Arches National Park

Location – Utah

Park Tally – 5/59

Orientation – Located just 5-miles north of Moab, Arches National Park is relatively small, accessible and family-friendly. Arches is also conveniently located near Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park and loads of adventure rich BLM land – making the area a hub for outdoor enthusiasts.

Arches is easily explored by car and can be mostly seen in one day, though more time is recommended for a greater appreciation of the area. An 18-mile (one-way) paved road runs through the park, with a few short turnoffs along the way.

Most iconic view – Delicate Arch is undoubtedly the most iconic and well-known feature of Arches National Park. Located two-thirds of the way into the park, the arch can be viewed from two viewpoints – Upper View Point (0.5-mile walk from the parking lot) and Lower View Point (100 yards from the parking lot). Visitor can also hike 3-miles round-trip to the base of the arch for truly spectacular views.

Accessible Activities – There are numerous accessible activities in the park. The Lower Delicate Arch viewpoint (100 yards) and Balanced Rock (0.3-miles) are both easy trails that allow wheelchair and stroller access.

The Windows area of the park is incredibly picturesque and can be viewed via an easy 1-mile roundtrip hike. A gentle climb leads to the enormous North and South Windows, and Turret Arch. Whilst in the area it is worth checking out Double Arch, which is a short 0.5mile walk from the parking lot.

The Courthouse Towers are another scenic and accessible area of the park. Drive right up to the parking lot by the towers for views of the massive rising rocks. Take the Courthouse Wash Rock Art Panel trail (2-miles roundtrip) for views of interesting prehistoric rock art.

For the adventurous –  The Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop Trail is a perfect day hike for those looking to really get out and explore the park. The entire loop will take 8.1 miles if stopping at each point of interest. The loop takes hikers to 7 magnificent arches, including the famed Landscape Arch and Double O Arch. The Primitive Trail section traverses through desert landscapes and a labyrinth of rock gardens, fins and washes. Make sure to take along ample drinking water!

Another more challenging (but extremely rewarding!) hike is the trail to the base of Delicate Arch. The 3-mile roundtrip hike is steep and includes some exposure to heights. The reward at the end of the hike is an amazing view of Delicate Arch and the La Sal Mountains.

Best photo opportunities – Delicate Arch is best photographed at sunrise, sunset or during the night for astrophotography. Arches National Park is one of the darkest places in the world, so on a clear night photographers are treated to a magical showing of stars (and the Milky Way depending on the time of year).

The Windows area is another great location for sunrise photography. Capturing Turret Arch through the North Window is a popular composition for landscape photographers.

Quick facts

  • Arches was established as a National Park on November 12, 1971.
  • In 2016 the park had 1,585,718 visitors, an increase of 502,852 visitors since 2013.
  • Arches is relatively small for a national park, at only 76,359 acres.
  • Not surprisingly, there are more than 2000 natural sandstone arches located in Arches National Park, hence the inspiration for the parks name.
  • The Wall Arch collapsed in 2008 and was a popular arch located along Devil’s Garden Trail.
  • Delicate Arch can be seen on Utah’s license plates.
  • The park has been featured in scenes of Hollywood movies such asIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).