Arches National Park

When I was younger, I never had any desire to go to Utah. I knew nothing about the state and just imagined a state that revolved around winter activities like skiing which just isn’t my thing. One of the great things about running a half marathon in all 50 states is it really has taught me a lot about each and every state in the US. I quickly learned that Utah was way more than ski resorts and winter activities. The state is huge and while there are mountainous areas that receive plenty of snow it also has other areas that feature red rock formations, plenty of hiking and gorgeous national parks that are absolutely stunning to visit.

Arches National Park is one of the “Mighty 5” National Parks located in Utah and is definitely a must visit. Arches National Park is located in the Southeastern part of the state in Moab Utah. The closest major airport is Salt Lake City International Airport which is about a 4-hour drive away. Other major airports to consider are Denver International Airport, about a 6-hour drive and Las Vegas International Airport, about a 7-hour drive. You might be thinking, is it worth the long drive from the airport and as someone who hates driving, I can honestly tell you, yes, it’s most definitely worth it.

Formation of Arches National Park

You might wonder just why there are so many arches located in one area. Well it started over 300 million years ago when sea water flowed into the area and then evaporated. As it evaporated, it left behind a salt bed which over the years became covered in debris including sandstone. Over time the weight of this debris above the salt bed, caused the salt bed to lift up and create ridges and domes. Over time, weather and erosion eventually caused these ridges and domes to collapse into fins and eventually arches. Just like they became arches over time, these same arches will end up collapsing over time as well. So, now is the time to see them just in case they were to collapse in our lifetime.

The 76,680 acres that later became Arches National Park were, back in the beginning of the 20th century, only known to the locals who would spend time exploring the area. Eventually the news spread though. Loren “Bish” Taylor spoke about his journeys in this rock wonderland in the Moab newspaper. Then in 1923, prospector Alexander Ringhoffer led hikes in the area for executives of Rio Grande Western Railroad to help and bring attention to the area and more business to the railway.

All of this attention to the are worked. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover established Arches National Monument, which at the time only included less than 5,000 acres. Over the years, the acreage included expanded and in 1971, the area which now features over 2,000 arches officially became Arches National Park.

Arches National Park – Need to Know

Before I talk about my experience in Arches National Park, there are a few things that you should know before planning your trip to the park:

  • Timed-Entry Ticket – When I visited Arches National Park in 2019, timed entry tickets were not required, but like a lot of places, since covid, they now require a timed-entry ticket from April 1st thru October 31st when entering the park between 7am and 4pm. For more information and to reserve your timed-entry ticket, visit the Arches National Park website.
  • Entrance Fees and Passes – On top of making a timed-entry reservation, you will also need to pay the entrance fee which is $30 and allows entry for 7 days. Another option is the Southeast Utah Parks Pass which is a great deal if you also plan to visit Canyonlands National Park which is just under 30 miles from Arches National Park. This pass is only $55 so it will definitely save you some money if you are visiting both parks. If you plan on visiting multiple National Parks during the year, the America the Beautiful Annual Pass is a great deal at $80 for the year.
  • Beat the Heat and the Crowds – As mentioned above, the timed-entry tickets are required between 7am and 4pm. That is because these are the busiest times in the park. They also happen to be the warmest times in the park, especially in the summer when temperatures can rise to over 100 degrees. With not much shade in the park, it is best to avoid the heat of the day. Visiting early in the morning and late afternoon/evening are the best times as far as I’m concerned. I ended up heading back to the hotel late morning to shower, have lunch and relax by the hotel pool for the afternoon before heading back to the park in the evening.
  • Stay Hydrated and Fueled- With the warm temperatures, it’s important to not only stay hydrated but to also eat the best foods to avoid heat stroke. Make sure to bring plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Electrolyte drinks like Gatorade are also helpful as are salty foods like nuts or pretzels since salt will help you retain water and thus avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Things to do in Arches National Park

There is so much to do in Arches National Park, no matter your activity level, from scenic drives to hiking, everyone can experience the beauty of this national park.

  • Scenic Drive thru the park – A drive along the 36-mile roundtrip road in Arches National Park is a great way to see the park if you are short on time or maybe just want to avoid spending a lot of time out in the heat.
  • Photography – While on the scenic drive, there are many spots to stop and photograph the arches and the unique scenery in Arches National Park.
  • Hiking – From short 10-minute hikes to multiple hours long hikes, there is a hike for every ability in Arches National Park and the best thing, unlike other National Parks such as Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, no need for bear spray here. But remember there are no trees to provide shade, so make sure to bring plenty of water.
  • Camping – From March thru October each year, you can camp in the Devils Garden Campground right inside of Arches National Park.
  • Sunrise and Sunset Viewing – Arches National Park is a great spot to view the sunrise or sunset. Delicate Arch in particular is a very popular spot for sunset.
  • Stargazing – Being so far away from a major city has its advantages, Arches National Park is a great to enjoy the night sky and the park is open 24 hours a day.
  • Ranger-led Programs – From guided walks and hikes to star gazing events, there are many free ranger-led programs that are available. Stop by the visitor center on your way in for a current schedule.

Areas of Arches National Park

Now that you know of all the activities you can partake in at Arches National Park, lets talk a bit about the different areas of the park.

  • Park Avenue – This is one of the first areas that you will come to when driving into the park. Park Avenue features towering red rock walls and here you will find a viewpoint as well as a short mile hike into the canyon.
  • Balanced Rock – You may have seen photos of this rock formation before. Balanced Rock features a 3,600-ton boulder that is balancing 128 feet high on an eroding pedestal shaped rock. Over time the rocks will erode even further, and eventually balanced rock will more than likely end up falling. The rock can be seen from the road, but there is a small parking lot for a closer look and walk around the base of it. Balanced Rock is also a great spot to view the sunset and for some stargazing.
  • The Windows Section – This was one of my favorite areas to visit in Arches National Park. I loved it so much that I went around sunset (highly recommend this time of day if you are looking for a less crowded time) the first night I was there and then returned on my way out of the park mid-day the following day. It’s a very popular area and has quite a few different arches to see with not much hiking involved. The two main arches here gave the area it’s name – North and South Windows Arch.

The great thing about the Windows Arches is that you can hike right up into the opening of the arch. From here you can get a great view and can even hike down to the back of the arch, which I highly recommend, especially if you would like to escape the crowds a bit.

Also located in the Windows Section is Turret Arch. While you can hike up to this beautiful arch, I really enjoyed the view of Turret Arch from North Window Arch.

Double Arch is made up to two arches which share the same foundation. It’s definitely a very impressive arch to see, it really blows me away imagining how something like this is formed naturally.

  • Delicate Arch – One of the most well known and most recognizable arches in Arches National Park is Delicate Arch. It’s such an iconic symbol that it is even featured on the Utah state license plate. It’s the largest free-standing arch in the park at 46 feet high and 32 feet wide. The best way to see Delicate Arch is to hike the 3 mile roundtrip trail. This trail has an elevation of 480 feet and can be a bit strenuous in the heat of the day. If you are not up for the hike there are two viewpoints for the Arch. Both the Lower and Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoints offer great views from afar, with the Upper viewpoint offering a less obstructed view. I unfortunately decided against hiking up to Delicate Arch as I had run a half marathon the day prior (as well as a half marathon the week prior at home in Boston), so I was quite sore and didn’t think my legs (specifically my calf which I had pulled a muscle in) could handle the hike. While the viewpoints were nice, I really think doing the hike and seeing the arch up close is probably the way to go if you are able to. I guess I’m just going to have to plan another trip back to Arches National Park specifically to do this hike.
  • Devil’s Garden – This area features multiple arches and a lot of hiking opportunities from easy to difficult trails. The most visited arch in Devil’s Garden is also the longest arch in North America, Landscape Arch. When you look at Landscape Arch, you will see just how delicate it is, in fact in the 90s, parts of the arch came crashing down.

The 7.9-mile roundtrip Devil’s Garden Trail will take you to Landscape Arch and many other arches along the way and beyond. The 1.9-mile roundtrip hike to Landscape Arch is the easiest part of the Devil’s Garden Trail and I highly recommend it. Not only is it fairly easy, but the views along this trail were just stunning!

The photo above was the view ahead of me but when I turned around and saw the view behind me, I was floored at how beautiful it was with the red rocks and the snow-capped mountains behind. I don’t know what I did on my phone’s camera settings, but I have not edited the below photo. The view was so amazing, it practically looks more like a painting than a photo.

Along the trail to Landscape Arch, you will pass both Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch along the way. I did not get a photo of Tunnel Arch, but below is a photo of Pine Tree Arch, I love the view thru the arch. Looking at the people in the photo, you can get an idea of just how massive these arches are.

If you are up for a difficult hike, continue on the trail past Landscape Arch towards Double O Arch. I attempted to continue on for a bit but decided it was a bit too much for me. Not only was I sore from the race the prior day as mentioned above, but there was quite a bit of rock scrambling that required you to be on your hands and knees. As I was traveling alone, I didn’t feel comfortable doing such a technical hike without someone with me. From what I’ve been told, the views are stunning and definitely makes the difficult hike worth the while.

  • Other Arches in the Park – While driving thru the park there are many other arches to hike to or just see from viewpoints along the park road. One of my favorites was Sand Dune Arch. Take the very short and easy trail that is just under a half mile roundtrip to find this somewhat hidden arch. The sand in the area had me feeling like I was in a completely different park.

The trail after Sand Dune Arch continues on for another couple of miles roundtrip to Broken Arch. If you are not up to continue hiking, there is also a viewpoint to see Broken Arch from the road. When you see it from the road with the field in between, it’s hard to believe all that sand near Sand Dune Arch is so close by.

Another great arch to see is Skyline Arch. This is located near Devil’s Garden and is just a short half mile roundtrip trail.

Were you like me and didn’t realize just how beautiful Arches National Park is? I bet you are adding this to your bucket list now. Beyond The Miles Travel is ready to help you plan this bucket list trip to explore Arches National Park in Utah.

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12 thoughts on “Arches National Park

  1. Utah keeps calling my name! And I think Arches could become my new favorite national park after reading your guide and seeing all your lovely photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww, we really need to take the road trip up to Utah and visit the parks there! But maybe not in the summer heat. This is a really great guide. It answers all my questions and I will definitely save it for future travel planning. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

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