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The 6 Best Hikes in Arches National Park: Complete Guide

Arches National Park was the first stop on our Utah National Parks Road Trip, and it didn’t disappoint. We were in the Moab area for five days (psst – here is exactly how to spend 4 days in Moab) and spent three of them camped in Arches.

We spent sunrises out exploring the various arches around the park, watching the golden-red hues brought out by the sun coming over the horizon before heading out on an early morning hike, relaxing at camp in the middle of the day, and heading back out for sunset. 

Below, you’ll find our picks for the best hikes in Arches National Park from our personal experience hiking in the park. We did almost every hike on the list, with the exception of one (Park Avenue) which we ran out of time for. 

There are options for all experience and fitness levels, so you’ll be able to find a perfect hike to add to your itinerary. We were big fans of Arches, and think you will be too. 

Important update for 2022: Arches has implemented a timed entry reservation system to manage crowds at peak times. Below the guide to Arches National Parks hiking, you’ll find a mini guide to getting reservations for your trip.

PS: Planning a trip to Arches? Don’t miss our guide to how to spend one perfect day in Arches National Park, which has all the information you need to plan an amazing trip.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

Tips for Hiking in Arches National Park

There are a few things that are good to know before you visit Arches National Park. If you have another question that you don’t see the answer to below, you might find it over in our Moab itinerary, which covers Arches. 

If not, shoot us a note – we’re always happy to help!

Here are some quick tips for visiting Arches, specifically to go hiking. 

Entrance Fees

To enter the park, you’ll need to either pay the $35 entrance fee, which covers entry for your vehicle and the people in it for 7 days, or show a valid America the Beautiful Pass (that’s the US National Parks Pass). 

Should you buy the America the Beautiful Pass? If you will be visiting three or more national parks in the next 12 months, the pass will save you money. It costs $80 for a year, and it’s good for 12 months from the date you purchase it. If you’re visiting Arches National Park as a part of a broader Utah National Parks road trip, it probably makes sense to buy it. You can get it from REI.

Stay Hydrated, My Friends!

Because of the heat, make sure to drink plenty of water. We love our super lightweight and packable Platypus water bottles, which have quite literally been around the world with us, including on our Utah adventure. We each carry two of those bottles, and on longer hikes, I usually also carry their 70 oz water bottle as well.

The Sun is Intense

Even if you’re not visiting Arches National Park in the heat of the summer, the sun is still going to be intense. Sunscreen and a good sun hat will go a long way to preventing heat exhaustion and gnarly sunburns. We swear by Sun Bum, because we like to smell like we just bathed in coconut milk. Here’s the body sunscreen we like, and here is the face sunscreen

A Comfortable Daypack is Essential (Around 20L)

Speaking of daypacks…bring one! You’ll need a sturdy daypack to carry water, snacks, and layers, particularly if you’re doing one of the longer hikes below. 20L should be plenty, and we love Osprey Packs.

Alysha has the Tempest 20 and would buy it again and again, and the men’s equivalent would be the Talon 22 (which I don’t have personally, but would wholeheartedly recommend based on Alysha’s experience and my other experiences with Osprey). 

Sturdy Footwear is a Must

You’ll be hiking primarily on some combination of loose dirt, gravel, and occasionally along slick rock faces, so you’ll want footwear with good traction. We’re partial to Adidas Terrex Hiking Shoes (Alysha has almost exclusively hiked in them for the past seven years), Keen Hiking Boots (the Keen Targhees are my go-to hiking boot), and Alysha recently got a pair of the Columbia Newton Ridge hiking boots, which are a great combination of style, affordability, and quality. 

The Best Hikes in Arches National Park: A Complete Arches Hiking Guide

Exploring the many hiking trails in Arches is one of the best things to do in Moab, and brings millions of visitors to the area each year.

There are a bunch of Arches National Park hikes, and most are relatively short and easy. If you have the time, we highly recommend you do both of the two hikes at the top of the list below – Devils Garden and Delicate Arch

The one thing to keep in mind is that it can take a long time to get from the entrance to the park all the way to some of the trailheads near the end of the road – specifically the Devils Garden trailhead. Lucky for you, there’s plenty of parking, though it still fills up around the middle of the day. 

The Delicate Arch Trail

  • Length: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead Location

This is probably the most popular hike in the park, and for good reason. The payoff – amazing Delicate Arch – is worth the short climb to get there. It’s so beautiful that it made it onto the Utah license plate.

There is plenty of parking at the trailhead, though it still manages to get full at sunset between May and October. Sunset is the best time to be here in terms of light, but sunrise brings far fewer crowds and more solitude. For most of the year, the sun rises behind the arch, which means it’s backlit and photos won’t be great in the morning. 

All that being said, if we had to do it again, we’d do it at sunrise to have it to ourselves. 

From the parking lot, you’ll start a pretty gradual ascent up a well-maintained trail. About half way through, you will encounter a rock face that isn’t particularly steep, but can be slippery after rain. There’s no marked trail here, so follow the cairns (which I guess is a marked trail?). Continue along the sometimes narrow trail until you emerge onto the bowl with Delicate Arch at the far end. 

The descent takes you back the way you came – be careful along the slick rocks on the downhill. 

The Devils Garden Loop (Primitive Trail)

  • Length: 7.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet
  • Trail Type: Lollipop
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Trailhead Location

This was, without a doubt, our favorite Arches National park hike.

Along the way, you’ll probably lose track of how many different arches you come across (there are eight, if you include Black Arch off in the distance). 

On the back end of the loop, which you should do clockwise, you’ll follow the primitive trail, which we thought was a lot of fun. It involves some scrambling, some walks across sheer rock faces, and some hiking through narrow canyons. Overall, we’d recommend doing this trial as a loop, but if what you just read makes you nervous, you can always do it as an out-and-back trail, which follows the more developed trail.

The hike starts at the end of the road in Arches National Park, right across from Devils Garden Campground. If you’re camping there (we did, and it was great), then you’ll be able to walk to the start of this hike. 

You’ll start with a gentle climb – do the quick side trail to see Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch – that takes you to Landscape Arch just under a mile in.

Then, you’ll climb steeply up through a canyon and arrive at the junction for turnoffs to Navajo Arch and Partition Arch, which you should definitely do. After the two quick detours, continue along the main trail to Double O Arch, which is where you’ll transition onto the well-marked primitive trail for the journey back to the trailhead. 

We don’t recommend doing the extension out to Dark Angel – we weren’t particularly impressed with it. 

This hike is long, and very exposed. Bring plenty of food and water, and apply sunscreen multiple times to avoid heat exhaustion. 

The next hike is a variation of this hike that goes out to Landscape Arch and back, which is an easy one. 

Landscape Arch

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location

This hike is an easy out-and-back that takes you along the Devils Garden Trail out to Landscape Arch, a long and skinny arch that is an impressive sight and makes you wonder how on earth it stays together without falling. It’s a relatively easy hike that is accessible for most hikers, including families with kids. 

On the way back, do the quick side trip to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, which are just off the main trail to the left (if you’re heading back to the parking lot). 

Broken Arch & Sand Dune Arch

  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location

This hike leaves from the Sand Dune Arch trailhead, and takes you first through a shady canyon to Sand Dune Arch, then along a more exposed trail out to Broken Arch. It took us a bit to figure out why Broken Arch got its name – it’s because there’s a crack running down the middle of the arch, which doesn’t make walking under it feel SUPER safe. 

You can also do this by leaving from the Devils Garden Campground, and doing a loop that heads out to Broken Arch with an offshoot out to Sand Dune Arch before returning to the campground. That’s a 2.5 mile hike. 

The Windows + Double Arch 

  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet
  • Trail Type: Two Loops
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location

The Windows and the Double Arch Trail are both accessed from the same parking lot, so it makes sense to do them at the same time. We did them at sunrise, and it was gorgeous. Whatever time of day you choose, there are going to be a ton of people. It’s one of the most popular parts of the park thanks to its accessibility, so be prepared to brave the crowds. 

The hike itself is more of a short stroll along a well-worn path that takes you to a few of our favorite arches in the entire park. From the parking lot, head up to the North and South Windows, which give you an up close and personal view of the rock formations that the park gets its name from.

There’s a great view from the other side of the North Window, where you can see the window in the foreground, and Turret Arch framed nicely within the arch in the background. After the Windows, circle around to Turret Arch, which is a few hundred feet away. 

After you’re finished on that side of the parking lot, head across the way to Double Arch, which is just a quarter of a mile away on a wide gravel trail. 

The Park Avenue Trail

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet
  • Trail Type: Out-and-Back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead Location

This is the hike in Arches National Park that we didn’t do – we just ran out of time more than anything else. This hike starts from the Park Avenue Trailhead, which is the closest trailhead to the entrance of the park, and takes you about 300 feet down into a picturesque canyon.

The payoff, aside from the views from within the canyon along the way, is a view of the Courthouse Towers from a different perspective than the one we got from the road. You’ll descend into the canyon on the way out, then climb back up on the way out. 

Arches National Park: Navigating the New Timed Entry System

Starting in 2022, Arches National Park has started testing a new timed entry system that is similar to the systems implemented in places like Rocky Mountain National Park and Glacier National Park to deal with huge increases in the number of visitors. 

According to the National Park Service, visitation of Arches has grown more than 65% over the past decade, from just under a million visitors per year to well over 1.6 million.  

As a result, when we were in Arches National Park in the offseason, the park entrance was closed due to congestion from about 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. We couldn’t even get in with our camping reservation!

In 2022, if you are planning to visit between April 3 and October 3, 2022, you will need to have a timed entry permit (one per vehicle) to enter the park between 6:00 am and 5:00 pm. 

The intention here is to reduce congestion during the most crowded parts of the day. You do not need a reservation to enter the park outside those hours (read below to understand one of the major impacts of this change). 

There is an exception for people who have a camping reservation at Devils Garden Campground, the best – and only – campground in the park, or a backcountry permit. Both come with entry to the park. An exception also exists for people with a Fiery Furnace reservation. 

How to Make a Timed Entry Reservation for Arches National Park

We’re going to do our best to help you understand exactly what you need to do to get your timed entry reservations in this section, but know that things change and, honestly, it’s a little confusing. We’d recommend heading over to the NPS website to read through it yourself (they also have a handy video). 

And, please, if you see something that we have wrong (we’re not perfect), please let us know in the comments so that we can fix it!

To make a timed entry reservation, head over to Recreation.gov

Reservations are made available on a three month rolling basis, and the tickets for a given month are released in one block three months in advance. 

That’s confusing, we know. The blocks started January 3, 2022, when tickets were released for the months of March and April. On February 1, 2022, the tickets for May will be released. On March 1, 2022, the tickets for June will be released. And so on.

Tickets will be made available on the 1st of the month at 8:00 am MST for three months in advance.

There is a reservation fee of $2 per ticket. Which is a little bit of a bummer. That cost DOES NOT include your entry to the park. 

If you’re planning on hitting at least three national parks over the course of the next year, we’d recommend investing in an America the Beautiful Pass, which gets you entry to all federal recreation land in the country, including national forests, national parks, and national monuments. 

It pays off if you visit three or more national parks, and you’ve got Arches and Canyonlands National Parks right here in Moab, so there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to do just that. 

Get your pass in advance at REI, or buy it on arrival at the entrance to Arches. 

What to Do if You Don’t Get a Timed Entry Reservation

You basically have two options if you don’t snag a timed entry reservation in advance, not including “don’t go to Arches.” 

First, a limited number of tickets are released at 6:00 pm MST one day in advance. For example, if you want to visit Arches National Park on Wednesday, you can log onto Recreation.gov at exactly 6:00 pm MST on Tuesday night to try to reserve your entry. 

Second, you can enter the park before 6:00 am or after 5:00 pm, which is not exactly ideal. 

The Unintended Consequence of the Timed Entry Reservations

In our experience in Glacier National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park over the past few years, the timed entry reservation system has a major flaw that nobody has quite been able to solve. 

As far as we know and have heard, you can freely enter the park between the hours of 5:00 pm and 6:00 am. Obviously the NPS doesn’t have the ability to staff the entrances 24 hours a day. 

So guess what everybody who doesn’t have a reservation does? They arrive before 6:00 am, which means parking lots will be full at ridiculous hours. Seriously, in Rocky Mountain National Park, parking lots at popular trailheads were full by 6:00 am. It was insane. The same was true of Glacier in the summer of 2021. 

Don’t be surprised if that becomes the norm in Arches during the timed entry reservation period (April to October). It’s a good reason to get a super early start for both the best light and a chance to actually get a parking spot. 

When to Visit Arches National Park

Like many of the national parks in Utah and Arizona, the weather in Arches National Park is extremely hot in the summer – like, too hot to be outside – and a little less blazing hot in the spring and fall. We were there in October as part of a Utah Mighty 5 road trip and it was in the 80’s during the day, and 50’s – 60’s at night, which is very pleasant weather, we think. 

In the summer, it’s blazing hot. Expect temperatures to rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the heat of the day, which makes it nearly impossible to be outside for very long without overheating. If you have to go in the summer, make sure to drink a lot of water – bring a gallon a day with you – and give yourself plenty of breaks from the sun. Most of the hikes in Arches are very exposed with not a whole lot of shade, so be prepared for lots of sun. Heat exhaustion is a real danger in the summer, so take it seriously. Try to do things early in the day and later in the afternoon, when it’s at least a little bit more bearable. 

In the spring and fall, which are also good times to be there. You’ll find more comfortable temperatures during the day – 70’s and 80’s – which can drop into the 40’s at night. We were there in October, and it was a super pleasant time to be there. It’s crowded in the spring and fall for exactly that reason. 

Winter is the time to be there if you want to have the park all to yourself. For the most part, anyway. However, it will be cold, with temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s during the day, and below freezing at night. Might not be a good time to camp in the park. Instead, stay in Moab, which is 15 minutes away from the park entrance.  .


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