Arches National Park – Hiking Trails Not to be Missed

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Ever since I saw pictures of the sunlight beaming through that solitary arch, I knew that this was a place we had to explore. The perplexing sight of those red rocks along with the iconic landmarks that identify this landscape are a sight to behold. Of course that solitary arch I am referring to is ‘Delicate Arch’ located in the breathtaking natural phenomenon that is Arches National Park.

Arches National Park hiking trails lead visitors to some of the most sought after iconic landmarks in this part of USA, including the infamous Windows section and of course Delicate Arch itself. Join us in finding out which trails we followed and why you should to!

Bryce Canyon to Arches National Park

During our recent road trip of Arizona and Utah, we made the long trek across the Beehive state to Moab so that we could experience the beauty throughout Arches.  Our day started early as we left Cedar City, Utah and made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.

What we didn’t realize was just how stunning Bryce was going to be, and this immediately put us behind schedule as our optimistic itinerary guided us to Arches on the same day as Bryce! If you have never visited Utah, you probably don’t realize the scope of this. It is a daunting and probably unrealistic task trying to see both Bryce and Arches in the same day, but given our time constraints we knew that we had to make it happen.

bryce canyon to arches national park landscape

If you are planning on visiting Bryce Canyon like we did and then heading on to Arches National Park, the first thing worth noting is there is no easy way to navigate this trip. When you look at a map or have your GPS find the optimal route, you will soon find out that you are either backtracking towards Cedar City and St. George, or passing through an unknown wilderness for about 100 miles before reaching I-70.

utah highway

As soon as you reach I-70, I would strongly recommend checking your gas levels because there are not many gas stations along this stretch of Utah’s barren landscape. However, this landscape may be barren in terms of gas stations but it makes up for it with natural beauty.

The journey from Bryce to Arches takes about 4 hours and we arrived in Moab just before 5:00PM. Fortunately we visited Arches at the end of May so had plenty of daylight left to explore.

Scenic Drive

In keeping with all other US national parks, Arches has an incredibly scenic drive that takes you through the heart of the park and offers a number of breathtaking viewpoints as well as entrances to the best hiking trails available. Even from the entrance of Arches National Park, you are greeted with a stunning view of Utah’s towering red rocks but the real entertainment begins when you enter the park.

arches national park moab utah

After paying the $10 entrance fee (that’s right, it’s much cheaper than many of it’s counterparts across the state) you immediately climb through a number of switchbacks and drive deep into the heart of Arches. The time you have allocated to spend at Arches will likely determine what you can experience, but I will say that even in a short 3 hours we were able to capture a number of memories that will long live with us.

arches national park entrance

Our approach was pretty spontaneous to say the least, though I really wanted to catch a glimpse of the Windows section and Delicate Arch if time permitted. Many of the ‘short hikes’ are well within walking distance of the scenic route, so be prepared to jump in and out of your vehicle to capture the perfect shot of those iconic red rock structures that we associate with Arches.

arches national park hiking trails

Park Avenue

Visitors are well and truly welcomed to Arches National Park when they stop at the trailhead to Park Avenue. This short yet rewarding trail is home to a number of gorgeous monolithic structures such as The Three Gossips, the Courthouse Towers, the Organ and the Tower of Babel.

arches national park hiking trails

Driving by these breathtaking attractions is a magical experience on its own, but actually taking the time to make the short one mile hike to the bottom of the canyon will really enhance your time here.

park avenue arches national park hiking trails

Just like many of hikes around Arches National Park, Park Avenue trail is relatively simple with very little in terms of difficulty so I would highly recommend checking this out because after seeing this, you will be raring to go to see more of Arches natural beauties.

park avenue moab utah

At the beginning of the trail when you look to the west, you will see the towering Courthouse Towers that line the edge of Park Avenue. The massive sandstone towers that provide this beautiful background rise to 600 ft in some cases, so these definitely stand out among a plethora of other natural attractions.

arches national park utah

Balanced Rock

Do you ever find that when you are exploring natural attractions that you always come across a feature that is so ‘selfie-friendly’? Not sure if that is even a word but when you see ‘Balanced Rock’ you will know exactly what I mean.

balanced rock selfie arches national park hiking trails

Just like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is renowned for people making sure the tower doesn’t fall over, Arches National Park has its very own iconic attraction and we both made sure this rock wasn’t going anywhere!

balanced rock

A cheesy shot for sure, but regardless of this Balanced Rock appears to be precariously hanging on top of the red rock structure. Will it fall? If it follows the same fate as it’s fellow structure that toppled in 1975, perfectly named ‘Chip Off the Old Block’ then perhaps trying to capture a selfie with this sooner rather than later should be your philosophy.

balanced rock arches national park

Don’t worry about this rock falling anytime soon though, as the park rangers are pretty confident that this huge rock won’t be moving anywhere as you take the short hike and stand directly underneath this structure.

The Windows Section

Along with Delicate Arch, the most popular attraction at Arches National Park is the gorgeous Windows section and this is certainly with good reason. Parking can be difficult at this location but we were fortunate to find a spot in the overflow parking lot and embarked on the short hike to marvel at this natural wonder.

windows section arches national park hiking trails

The Windows section is essentially two arches formed in the same sandstone, the North and South Window both located directly next to each other. You don’t realize the size and scope of these ‘windows’ until you make the short hike to the entrance of each one.

windows hiking trail arches national park

The Windows Primitive Loop is a short 1.2 miles round trip from the parking lot and gives access to both window arches along with gorgeous views of topographical landscapes in the distance and other iconic geological features in the near vicinity.

north window arches national park

The North Window is the easier of the two arches to access and it is the one you can see directly from the parking lot. However, only a short walk from here leads you to the base of the South Window and both provide really cool photo opportunities of their unique formations. Both of these arches are also referred to as ‘The Spectacles’ as from a distance you can see both windows and they appear to be in the formation of a pair of glasses.

windows section arches national park

Close to the Windows is another towering rock formation – Turret Arch. It may not receive the attention it deserves in comparison to the two Windows arches, but it is well worth taking some time to explore this and experience more of the natural beauty that Arches presents.

windows arches national park hiking trails

If you are standing at the Windows, turn around and take a look in the distance and you will see a pretty unique formation known as Double Arch. Regardless of the direction you look, I can guarantee you will enoy your time here.

double arch hiking trail

This is one of the highlights from our trip to Arches National Park and I am glad that I convinced Heather to take the short hike to really experience the Windows, rather than bypassing a moment of natural beauty!

Delicate Arch

We saved the best until last…at least on our journey! Our final stop on our scenic tour of Arches was a parking lot close to Delicate Arch. This was the pinnacle spot on our trip to Arches and the one place we both wanted to see. Unfortunately the full hike to the arch was not possible given the time we arrived but instead we decided to take the short hike to the optimal viewing point that overlooked this iconic landmark from around a half mile away.

delicate arch

For those of you that are unaware of what Delicate Arch is all about, it is a 65ft natural arch that stands alone on the iconic Utah landscape. You don’t realize just how tall this arch is until you reach the end of the trail overlooking the arch, and I can only imagine what this looks like up close.

delicate arch utah

Visitors essentially have two options when deciding how close they want to get to Delicate Arch. As I indicated, our time constraints meant that we had to opt for the ‘easier’ of the two trails, commonly referred to as Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The trail is around a mile each way and offers relatively simple terrain with a slight incline at the end leading to the majestic overlook with the arch in the distance.

The beauty of Delicate Arch explains nothing, for each thing in it’s way, when true to it’s own character, is equally beautiful. (Edward Abbey)

For the more adventurous, the hiking trail known as Delicate Arch Trailhead with a 3 mile round trip leads you to the arch itself. This is not for the faint hearted with a number of spots along the trail offering open slickrock and exposure to heights. I definitely look forward to experiencing this trail when we next return to Arches National Park.

delicate arch viewpoint

Back to our experience at the Viewpoint. Delicate Arch really is just as beautiful as its reputation. A solitary, perfectly carved arch stands alone yet offering visitors a moment of solitude away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Even from a distance this arch offers peace and I can only imagine the rewarding experience if you visit Delicate Arch just before sunrise.

Summary

What an experience!! Words really cannot explain the beauty within Arches National Park so I would just encourage you to head on over to Moab and check this out for yourselves.

I have shared four of the most rewarding hikes based on our experiences, yet when you arrive at Arches you will notice there are so many more to explore. Choose the trails that suit your fitness levels and landmarks you want to encounter. We didn’t even have time to continue through the scenic drive and explore Devil’s Garden, but this just one of many reasons why I can’t wait to return to Arches.

We are all incredibly fortunate to live in a world with such natural beauty and I just hope that this encourages you to explore one of the many natural wonders that is on our very doorstep. Visitors travel from all corners of the globe to experience Arches National Park and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone visiting here will leave with awe-inspired memories in their mind.

If you would like to see more images from our amazing trip to Arches, check out our photo gallery here: Arches National Park

Weekend Wanderlust


24 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! The Arches look incredible! I’ve been to Bryce Canyon, but never got to Arches NP. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures. Looking at the people, you can really see how massive these structures actually are.

  2. Utah is breathtaking, its a shame its overlooked in favour of other states. These photos are gorgeous – and I love the detail you included in each section for each trail. A must do! 🙂

  3. I am glad you guys where able to see both parks in the same day. I thought the drive between parks was longer (thanks for the info). Utah is seriously incredible. It is difficult to top some of the landscapes you see there.

  4. I read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire a while back and started to fall in love with this part of the country then! We’re hopefully heading to Utah this fall, and I just can’t wait! We get to go to Sedona all the time and I’m just obsessed with all the red rock formations!

  5. Great photos! I don’t think I realized how large the arches and windows were at this park until I saw your photos and the perspective they give. Beautiful area of our country.

  6. Chris and Heather, these pics are amazing, of course. A big regret of ours is that we never got to Arches in the six years we lived in the Denver, Colorado, area. But there is so much to explore out West that you can never have enough time. This adventures is high on our to-do list though, and you have rekindled that desire. Thanks for sharing.
    Best — JR

  7. Cool! I really like Balancing Rock. very zen. I would love to see that in person! We’ve only been to Monument Valley. It’s hard to find time to see everything I wan to see!

  8. […] Arches National Park is home to many amazing yet peculiar looking geologic formations. Delicate Arch may be the most famous feature here but perhaps the most intriguing is Balanced Rock. It is essentially exactly how it sounds, a giant rock sitting on top of a tall spire, towering above the desert landscape. Standing at 128 feet tall, Balanced Rock is formed from the vibrant red sandstone rock that is present throughout this landscape in eastern Utah. […]

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