6 Spectacular Arches National Park Hikes

Oh Arches, what an incredible national park! I remember seeing a huge poster on my friends wall at university years ago with one of the famous arches and thinking it looked like a great place to explore. And it was. It took us a while to get here but it was worth the wait. It had some of our favourite trails in the US, set in some of the most spectacular and unusual scenery on earth.

The walks here could keep you busy for days but we have six of the best which we managed to cram in to our two and a half day trip.

Here’s our take on the best hikes in Arches National Park.

The stunning Delicate Arch


Arches National Park Hikes - Orientation

There’s one long road that runs from top to bottom in Arches National Park which takes just over half an hour to go from one end to the other. The start of the road is primarily viewpoints with the longer hikes being further down the road.


For continuously stunning views - Landscape Arch & Double O Arch

Distance - 7.15km (4.44 miles)

Time taken - 2 hours 22

Elevation - 230 metres

Difficulty - Medium

Type of Walk - Return (out and back)

Starting & End Point - Devil’s Garden Car Park

One look at the parking at Devil’s Garden and you realise that the trail to Landscape & Double O Arch is the most popular hike in Arches National Park - and for good reason. The trail is one that continuously keeps your attention with stunning arches, steep and rocky climbs and a ridge that is simply breath-taking.

If you only have time to do one decent length hike in Arches National Park, make it this one.

The beautiful ridge on the trail to Double O Arch

The trail is relatively flat at first and gently climbs up and then down to the foot of Landscape Arch, the longest rock arch in the park which looks like it’s only minutes away from collapse! This long, thin arch is one of the most famous in the park and its scale dwarfs anything else we saw.

From here, things immediately get more interesting. There’s a long, uphill rock section to climb which requires a bit of scrambling, especially as there are plenty of other people coming towards you in the other direction! The views looking back are amazing as you'll see the La Sal Mountains fringing the orange sandstone. When we visited they were snow capped, making them even more special.

Landscape Arch

The trail continues to climb until you reach the highlight of the track - a section of rocky ridge that is a couple of hundred metres long and around three metres wide, it feels like you’re on top of the world. This ridge is fairly high and the views across all the sandstone formations are stunning. You can see where the park finishes and the swathes of uninhabited land that goes for miles beyond Arches National Park begin. This is the section of track which gives the trail its ‘difficult’ grading from the Parks Service. We’d say that unless you have vertigo it won’t be a problem, it is not too narrow as to make it feel unsafe.

The trail then hops off the ridge, before winding round to Double O Arch, another huge and impressive arch. The best way to see this is to climb through the bottom arch and look back as the arches become frames for the mountains around you. A beautiful way to finish a spectacular trail.

The beautiful framing of Double Arch

You can choose to make the trail a big loop by going back along the Primitive Trail, but this will add another five miles to your walk! We ran out of time to do this and returned the way we came. If we went back it would be the first trail on our list as we heard great things.

Getting to Landscape & Double O Arch

The trail to both these stunning arches begins at Devil’s Garden at the furthest end of the park. It should take about 30 minutes to drive to from the entrance. We recommend avoiding the middle of the day as the car park gets full quickly, even though there are a lot of spaces!

 

For the adventurous who never grew up - The Fiery Furnace

***This trail requires a permit. Ensure you buy one from the Visitor Centre before you start the trail. They can be bought in advance, so try to get one as early as you can, preferably as soon as you arrive in Moab***

Distance - 3.48km (2.16 miles)

Time taken - 1 hour 50

Elevation - 107 metres

Difficulty - Easy - moderate

Type of Walk - Loop

Starting & End Point - Fiery Furnace Car park

The Fiery Furnace is truly unlike any hike we’ve ever done. This two mile walk navigates many tiny canyons in a really small area and requires a little bit of scrambling up rocks, through tight spaces and sometimes climbing up walls to keep on the track. What makes it even more fun is that the exact route is hard to find as the arrows are tiny and put in places that aren’t always obvious. It became like an escape room or puzzle to solve!

Before we started on the Fiery Furnace, we were a little nervous. We’ve never been on a trail which required a safety video before (!!!) The ranger we spoke to said he took five hours to get out on his first visit and they do not recommend you going in on your own if you haven’t been before. You can join a ranger led walk if you book in advance but these spots can sell quickly and in low season only go once a week. Alternatively you can give it a go independently.

One of the trickier sections of the Fiery Furnace

Two mile trails don’t normally have so many warnings!

However, we needn’t have worried as the Fiery Furnace was brilliant and we wish we’d find this concept in more parks! The reason we loved it so much was that it became like an adventure travel hunt, trying to find the route by scrambling up rocks, over ledges and looking for the arrows which lead the way (all of which was just challenging enough to be fun without entering the realm of being scary or in any way technical).

It didn’t take long for the anxiety of the safety briefing to be replaced with the joy of trying to work our way through the endless dead ends and wrong turns. Many people choose to embrace this even more by trying to find their own routes, but we simply enjoyed exploring the hidden arches, canyons and beautiful formations that you stumble across along the official route.

The beautiful hoodoos in the Fiery Furnace

After 1 hour 45 of figuring out the maze we’d made our way out. We’re by no means experts in navigation, so don’t be put off by the stories of being lost for six hours, just simply keep searching for those arrows! We highly recommend giving this a go. Few walks have been quite so much fun as this.

Here’s everything you need to know about tackling the Fiery Furnace.

Read next: Zion National Park hikes that are some of the best in the USA and Death Valley hikes - the best of this stunning landscape


Getting to the Fiery Furnace

The Fiery Furnace is 14 miles from the entrance of the national park and should take about 25 minutes to drive to. The trail starts from the car park. Ensure you have your permit clipped to your bag at all times and enjoy the thrill of finding your way out!

 

For the astounding beauty - Delicate Arch

Distance - 3 miles (4.8 km)

Time taken - 1 hour total

Elevation - 100 metres

Difficulty - Moderate

Type of Walk - Return (out and back)

Starting & End Point - Wolfe Ranch

This is the most popular arch in Arches and it is not hard to see why. It’s the one on all the Utah number plates and also the quarter dollar coin. We squeezed this trail into the last hour of light we had left to hike and powered up the hill to get there.

It was worth each and every last step. This arch is truly spectacular with a very distinctive shape backed by the snowcapped La Sal Mountains. It is a great sunrise spot, we went at sunset and the light was still beautiful but sunrise would be best if you can drag yourself out of bed.

The trail itself begins on a easy flat path before heading up slick rock. It’s fairly steep but it isn’t slippery (or not when dry anyway) and you stay on that rock for the remainder of the walk. It is classified by the Parks Service as a difficult walk but in reality it is just a little steep, the terrain itself is not difficult. You then come to a short section of path which runs along a cliff edge (this is described by the track notes as if it is going to be really narrow and scary - it isn’t) before rounding a corner and your first sight of that fabulous arch.

The path to Delicate Arch

The views from all round are stunning, especially when you frame the La Sal Mountains in the arch. It’s the kind of place to sit down for a while and take it all in.

An alternative - If doing a longish, steep hike isn’t for you, then visit the Upper and Lower Delicate Arch viewpoint. This is a short walk that will give you a fabulous view of Delicate Arch. It may not get you as close (or the view looking through the arch to the mountains), but it is a decent alternative.


Getting to Delicate Arch

The walk to Delicate Arch starts from the car park at Wolfe Ranch. This is about 13 miles away from the entrance of the park and should take approximately 25 minutes.

 

For a fabulous sunset - The Windows

Distance - 0.5 miles

Time taken - 15 minutes

Elevation - 0 metres

Difficulty - Easy

Type of Walk - Loop

Starting & End Point - Windows Trailhead Car Park

On their own, the windows are impressive. Add in the fact that you can look through them to the sunset on the horizon and you get a beautiful scene at the end of a day in the park. They aren’t very far from the car park and you can cover them all within a 10-15 minute gentle stroll.

Like the name suggests, the Windows are more like huge holes in the rock rather than arches and provide the perfect frame for these awe inspiring views.

Although the sunset wasn’t particularly great when we visited, the views to the La Sal Mountains were beautiful and we could imagine how good this place would be if the sky became really colourful.


Getting to the Windows

The Windows are 11 miles from the entrance to Arches National Park and should take about 22 minutes to drive to. There’s a descent sized car park here, so you shouldn’t have too many problems parking. You can use this car park to visit Double Arch as well.

 

Broken Arch & Tapestry Arch

Distance - 4.81 km (3 miles)

Time taken - 1 hour 24

Elevation - 136 metres

Difficulty - Moderate

Type of Walk - Loop

Starting & End Point - Sand Dune Arch car park or Devil’s Garden Campground

If you’re looking for a longer walk, then the loop to Broken Arch is worth doing. We started this from the Campground (not necessarily the best place to do so!) and did a big loop taking in Tapestry Arch, Broken Arch and a hike through a small canyon and back to the start. Our route although recommended to us by a ranger spends a fair amount of time walking through the campground, which although not unpleasant seems unnecessary. We’d recommend starting at the car park at Sand Dune Arch instead. Your route will partly depend on where you can find a parking space because even in low season it gets really busy here!

The trail takes you through the desert like landscape of Arches and is a lot more open than many of the other trails. Starting at the dumpsters/toilet block in the campground, the trail heads directly to Tapestry Arch. This arch has a small cave like area behind it and would be pretty impressive in any other park in the world. However in Arches, this is just one of hundreds! It’s also one of the quietest arches we visited (as it is a minor detour from the trail).

Tapestry Arch

Tapestry Arch

The trail carries on through the desert, winding its way round until you see Broken Arch - an impressive rock arch to explore and admire the views.

We were fooled by a couple of columns before you reach the true arch which looked like they were originally an arch, but realised that Broken Arch isn’t really broken at all. It just has a few cracks that make it look like it could break at any minute.

Broken Arch

After climbing through Broken Arch, the trail weaves round to a small canyon that heads back to the car park. This was by far the quietest part of the trail and whilst the canyons of the Fiery Furnace were more impressive, we enjoyed strolling through this area and taking in the iconic sandstone landscape of Arches.

Whilst we wouldn’t put it at the top of our list, the trail to Broken Arch is well worth doing if you have the time. It’s a good way to stretch your legs and take in some of the park away from the big crowds at Delicate and Landscape Arch.

Getting to Broken Arch

We took the trail for Broken Arch from the Devil’s Garden Campground, starting by the toilet block/dumpsters (there’s a sign stating the start of the trail). Alternately, you can start at the Sand Dune Arch Trailhead and connect to the trail there.

 

For a very easy win - Balanced Rock

Distance - 0.5 km (0.3 miles)

Time taken - 15 minutes

Elevation - 0 metres

Difficulty - Easy

Type of Walk - Loop

Starting & End Point - Balanced Rock Car Park

If you’re in Arches in the middle of the day and don’t fancy a long hike, then Balanced Rock is a really easy place to visit. You can see the rock from the car park and the trail barely reaches 300 metres to go all the way round it.

Balanced Rock - Arches National Park Hikes

As you can see, the rock is very precariously balanced and looks like it is due to collapse pretty shortly! But for now, it’s an impressive formation and the photos don’t really show the full scale of the rock.

Getting to Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is one of the first places you see on the scenic drive and is nine miles away from the entrance to the park. It should take about 10-15 minutes to drive to.

The car park here is really small, so you may need some luck to get a space at peak times, having said that people don’t stay long so you could wait it out.

 

Where to stay in Arches - Moab

Unless you are camping in Arches National Park (and what fabulous views the camp sites had!) then the best place to stay is in the nearby town of Moab.

We loved Moab, not as much as our beloved Sedona but it wasn’t too far behind. It’s a small town which is surrounded by mountains and has great coffee. What’s not to love?

Hotel Downtown Moab

We stayed in the Hotel Downtown Moab and whilst it had a few issues we thought overall it was great value. The rooms are big, comfy, clean and fairly modern (something we didn’t really experience in this price bracket very often). So we loved it until the wifi didn’t work for our whole stay (although they did refund us $30 for this) and we found some of the staff to be really unfriendly. If it hadn’t been for this we would have given it a fully glowing review.

Booking.com

Expedition Lodge

The place I was actually going to book before it sold out was Expedition Lodge as it had fabulous reviews so you might want to check that one out too.

Booking.com
Booking.com

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Are you planning a trip to Utah? Which hike would you do in Arches? Let us know in the comments below!


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