Best Hikes in Arches National Park
February 27, 2022
Please note that this post may contain affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward me a small commission – at no extra cost for you.
Hiking in Arches National Park is definitely the most famous things to do in Moab, Utah, and one of main draws for visitors from around the world. From the Delicate Arch to The Windows section, there is no shortage of great hikes to discover in Arches NP. In fact, the park actually has over 2,000 arches to explore! From quick walks to full day hikes and camping, you’ll find something for every type of hiker when visiting Arches. This guide will cover all of the details of exploring the best hikes in Arches National Park for your visit.
How Much Time to Spend Visiting the Best Hikes in Arches?
I recommend dedicating at least 1 full day to explore Arches, but ideally 2 days if you have the time and want to get in a number of hikes. There are so many incredible hikes to explore, and the crowds can make it difficult to navigate the hikes (and find parking) quickly.
Ideally I would recommend spending the morning exploring, taking a long break during the hottest point of the day for lunch. Then you can enjoy some late afternoon and sunset hikes. There are plenty of tours, like a 4×4 adventure, that you can book as well, so you aren’t just hiking in the hot sun all day.
Timing is especially important if you’re visiting during the high season, but really any time of year. We attempted to visit Arches around noon on our first day in early May, and were turned away due to excessive crowds in the park.
The heat is another big factor for exploring these parks early, as temperatures can soar into the hundreds during the day in the warmer months.
What to know about visiting Arches
Arches is one of Utah’s Mighty 5, which is a collection of national parks in Utah. The park is located just 4 miles north of Moab so it is an easy stop if you’re visiting the area.
I cannot stress this point enough, arrive at the park early, especially during the peak season. The peak season for Arches is considered to be spring through fall. We tried to enter Arches around noon (on a weekday in April when we first arrived in Moab. We were turned away with a sign that let us know that the park had reached capacity.
I recommend arriving no later than 7am, but even better if you can make it there for sunrise. Once you’re in the park, you’ll want to visit the more popular spots first because many of these trailhead parking lots fill up as early as 7:30am.
On the Arches official website, you can check the status of parking lots, closure information, and traffic webcams. Unlike other parks, Arches is actually open 24/7, so you can technically arrive at any hour.
To manage this, you’ll want to arrive in Moab the evening before you plan to explore the park. You’ll find more information on where to stay in Moab down below. Another option would be to stay at the Devils Garden campground within the park for easy hike access! These sites book up quickly during the peak season.
Best hikes in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch Trail
The Delicate Arch Trail is easily the most popular hike in in Arches National Park. And for a good reason! The views you get, especially in the early morning, are some of the most beautiful in the world.
For this reason, I recommend starting your morning at the Delicate Arch to take in these incredible views. Ideally, if you are able to arrive at the arch before the sun rises, you won’t regret it!
The park labels this hike as strenuous, but don’t let that turn you off! The hike is moderate at best in opinion, totalling just 1.5 miles each way. There are some more narrow ledges, so if you are afraid of heights you will want to mentally prepare yourself.
Honestly, if you only have time to do one hike in Arches, make it this one! It is definitely the most impressive in my opinion. Make sure to give yourself a few hours to complete this hike, as you’ll want to have time to sit and enjoy the up-close views at the top.
Note: right before you reach the main view point you’ll come across a little window on your right hand side. Climb up to the window for this “secret” viewpoint, pictured above.
Distance: 1.5 miles each way (3 miles total)
Elevation gain: 480 feet
Location: the trailhead for the Delicate Arch Trail is located at the Wolfe Ranch parking lot
An alternate option for viewing the Delicate Arch without the more difficult hike is to visit the Upper Delicate Arch instead. While still an uphill climb, this hike is significantly shorter (only 0.5 miles) than hiking all the way to the Delicate Arch.
The Windows Section (including the Double Arch)
The Windows Section is a great area to hike in if you want to explore and see tons of the amazing arches while hiking in Arches NP. Some of the main arches along this route include Double Arch, Turret Arch, North Window, and South Window.
Overall this is an easy, family-friendly hike because it is short and flat with lots to see.
Across the way from the Windows section itself, you get a long of bang for your buck with the Double Arch hike. Not only is it one of the shortest hikes in Arches National Park at only 0.5 miles, but it is easily one of the best views. Plus, you get two arches instead of one!
Distance: 1 mile round-trip, with lots of options to break off and explore other more primitive hikes including 0.5 to the Double Arch
Elevation gain: flat, little to no elevation gain
Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop
This loop is another one of the best hikes in Arches National Park because you’ll get to pass 8 different arches when completing the loop. Some notable mentions include Double Arch, Landscape Arch, Tunnel Arch, and more!
This is definitely the longest hike on this guide, totaling 7.2 miles for the full loop. For the full loop, you can expect a 4-5 hour hike. However, if you’re looking for something a bit easier, there are lots of options to cut it short.
You can turn back after Landscape Arch (the longest arch in North America). This will not only cut off some mileage (only 2 miles to Landscape Arch and back), but after Landscape Arch the trail gets much steeper. I would allocate at least 1.5 hours if you’re planning to just hike to Landscape Arch and back.
Another option is to simply hiking to the Double O Arch and back, which totals 4.1 miles round trip. I would allocate 2-3 hours for this portion of the hike.
If you are looking to get an early start, there is a campground by the trailhead that you can stay at. It is available by reservation during the high season, and first-come first-serve during the winter months.
Distance: 7.2 mile full loop
Location: the trailhead for starting the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop is located at the far end of the park, 18 miles north of the Visitor Center
The Balanced Rock can be considered more of a stroll, as it is a completely flat and paved 0.3 mile loop. In fact, you can see the entire rock just driving along the main road. For this reason, it is one of the easiest, and more accessible best hikes in Arches National Park. The majority of the trail is even wheelchair accessible.
Distance: 0.3 mile loop
Elevation gain: completely flat, no elevation gain
Ironically, the Park Avenue trail is one of the only ones on this guide to not feature an iconic arch. But it is an awesome, and not too difficult hike, nevertheless. It is one of the first hiking areas that you’ll reach after passing through the visitor center.
If you have a hired shuttle driver, you can opt to only hike one way (1 mile) and get picked up on the other end. Other, you can expect a 2 mile round trip hike.
Distance: 1 mile each way, or an option to start at the top and only hike one way
Camping near Arches National Park
If there is one thing that I recommend doing in Moab, outside of the popular parks, it is to find a secluded place to camp. We originally planned to stay at Horsethief, an establish paid camping ground, however as a first-come first-serve campground, all spots were taken when we arrived at midday. Nevertheless, we took our chances and followed another van down a long dirt path. We were pleasantly surprised to find an amazing primitive campground at the end of the road – the perfect spot for sunset and an overnight camp.
I am by no means an expert on this topic, so I like to rely on apps like The Dyrt to point me in the right direction.
Hotels in Moab
If camping isn’t your thing, don’t fret. There are tons of awesome hotels, and even airbnbs in Moab that you can check out instead for your adventure. If you’re booking a hotel, I recommend choosing one near town, that will give you close access to the parks.
Tips for Visiting Arches
Download an Offline Map
For any road trip, I always recommend downloading the offline maps for any areas that you plan on visiting. I found that the pre-downloaded offline Google Map works well for me! You can also check out maps.me. While I had some service in parts of Arches National Park, it is always best to be prepared.
Buy a National Parks Pass
If you are planning a visit to Arches, at the other parks around Moab, then make sure that you buy a National Parks Pass. Like seriously, if you don’t already own one, stop what you’re doing and go buy one right now! The America the Beautiful pass costs $80 and gives you access to all of the National Parks, plus a number of other parks as well. A single park entrance fee can easily set you back $30, so even if your trip is just a few days long, the pass is worth it. Plus, it is valid for a full calendar year and can me assigned to two different users. Trust me, it’s worth it!
It is super important that you pack the essential gear when hiking in Arches National Park. Most of the best hikes in Arches offer minimal sun coverage. This means that you should come prepared with lots of extra water, sun screen, a hat, and additional layers.
I always prefer to hike in proper hiking boots, but for many of the hikes on this guide, running sneakers will suffice.
Looking for hiking adventures in the US? Here are some other resources to check out:
- Things to do in Moab, Utah
- Grand Teton Hiking Trails
- Tips for Planning a Campervan Road Trip
- Sedona Hiking: Best Hikes in Sedona, Arizona