Arches are located in eastern Utah next to the city of Moab, which is about 230 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The park is about 120 square miles, making it a small to medium-sized park. You’ll want to spend at least 1-2 full days exploring the park since there is much to see.
Arches National Park was one of the stops on our honeymoon road trip to six national parks. It’s a unique and mystical place filled with rock formations and arches. It’s home to over 2,000 national sandstone arches.
This makes it the highest density of natural arches in the world. In this guide, we wanted to share our experience at the national park, our favorite hikes, landmarks, and some fun things you can do in Arches National Park:
- Fun Things To Do At Arches National Park
- 1. Visit the Visitor Center
- 2. Visit The Windows Section
- 3. Head To The Fiery Furnace
- 4. The Delicate Arch Is A Sight To Behold
- 5. Wildlife Watching
- 6. Rock Climbing
- 7. Hike Through The Devils Garden
- 8. Take A Scenic Drive
- 9. Try The Local Cuisines
- 10. Go Stargazing
- Tips To For Tourists Visiting The Park For The First Time
- 1. Carry Water And Snacks
- 2. Pack Sunglasses, Hats, And Sunscreen
- 3. Start Early
- 4. Book A Fiery Furnace Tour Or Permit Early
- 5. Wear Appropriate Attire
- 6. Consider Nearby Parks
- 7. Consider An Adventure Tour
- 8. Consider Flying To Moab Airport
- 9. Be Careful Of Where You Step
- 10. Be Aware Of The Weather
- 11. Clean Up Before You Leave
- 12. Consider A National Park Annual Pass
- 13. Get A Good Lodge
Fun Things To Do At Arches National Park
Arches National Park is great to visit and see some amazing sights. With over 2,000 natural arches in the park, you will surely find one that stands out as your favorite!
Here are some fun things to do at Arches National Park:
1. Visit the Visitor Center
Located just outside the park’s gateway entrance, this center offers exhibits about the geology and biology of Arches National Park. It also has an excellent bookstore with books on park history and geology, maps of hiking trails and other activities, plus souvenirs like t-shirts and postcards.
The Arches National Park Visitor Center is a great place to start your park experience. Here, you can pick up maps, talk to rangers, and learn more about the park and its many offerings. The Visitor Center also has a museum with interesting exhibits about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife.
2. Visit The Windows Section
The Windows Section is the most popular area of Arches National Park because it has so many beautiful views! This section contains a lot of arches that are close together, so you can easily see all of them from one lookout point.
I recommend parking in the area and doing the short, easy 0.5-mile roundtrip hike to Double Arch, then making the 1-mile loop through the North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch.
The trails in this area are flat and easy to navigate. Also, the first 100 yards of the 1-mile loop are paved if you travel with a wheelchair or stroller. You might recognize the Double Arch when you see it since it was featured in an Indiana Jones movie.
3. Head To The Fiery Furnace
The Fiery Furnace is a maze of narrow sandstone canyons and a major attraction in the park. However, to explore the area, you must take a ranger-guided hike or get a day-use permit at the visitor center.
The area is less than 0.5 miles in diameter but requires time to explore. You’ll need to scramble up rocks and squeeze through narrow passageways to pass through certain areas.
While I wouldn’t say it’s strenuous, these obstacles make it a challenging hike. The trail is also marked, but you can easily get lost or disoriented inside.
Since it requires pre-planning, you’ll want to book or apply several months in advance. We booked our ranger-led tour about six months ahead of time. It sounded like others on our tour did the same.
Pro Tip: The parking lot for the fiery furnace is small, so I recommend getting there early.
4. The Delicate Arch Is A Sight To Behold
This was our favorite hike during our visit. The trailhead for this hike is in the western section of the park. To do the full 3-mile roundtrip hike, you’ll start at the Wolfe Ranch trailhead. The trail starts flat but then gets more difficult as you scale the large rock face. This is where many people turn back since it can be strenuous. Though you persevere, you’ll continue onto a beautiful trail to the iconic arch.
I loved this arch since it’s not only beautiful, but the landscape around it is stunning. We did the hike late afternoon, and the lighting was incredible. Since it does require a significant hike, you’ll find it a bit less crowded than some of the other landmarks in the park.
There is also a short detour on the trail to see petroglyphs. It’s worth checking out, especially on the way back toward the trailhead.
Pro Tip: If you cannot hike it or look for a more accessible view, two viewpoints are available in the area. One is wheelchair accessible, while the other is a 0.5-mile roundtrip hike.
5. Wildlife Watching
Arches National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including Desert Bighorn Sheep, pronghorns, jackrabbits, and many species of birds. Wildlife watching is a great activity to enjoy while taking a break from hiking or exploring the park.
You may also be lucky enough to spot a coyote or a bobcat. Remember that wildlife is protected in the park, so follow the rules and regulations and keep a safe distance from the animals. Arches National Park is great for wildlife watching because it offers diversity.
6. Rock Climbing
Arches National Park is a popular destination for rock climbers from all over the world. With its unique sandstone formations and breathtaking views, it’s no wonder why this park is so popular among climbers.
Rock Climbing at Arches National Park is a great way to adrenaline rush and enjoy the stunning scenery. If you’re an experienced climber, you can explore the many routes in the park, but if you’re new to climbing, you can take lessons and rent equipment from local companies.
7. Hike Through The Devils Garden
This is in the northern section of the national park. There are eight major arches in the area. The most notable is Landscape Arch and Double O Arch. The area offers multiple options for getting to these arches.
You’ll see signs for the normal hiking trails along with the primitive trails. These are trails that are more difficult and require some scrambling. The main trails are mostly sand and gravel with slight inclines. Overall, I would rate the hike to Landscape Arch as easy, while the hike to the Double O Arch was much more difficult.
Pro Tip: Getting to the Double O Arch is about a 4.5-mile roundtrip hike. If you’re short on time, check out Landscape Arch, which is only 1.6 miles roundtrip.
8. Take A Scenic Drive
If you’re not up for hiking, a scenic drive through Arches National Park is a great way to see some of the most incredible landscapes in the park. The park road takes you through the heart of the park, offering views of the stunning red rock formations and some of the most famous arches in the park.
You’ll need to drive to the park’s landmarks and trailheads. Some national parks have a shuttle or bus system. However, you’ll need a vehicle in Arches to explore the area.
While there are off-road trails in the park, we found them fairly rough. You need a 4X4 vehicle with high clearance to get to some more interesting trails. We saw some jeeps damaged from the trail, so I wouldn’t attempt these off-road trails unless you’re an experienced driver with a specialized vehicle. Also, ATVs or UTVs are not allowed in the park.
9. Try The Local Cuisines
There are a lot of cool restaurants and cafes in Moab. For lunch, we highly recommend Sweet Cravings Bakery. They had a lot of interesting sandwich options and even offered a free sweet treat with every lunch purchase.
For dinner, we recommend the La Sal House. We went there twice during our trip since we loved the food and ambiance! Plus, we could make a reservation on Yelp, easily booking a table.
Pro Tip: When a restaurant is located inside a hotel, the charge may be a hotel or a restaurant. If you want to maximize your credit card points, use a card with travel and dining as a bonus category.
10. Go Stargazing
Arches National Park is a great place for stargazing. Due to its remote location, far from major cities and high elevation, the park offers a clear night sky with minimal light pollution.
This makes it an ideal location to observe stars, planets, and other celestial objects. The park has several designated stargazing areas, and rangers often lead stargazing programs during the summer months.
The clear night sky and lack of light pollution make it easy to see stars and other celestial objects. If you’re interested in stargazing, bring a telescope and a blanket while you take in the night sky.
Tips To For Tourists Visiting The Park For The First Time
Arches National Park is a unique and stunning destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a hiker, photographer, wildlife watcher, or rock climber, this park will leave you in awe.
If you’re planning a trip to Arches National Park, here are a few things to remember.
1. Carry Water And Snacks
You’ll want to pack a lot of water before visiting the park. Since the temperature in the desert is often very high, I recommend using insulated water bottles to keep your water cold. There were a few water-filling stations, but there weren’t any places outside the visitor center where you could purchase water or snacks. We stopped at the City Market in Moab to pick up water and snacks before heading into the park. Prices were much more reasonable than at the tourist stores, so we stocked up on supplies. Our approach was to eat a large breakfast every morning at the hotel, snack throughout the day, and treat ourselves to a nice dinner in the evening.
2. Pack Sunglasses, Hats, And Sunscreen
Except for the Fiery Furnace, most of the trails and hikes in the park offer little to no shade. This means you’ll experience a lot of sun exposure. You’ll want to keep yourself protected and comfortable by wearing sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen.
Also, if you’re wearing sunglasses with brown lenses, you may find it a bit disorienting. Like in Sedona, the soil and rocks are often red. Since brown lenses contrast your vision, they can make the environment glow red. If you have a pair of grey or more neutral-colored lenses, I recommend using them instead.
3. Start Early
Many of the popular attractions get flooded by tourist buses during the day. This was especially true of the Windows section of the park. You can beat the crowds and enjoy the cooler temperatures by starting earlier in the day.
4. Book A Fiery Furnace Tour Or Permit Early
As I mentioned, the Fiery Furnace requires either a ranger-led tour or a day-use permit. Both of these must be booked far in advance. If you plan a trip to Arches, you’ll want to book this as soon as they are released since they limit the number of visitors per day and sell out quickly.
5. Wear Appropriate Attire
Several people in the park were wearing flip-flops on the trails. That’s a bad idea, especially when trying to scramble up rocks. Getting scraped up or twisting your ankle is easy, so you’ll want to wear grippy and supportive footwear like hiking shoes or boots. We wore merino wool, sports fabrics, hiking shoes, and a hat. Merino wool clothing is especially useful with its natural moisture-wicking and odor-resistant qualities.
6. Consider Nearby Parks
There are several other national parks in the area. If you have the time, consider exploring Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Park for easy day trips. We’ve visited both as well, so we’ll do reviews of each park in the future.
7. Consider An Adventure Tour
One of the highlights of the trip didn’t involve the national park. We booked a canyoneering tour with a local company called Red River Adventures. It was an incredible experience exploring the sandstone canyons of Moab and even rappelling down the canyon walls. We did the Rock of Ages Canyoneering tour and highly recommended it. Our 4-person tour consisted of a 4-mile hike and three rappels.
8. Consider Flying To Moab Airport
The city of Moab does have a small airport north of the city. United Express does fly in and out of the airport, so it’s an option for those that don’t want to fly to Salt Lake City and drive down. Though you’re on a budget, finding a flight to Salt Lake City, renting a car, and driving three and a half hours to Moab are usually less expensive.
9. Be Careful Of Where You Step
This is so important! Arches, as well as the other national parks in the area, has biological soil crusts. These areas are very noticeable as they are darker and textured.
They sometimes have white spots among the texture too. This area’s soil is alive and home to organisms like fungi, algae, and bacteria. The plants depend on this soil crust, which takes generations to form. You don’t want to step into it. Make sure to stay on the trail and be aware of your surroundings.
Another thing to watch out for is ephemeral pools. These can seem like potholes in the rock and be either dry or filled with water. These pools are filled with organisms like shrimp. Even when dry, the organisms can become dormant until the next rainstorm. You’ll want to avoid stepping into these areas and damaging the ecosystem.
10. Be Aware Of The Weather
While the area is dry, you’ll want to be especially careful of lightning storms and rain. The desert is prone to flash flooding, especially along the canyons. Also, sandstone can be slippery when wet, making it especially important to wear hiking shoes with a good grip.
11. Clean Up Before You Leave
Sadly, you’ll see that many visitors have decided to leave their mark on the rocks through graffiti. National Parks are a precious resource that should be preserved for future generations.
This means not damaging or altering the environment, following safety precautions, avoiding feeding wildlife, and disposing of trash or waste. Also, a big pet peeve is seeing people hiking while playing loud music. It’s not only inconsiderate to other hikers, but the sounds can often echo through a canyon affecting the wildlife.
Lastly, don’t climb onto the arches. It’s not only dangerous but also illegal!
12. Consider A National Park Annual Pass
The admission fee for Arches is $30 per vehicle and lasts for seven days. If you plan to visit more national parks (especially nearby ones), you’ll want to consider an annual pass for $80. It lasts for an entire year and can be shared with another person. It’s also supporting a good cause and can be used to access other federal recreational lands.
13. Get A Good Lodge
A good lodge will make your trip even more spectacular.
Regarding lodging, there are many choices in the city of Moab. Most of the major hotel chains have a presence in the area. Airbnb options are limited, though, since Moab passed legislation restricting its use in the city.
We opted to stay at the Hyatt Place in Moab. We got 3.6 cents per point on our redemption when we booked it, which was an awesome deal. We transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to complete the booking. The hotel is close to the park entrance, has an outdoor pool and laundry facility, and offers free breakfast.
Pro Tip: To qualify for the free breakfast at Hyatt Place Hotels, you must book directly with Hyatt. You can’t use third-party sites or travel portals like Expedia or Hotels.com!
Arches National Park is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. This stunning landscape in Moab, Utah, features over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and is home to some of the world’s most unique and breathtaking scenery.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a photographer, or just looking for a peaceful getaway, there is something for everyone at Arches National Park.
Have you been to Arches National Park? If so, do you have any other tips to share? And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.