Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches and the world-famous Delicate Arch. It also has tons of fun boulders, massive fins, balanced rocks, and pinnacles that tower over you. Though we love all of Utah, Arches has quickly become one of our favorite spots. If you’re limited on time, this is one of the Mighty 5 that you can’t miss.
Note: Timed Entry Tickets are required from April 3 to October 3, 2022 to help manage crowds. There is a $2 service fee to obtain these tickets. The exception is if you have camping, backcountry, Fiery Furnace, or special use permits. You also don’t need one if you are doing a tour with an approved company.
9 RAD THINGS TO DO IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
1. Drive the 18-Mile Scenic Road
If you’re most limited on time in Arches, the easiest way to see a bulk of the park is to take their Scenic Drive. Carve out at least 4-5 hours if you want to do every paved road and spend 10 minutes at each viewpoint. Pro-tip: If you’re just passing through, don’t miss the Windows area.
2. Hike a Trail
Whether you want to do a 15-minute stroll or a longer day hike, Arches is a great park for hiking. We highly recommend the 7.2-mile Devil’s Garden Loop Trail, which is one of the most iconic hikes in the park. It takes you to several of the famous arches in the park, and the hike itself was a lot of fun with diverse landscapes and a little scrambling. You can see the hikes and difficulties here.
Delicate Arch is hands down the most famous arch in the park and in the world. The best (or worst) time of day is sunset depending on how you look at it. Sunset gives you the best light on the arch, but it also happens to be the most crowded. We opted to avoid the crowd and try our luck at sunrise. The 3-mile hike can be tricky to navigate in the dark since there are many portions where it’s easy to get lost, but we were able to make it to the Arch and beat the sun, where we got to enjoy the Arch peacefully with 2 other people.
PRO-TIP: For photography, you have until the sun comes up over the horizon to shoot, but then you end up with mixed lighting on the arch itself from the tall rocks to the left of the arch.
4. Camp Under the Stars
Arches National Park only has 50 campsites that accommodate up to 10 people, but if you’re lucky enough to get one, you won’t be disappointed. Camp under the stars with the amazing arches and boulders looking over you. Sites can be reserved between March 1 and October 1 and are first-come, first-serve November 1 to February 28.
If you can’t get a campsite, you can still stay in the backcountry! Arches is a relatively small park, so there isn’t as much backcountry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of beautiful spots to discover.
6. Join a Ranger-led Program
Ranger-led programs let get some unique insight into the park you’re exploring. They have a handful of them at Arches, but we keep hearing that the Fiery Furnace Hike is the best! You can only explore it with a ranger, and it’s a 3-hr, strenuous hike that involves rock scrambling. Unfortunately, for us, it was full when we tried to sign up, but we’ll have to catch it next time we’re at the park.
7. Horseback Ride Through the Park
Though we haven’t explored this option much, the more parks we visit, we see that many of them have the option to horseback ride through the park on wash bottom routes. Neither of us are huge on horseback riding, but it’s something that we eventually want to try to see how much the perspective of the park changes on horseback. ;)
8. Rock Climbing
Although you can’t climb any of the arches (RIP Dean Potter and RIP arch climbing), there are still some great routes to check out. See their rules, regulations, and closures here. On our recent trip, we forgot our climbing shoes, so we only played around a bit, but next time!!!
When the park developed it’s rock climbing routes, it was easy to also put together canyoneering spots. It’s a great way to experience the park as you rappel down the sandstone walls and narrow passageways. See their rules and how to register here.
Pro-Tips For Visiting Arches National Park
- The park can get really crowded during the summer. Arrive before 8 am or after 3 pm to avoid the busiest times. You can also check out their webcams to help you plan.
- Bring plenty of water! It gets hot out here and most hikes are exposed. It’s recommended that you bring 4L per day. There are refill stations at the Visitor Center and Devils Garden Trailhead and Campground. We like having these handy to use and refill and a big zip for long hikes.
- Wear sturdy shoes with good traction. Even if you’re just on a short hike, the ground is uneven and it helps to have good shoes. We currently hike with Vasque Monoliths (His + Hers)
- Some hikes will require scrambling. Don’t ever do anything beyond your comfort level (though I have to push myself a little beyond mine because I’m scared of everything).
- Don’t wander on your own and make sure someone always knows where you are.
- Lightning and flash flooding can happen. Keep track of the weather and if you see lighting, head back to your car (avoid lone trees, cliff edges, and high ridges).
Have you tried horseback riding through a national park? Have you visited Arches? What did you do there?