THINGS TO DO IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

Arches National Park features the highest concentration of natural arches in the world – over 2000 of them! But it is not the number that will take your breath away, the outstanding out-of-this-world landscape will. You find there not only the arches but also balanced rocks, spires, pinnacles, and rock domes, all bursting with shades of red against Utah’s blue sky. These fascinating formations look so vivid it is hard to imagine there are made of sandstone deposited 65 million years ago! If all of this sounds intriguing to you, here are things to do in Arches National Park. 

Delicate Arch at Arches National Park is the main attraction of the park.
Delicate Arch at Arches National Park is the park’s main attraction.

Without a doubt, among many reasons to visit America, the country’s natural beauty is the leading one. American nature is still calling my name even though I lived here for many years and discovered many of its spectacular wonders.

So much to see and do here, but in my opinion, Utah is the best state of nature lovers. It is home to iconic “Mighty 5”– Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks. I can’t think of any other area in the USA, where the fascinating out-of-this-world splendor can be found in such concentration.

Arches National Park Location

Arches National Park is located in Moab, Utah, and is accessible by air or car from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Grand Junction, CO. The park’s closeness to Moab makes visiting it really easy. All modern facilities, including a wide variety of lodging, are available within few miles.

The park is open all year, 24 hours a day. The visitor center is located just inside the park, near the main entrance, off US-191 – about five miles north of Moab. The visitor center is closed on December 25.

Map of Arches National Park

The Windows Section of Arches National Park contains a large concentration of arches and is one of the most scenic locations in the park
The Windows Section of Arches National Park contains a large concentration of arches and is one of the most scenic locations in the park

THINGS TO DO IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

See Arches National Park from the road

Take Arches Scenic Drive

Just like the vast majority of the USA national parks, Arches can easily be seen from the road. The scenic drive in the park passes many outstanding natural features. Take the Arches Scenic Drive at least as far as the Window Section. 

Numerous pulls-off allow leisurely viewing of the park’s major features. Parking is limited at all destinations, and popular trailheads like Delicate Arch and Devils Garden may fill for hours at a time, especially on weekends and holidays. Start your drive early to avoid the crowds and the heat!

5 Stops on Arches National Park’s Scenic Drive

Balanced Rock, one of the most iconic features in Arches National Park, stands a staggering 128 feet tall.
Balanced Rock, one of the most iconic features in Arches National Park, stands a staggering 128 feet tall.

Drive Unpaved Roads

Before you decide to take a dirt road in Arches National Park, check at the visitor center for current road conditions. Salt Valley Road travels from the main park road to Klondike Bluffs and the Tower Arch trailhead. This road is two-wheel-drive in normal conditions. 

Other roads require vehicles with high clearance, low-range four-wheel drive, and technical driving skills.

Off-highway vehicle use (ATVs, UTVs, etc.) is prohibited in the park, but you will find plenty of opportunities outside the park

Hiking in Arches National Park

To truly get a feel of the park, you need to take at least a few short hikes, but do not worry, many trails are easy to moderate. Most of them lead to attraction just a short walk from the road, but some require more effort and can be ranked difficult due to heat and exposure to the sun.

Juniper trees add another dimension to the scenery of Arches National Park.
Juniper trees add another accent to the scenery of Arches National Park.

Delicate Arch Trail in Arches National Park

Among longer hiking trails in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch Trail is the most popular. It is 3 miles roundtrip and climbs 480 feet. This path offers no shade, so plan accordingly. The first half mile is a well-defined trail, then it follows the rock cairns.

Next, it climbs steadily until it levels out toward the top of this rock face. Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail traverses a narrow rock ledge for about 200 yards.

Another factor to take into consideration when planning this hike is its popularity. The best time of the day to avoid crowds, and heat, is early in the day. But when it comes to views and photography, you can’t beat the sunset. Unfortunately, your experience at that time will be shared with many others, including a few dozens of photographers with their tripods.

For the best experience, follow these tips for visiting Delicate Arch Trail in Arches National Park.

One of the Mighty 5 of Utah, Arches National Park invites you for an amazing adventure among arches, balanced rocks, spires, and pinnacles.

Negro Bill Canyon Trail (outside of the park boundaries)

If you are visiting during the summer, but want to remain active even in the heat of the day, hike Negro Bill Canyon Trail, just outside of Arches National Park. This trail is flat, has water to play in, and it offers lots of shade.

It is an excellent trail for families with children. Negro Bill is a pleasant 5-mile round trip hike 4 miles from Moab, Utah. It ends at Morning Glory Arch, spanning 243 feet – the sixth-longest natural rock span in the United States.

Be aware of the sun and heat!

The major problem when hiking in Arches is the heat and lack of shade. During the summer, expect high temperatures, intense sunlight, and low humidity. Drink at least one gallon of water each day. Carry and drink water during all activities.

Make sure to start hiking very early or late during the day to prevent exhaustion. To avoid sunburns, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.

Wear proper footwear

Sometimes, it is hard to believe what kind of footwear people are putting on for hiking. Do not be one of them! The rocks are slippery, so many visitors get injured due to improper footwear.

Park Avenue in Arches National Park shows off its natural skyscrapers.
Park Avenue in Arches National Park shows off its natural skyscrapers.

Backpacking at Arches National Park

Compared to other national parks, Arches has a lot less area to explore, more regulations to follow, and no reliable sources of water. Still, the park provides an experience that adventurous backpackers look for: the chance to trek into a desert landscape and feel like you’re the first one to set foot there.

Because there are no designated trails, venturing into the park’s backcountry requires excellent navigation skills. You must have a permit for all overnight stays in the backcountry. You can obtain permits in person at Arches Visitor Center up to seven days before the trip start date and up to one hour before closing time.

Before you start planning your own adventure, read How to Plan a Backpacking Trip in Arches National Park.

Biking in Arches National Park

Inside the park

You can ride your bike on all paved and unpaved roads in the park. You may not ride your bike on trails or anywhere off the road.

Outside the park

Moab, Utah, just outside the park, is considered the home of the greatest mountain biking in the world. It offers a wide variety of trails for any experience level, from beginners looking for a scenic ride through beautiful canyons and mesa tops, to seasoned bikers looking for the ultimate challenge.

It is well known for the world-famous and highly technical Slickrock Bike Trail. See Moab Are Biking Trails to pick your own adventure. The Moab Area Travel Council website has additional information about mountain biking or road biking outside the park.

Orange is a predominant color of Arches Natural Park.
Red is a predominant color in Arches Natural Park.

Horseback riding in Arches National Park

Horses are permitted in Arches, though there are restrictions on their use and where they can go. Please read the park’s regulations before you arrive in the park.

Rock climbing in Arches National Park

The rock at Arches offers excellent climbing opportunities, despite its sandy nature. Most climbing routes in the park require advanced techniques. Climbers are encouraged to register by obtaining a free permit. Registration is free, it increases climbers’ safety, and helps the park maintain desired conditions in the backcountry zone.

Climbers have two options to obtain permits:

The Window Section at Arches National Park.
The Window Section at Arches National Park.

Canyoneering

While Arches has no real “slot canyons,” many of its sandstone walls are cross-hatched with narrow passages appropriate for this type of exploration. Canyoneers must complete a free self-registration permit.

There are two ways to obtain permits:

River rafting

When visiting Arches National Park in summer months, rafting on the Colorado River is a must. You can choose from day trips or multi-day trips with meals and campfire storytelling. Experience the Best Guided Moab Rafting Trips in Moab, Utah.

Commercial tours

You will find plenty of thrilling jeep and 4WD tours from Moab to Arches and other areas around the park.

Heat and lack of shade make hiking Delicate Arch challenging.
Heat and lack of shade make hiking to Delicate Arch challenging.

Camping in Arches National Park

Devils Garden Campground – inside Arches

Devils Garden Campground is the only campground at Arches National Park at an elevation of approximately 5200 ft. It is situated among natural sandstone arches and fins and is only 18 miles north of the park’s entrance and 23 miles from Moab, Utah.

The campground is forested with mixed stands of Utah juniper and pinyon pine. Flowering prickly pear cacti, yucca, and other desert wildflowers dot the landscape, offering vivid color to the surrounding red rock desert.

Flush toilets and drinking water are provided, and campsites contain picnic tables and fire rings. The park does not have dump stations, electric, water, or sewer hook-ups for RVs. There are also no showers. Bring your own wood or charcoal for the grills. Some sites will accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length.
 
Three Gossips at Arches National Park do not care that everyone is watching!
Three Gossips at Arches National Park do not care that everyone is watching!

The campground offers 51 reservable sites. You can reserve campsites for nights between March 1 and October 31. During this busy season, the campground is usually full every night. Between November and February, campsites are first-come, first-served.

The earliest you can make reservations for standard sites is 10 am eastern time, six months in advance. Reservations are not accepted by the park, and the park does not maintain information about site availability. Make your reservation at Devils Garden Campground. 

Camping outside of Arches National Park

You will find a lot of great camping options around Arches, including commercial camping and cabins, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campgrounds on the public lands surrounding Moab, and State Park & Forest Campgrounds. They have one thing in common, the incredible scenery!

Discover stunning other natural attractions around Moab, Utah

It is hard to imagine a better place for an outdoor adventure than Moab, Utah. Located between red rock marvels of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Deadhorse Point State Park, it also offers easy access to the breathtaking La Sal Mountains where you can catch a break from the heat of the desert. Adventure awaits anywhere you go!

Dead Horse State Park looks like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon.
Dead Horse State Park looks like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon.

Hotels near Arches National Park

There is no hotel accommodation in Arches National Park, but you will find plenty of choices in Moab, practically at the foot of the park. If you are looking for Western charm combined with modern conveniences, Moab Springs Ranch will meet your needs. It offers well-appointed and inviting free-standing bungalows with patios and, of course, the views.

Another highly rated hotel in the area is Hyatt Place Moab. Located 12.4 miles from Mesa Arch, it provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a hot tub, and a terrace with beautiful views.

For an ultimate cowboy charm and spectacular scenery, try Red Cliffs Lodge. This Moab resort is on Scenic byway 128 along the Colorado River and 15 miles from Arches National ParkRed Cliffs Lodge boasts a horse corral, a Western film museum, and Castle Creek Winery. Private patios with a creek or river views are featured in every suite.

See more hotels in Moab, Utah.

La Sal Mountains deliver a refreshing break from the heat of the desert.
The La Sal Mountains deliver a refreshing break from the heat of the desert.

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