sand dune arch
Fun place for kids in Arches National Park
  • Distance: 0.3 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

Sand Dune Arch is a super easy trail and a respite from the desert heat.

This trail goes between some fins and has a giant sandy floor aka sandpit for the kids. Let them wrestle in the sand or jump off the small ledges (not the arch).

A little way into the sand pit, you will see the sand dune arch tucked away into the fins. This gives a great perspective on how these arches are formed in the middle of fins – it’s quite mind boggling.

Rest awhile in the cool sand while the kids play.

If you had loads of energy, there is a trail breaking off from Sand Dune Arch that goes over to Broken Arch (1.3 miles return). It’s an easy flat trail cross open grassland.

You can see the Broken Arch in the distance from the Sand Dune Arch entry.

Double Arch

  • Distance: 0.5 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

Just across from Windows and Turret Arch is Double Arch. So even better, you get four arches you can do in the space of an hour.

We were maxed out at this stage so didn’t hike over to stand under it, but we could see it clearly from the parking lot.

Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park and you can climb on the rocks under the arch.

Skyline Arch

  • Distance: 0.4 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

If you have loads of time, you may want to stop off to walk to Skyline Arch. It’s an easy walk over rocks to a closer view of the arch.

Skyline Arch is between Sand Dune Arch and Landscape Arch on the Devils’ Garden Drive.

You can see it easily from the road, which is why we didn’t get out to hike to it.

Balanced Rock

family hiking up to balanced rock
Easy hike and cool photo op of Balanced Rock
  • Distance: 0.3 miles return
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Rated: Easy

One of the shortest Arches National Park trails is around the perimeter of Balanced Rock. You also get beautiful views across to the Windows here.

Fiery Furnace Hike

  • Distance: no trail
  • Rated: Difficult

This isn’t technically a hike as there’s no trail, but you can hike to see the Fiery Furnace, a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons that requires agility to explore.

To enter the Fiery Furnace, you must accompany a ranger-guided hike or obtain a day-use permit at the Arches NP Visitor Center.

There is a marked route, but you can get lost.

Fiery Furnace hike is named for its sunset reddish glow. You can see it from the overlook viewpoint or join the guided ranger hike.

We wanted to do the Fiery Furnace hike but didn’t make it happen. It can get busy and booked out so plan ahead.

The Fiery Furnace Trail is a ranger led guided hike that is 2 miles through a maze of canyons formed by the sandstone fins. It’s listed as strenuous and adventurous.

Only if you are experienced should you attempt it yourself because you could get lost in there. They do not recommend hiking solo!

2. Drive The Scenic Drive (For Amazing Viewpoints)

Arches National Park scenic drive

There is a 19-mile Arches Scenic Drive running through Arches National Park that starts from the park entrance at Highway 191 and goes to the Devils Garden trailhead.

Leave yourself plenty of time to stop off at viewpoints and the many trailheads along the way.

There are loads of places to pull over along the scenic drive for viewpoints.

But be aware parking is limited at all destinations, and popular trailheads like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden can fill up for hours, especially on weekends and holidays.

Some of the places we stopped at were:

  • Panorama Point
  • Petrified Dunes Viewpoint
  • Courthouse Towers Viewpoint

Pull over anywhere (safely) to get your shot of the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the background.

There is a specific view point called LA Sal Mountains Viewpoint that gives you 360 degree views of the park and the mountains.

But really you can get that at numerous places along the first part of the drive as you enter the park.

Stunning views on Arches scenic drive
La Sal Mountains in the background.

Park Avenue is a short hike that takes you past huge rock formations such as the Three Gossips and Courthouse Towers – we did not have time to do this.

3. Pick Up The Junior Ranger Program Book For Kids in Arches National Park

girls getting their junior ranger badge
Our kids doing the Junior Ranger pledge

As we recommend for all National Park visits with kids, stop in at the Arches National Park Visitor Center and pick up the Junior Ranger Program books.

Be sure to do the required activities for your age level, and stop back in when you are finished to say your pledge and pick up your Juniper Ranger badge.

This is the BEST way to engage the kids in the park and what they are experiencing and learning.

I LOVE this program so much.

The Arches National Park Junior Ranger program book was fun as there were activities like form your own arch shapes with your bodies and have your partner guess what it is.

So cool. Engaging the kinesthetic learners.

Savannah was all over that one. You’ll see it in our video when published (subscribe so you don’t miss it).

How To Get To Arches National Park

Arches National Park is located near Moab in Utah – it is practically on its doorstep. It’s so close that some refer to it as the Moab National Park.

The main entrance gate is a 10-minute drive from Moab. You could even bike there from town.

Distances to Arches National Park

Salt Lake City to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 230 miles
  • Time: 3.5 hours

Las Vegas to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 453 miles
  • Time: 6.5 hours

Zion National Park to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 310 miles
  • Time: 5 hours

Grand Canyon to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 333 miles
  • Time:  5.45 hours

Denver to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 351 miles
  • Time: 5.15 hours

Bryce Canyon to Arches National Park:

  • Distance: 244 miles
  • Time: 4 hours

The closest airport to Arches National Park, as far as major airports go, is located in Salt Lake City International Airport (236 miles from Moab – 4 hour drive).

Grand Junction Regional Airport is a 2 hour drive from Arches NP but it has only a few flights a week, so you’re more likely to fly into Salt Lake.

Best Time to Visit Arches National Park

view of delicate arch in the distance with snow peaked mountains behind
Stunning Delicate Arch view – you can’t get more Utah than that

Fall and Spring will typically be the best time to visit Arches National Park because it will have cooler temperatures but will still be sunny. Winter will be less crowded, but expect snow and cold temperatures.

It’s going to be baking hot in summer in Arches National Park.

I remember feeling completely wiped out after a few hikes when Craig and I visited in the summer in 2006 (pre-kids).

Strangely, the heat does not keep people away, so expect large crowds in summer.

If you visit in summer, carry enough water (fill up at a the visitor center). They recommend at least 1 gallon (4 L) per person per day.

We carry our 6 gallon Igloo water containers in the back of our F250 truck and make sure they are filled. For hiking, we carry our 21 oz Hydro flasks as our hiking water bottles.

Opening Hours and Entrance Fees

kids on the delicate hike trail

Entrance tickets are $30 per vehicle, which is good for 7 days. If you enter on a motorbike, it costs $25 USD and if you enter on foot it’s just $15.00.

You will need a vehicle to get around the park, since it’s massive, so I recommend you hire a car if you don’t have your own.

If you plan to visit other national parks in the USA, consider the annual National Parks Pass (America the Beautiful) which gives unlimited access to federal lands for $80 annually. Arches National Park is included in the national parks pass.

If you are visiting all of the National Parks in Utah, or more national parks in the USA, this will be worth the cost.

Note that you need to purchase a timed-entry ticket between the months of April 1st until October 31st.

The park is open 24 hours, but the visitor center is open daily from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm in the winter and 8:00 am to 5.00 pm from Spring to Autumn. Hours differ on public holidays, see here for more info.

FAQs About Visiting Arches National Park

How Long Should You Spend in Arches National Park?

I recommend you spend two days in Arches National Park to experience a few of the hikes and top attractions. They will not need to be full days either so you can enjoy a more relaxed pace and include a trip into Moab or even go bike riding along the Colorado River on the same day.

Do you need a 4WD car for Arches National Park?

There is one paved scenic road through Arches National Park, and most of the attractions and hiking trails are accessible with a standard vehicle. There are off-road trails that you can tackle with a jeep (you can rent them in Moab) if you want more adventure, otherwise you can hike those roads.

What should you wear to Arches National Park?

No matter what time of year you visit Arches NP, you will want to wear loose-fitting clothing, and pack a sun hat. During the summer months, make sure you regularly apply sunscreen and seek shade during the midday heat.

How to spend One Day in Arches National Park Itinerary

Landscape Arch Trail viewpoint
View from Landscape Arch Trail

If you only have one day in Arches National Park, you can still do a lot, but I recommend an early start and be prepared for a late finish.

I recommend the following points of interest:

  • Landscape Arch
  • Sand Dune Arch
  • North and South Window
  • Delicate Arch

You can enjoy the scenic drive as you move from one place to the other.

Tips for Visiting Arches National Park

Before you go, here are a few things to consider before visiting Arches National Park…

  • Don’t climb on the arches or balanced rock- sandstone is dangerous as it crumbles easily. It’s easier to climb up than down. Be careful.
  • Don’t stop in the middle of the road at sightseeing viewpoints.
  • Bikes cannot ride on trails or backcountry.
  • No ATV/ORV are allowed in the park.
  • Pets are not allowed on trails. Must be leashed at all times if on park roads, parking lots or campsites.
  • Backpacking permits must be purchased at the visitor center.
  • Don’t expect Wi-Fi or cell phone service to work in the park.

Where to Stay in Arches National Park, Utah

The best way to stay in Arches National Park is by camping. The Devils Garden Campground has 52 sites with water and flush toilets, and is the ONLY Arches National Park campground.

You can reserve campsites for the busy season between March 1 and October 31, but the campground is usually full every night, so make reservations at least six months in advance if you can.

Between the months of November until February, campsites operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

  • If you cannot get into Devils Garden Campground, look for camping near Arches National Park. There are many options around the Moab area. See here and here. 
  • FREE camping near Arches National Park is possible. We camped just north of Arches off Hwy 191 and Willow Springs Road (BLM378).
Moab Boondocking near ARches National Park,
Our camping spot on Willow Springs Road (BLM378).

There are no hotels or resorts in Arches National Park actually inside the park, so when looking for places to stay near Arches National Park, look no further than Moab.

There are many options of places to stay in Moab at several price points.

Some of our top rated recommendations for places to stay are:

Arches National Park with Kids Video

Want to know what a visit to Arches National Park looks like with kids? Here’s a video of our experience!

Tours of Arches National Park

If you don’t want to visit Arches National Park by yourself, below are some Arches National Park tours from Moab:

More Utah Travel Tips

Looking for more places to go in Utah? Start here:

More National Parks in the USA

Planning on visiting other national parks in the USA? Here are some other helpful guides…

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I hope this guide about Arches National Park helps you plan your trip. If you still have questions about what to see in Arches National Park, leave a comment below!

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