Fun things to do in Arches National Park

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    by blueskyjohn
  • Things to Do
    by blueskyjohn
  • Things to Do
    by blueskyjohn

Most Viewed Things to Do in Arches National Park

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    The Windows Area

    by blueskyjohn Updated May 3, 2013

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    The Windows area is just past the Balanced Rock parking area. There are four major arches is the area, North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch and Double Arch. The trails are very easy to walk with no major hills or obsticles. All four arches are within one square mile and there is a parking area within a quarter mile of each arch.

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    Delicate Arch

    by blueskyjohn Updated May 3, 2013

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    Delicate Arch is one of the most popular hikes in the park. This is the arch that is on the Utah license plates. The hike is only 3 mile round trip but it is exposed to sunlight for the entire hike and is all up hill to the arch. I recommend this hike for the morning or evening to avoid the sun. It is very enjoyable walking on the slick rock, a nice change from the rocky trails of the northeast USA.

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    Double Arch

    by blueskyjohn Updated May 3, 2013

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    The Windows area is just past the Balanced Rock parking area. There are four major arches is the area, North and South Window Arches, Turret Arch and Double Arch. The trails are very easy to walk with no major hills or obsticles. All four arches are within one square mile and there is a parking area within a quarter mile of each arch.

    This is a slightly more famous arch because it appears in the third Indian Jones movie. At the beginning of the movie a young Indian Jones catches some robbing a cross in a cave. When he steals it back and comes out of the cave, Double Arch is in the background. When looking at the arch, turn right and you will see a large alcove that looks like it could be a cave, it is not. This is where Indy jumps out of the cave. The magic of movies!

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    Primitive Trail

    by blueskyjohn Updated May 3, 2013

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    This is a great hike but I cannot recommend this for inexperienced hikers. The trail starts from the Devil's Garden trail head. Just before you reach Landscape arch, there is a sandy trail that leads to the right. The trail is marked with a wood sign at the beginning. follow the sandy trail for several miles until you reach a dry wash. the direction of the trail is marked with a wood sign. While in the wash you will come to a large pot hole usually filled with water and several logs in it. Try not to use the logs to cross the water because they are unstable. Get a running start and run along the left side, circling to the right. Don't stop running! This should get you up. You can also skirt the right side very high if you have good hiking boots and you are comfortable using friction to scale steep slick rock.

    There is another tricky area as you start to cross the fin's about 2/3 of the way along the trail. It is steep slick rock that you ascend diagonally. This tends to be very slippery because of dry sand that is deposited by other hikers. I had one student slip here and slide to the bottom.
    At the end of the primitive trail you come up to Double O arch. This is a good place to stop for lunch. The trail now heads back towards the trail head, passing several more arches. Make sure you take the side trip to Navajo Arch, it is well worth it.

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    Strenuous hikes: Double O Arch

    by goodfish Updated Oct 22, 2012

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    This nearly 4.2-mile RT trail takes you beyond the easy .8 mile stretch to Landscape Arch (see previous tip) to a more challenging 1.3 miles involving some climbing, scrambling, ledges and crossing the top of a narrow fin. I'm not sure I'd label it "strenuous" but I'm sure the park people have their reasons. This is a great way to quickly lose the majority of the masses who call it quits at Landscape, and take in a few more really excellent arches.

    This uses the same trail as Landscape: Devils' Garden Trail. When you reach Landscape, just keep going; do not take the right-hand fork to the (signed) primitive trail. Watch for the cairns that mark the way. About 1/2 mile along you'll run into a lefthand spur to Navajo and Partition Arches - both of them very nice and well worth the additional mile (each arch's section of spur is 1/2 mile RT) if you're up to it. Partition Arch, especially, offers a terrific panorama to the east: highly recommended. Otherwise just keep going, up and down, until you ascend a narrow fin and traverse the length of the top (this is VERY cool) to Black Arch Overlook, and on to Double O Arch.

    From here, you have a couple of options:
    1. Go back the way you came
    2. Continue another 1/2 mile to Dark Angel tower and then back the way you came
    3. Return via the primitive loop.

    We did option #3 and I'll cover that in the next tip...

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    Strenuous hikes: Delicate Arch

    by goodfish Updated Oct 2, 2012

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    This is the most popular of the strenuous trails as it's to the one arch everyone wants to see. Three miles round-trip, the trail climbs a dirt path, continues up a large, cairn-marked expanse of slickrock, over a level wash and then up again on 200 yards of ledge to top. Delicate Arch, at 46 feet high, is the most-photographed icon of the state of Utah, and it sits on the edge of a bowl of slickrock next to a (very) sheer dropoff. From your vantage point around the rim, you can see the La Sal Mountians and the Colorado River canyon.

    We had done this hike on a late, hot morning in 2004, and made it up again for sunset - the best time for photos - in 2011. It wasn't cloudless but there was enough sunshine to make the sandstone glow, and we stayed until dark to make the return trip all alone under a full moon: one awesome, awesome hike.

    If you're in reasonable shape and don't mind long drop-offs, you can absolutely do this one. The worst time is in the heat of the afternoon as slickrock gets hot, and there's no shade. The best is before sunset on a clear day. You'll be joining a large cast of shutterbugs but the light will be amazing and you'll most likely get snaps without (thank heavens) any people in them: do see the note about that in my warnings-and-dangers tips. Nope, definitely NOT a time to get near the thing.

    After the sunset fades, you'll have plenty of time to make the hike down before completely losing daylight but take a strong flashlight for locating cairns in case you linger too long: there are spots you do not want to stumble into - or off of - in the dark.

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    Easy hikes: The Windows and Turret Arch

    by goodfish Updated Oct 2, 2012

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    I think The Mask of Zorro would have been a more creative name for these but they're officially the North and South Windows.

    The trail to the Windows and Turret Arch is an easy, 1-mile round trip with a gentle climb. Do the North Window first, follow the trail clockwise to the South, and then around to a short spur to Turret Arch. After some photo-ops at Turret, exit the spur trail to your left and head back to the parking area. This route involves dirt paths and steps but nothing too strenuous.

    Want to lose the masses? There is a primitive loop trail (recommended) around the back of the the Windows that starts at the South Window and will extend your hike a bit longer. "Primitive" is a loose term here and doesn't mean difficult - just not groomed.

    As mentioned in the previous tip, The Windows are very near Double Arch so do them both at the same time. They have separate parking areas but as parking is a bear during peak season, grab the first spot at either location and just walk the short distance to the other. A vault toilet is also available near the parking lot.

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    Delicate Arch

    by KimberlyAnn Updated Sep 6, 2012

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    You will find this is a wonderful, beautiful arch about 15 miles from the Visitor Center. The day we began the 3-mile difficult rated trail to the arch it began to rain, so we did not finish the hike. We then returned on two other days, only to find that the rain had created ice on the trail and it was closed. You can get a view of the arch by taking the side road that leads to Wolfe Ranch and the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which is what we ended up having to do. We walked a one-half mile moderately strenuous rated trail to reach the viewpoint, where we could see the arch high above us. It was a disappointing distant view, so this is certainly not the optimal way to see the arch, but when you have no choice it is better than nothing. If we ever get back to Arches I will definitely hike to Delicate Arch. The trail is 3 miles with an elevation gain of 480 feet/146 meters. There is no shade, so be sure to carry water. Rock cairns will lead you across open slickrock with some exposure to heights, and it was these areas that were iced over, causing the trail to be closed while we were there. This may be the most picturesque of the bunch, but the view from the lookout point wasn’t good enough for a photo with my 300mm lens. The park handout recommended that sunset would give you the best view.

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    Delicate arch viewpoint

    by Christophe01 Updated Aug 23, 2012

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    Delicate Arch is the most photographing of 2000 arches, it became the symbol of the Utah. It is represented on license plates, stamps ....
    To go to Delicate Arch, you will have to walk during 3 miles and 492 ft elevation.
    If your children don't want to walk any more, settle for Delicate Arch viewpoint.

    Time: 30-45 minutes

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    Good stuff to know: grading the hikes

    by goodfish Updated Mar 29, 2012

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    You'll see on the park's website that they break hikes into 3 categories: short, moderate and long. In the printed material you receive with your pass, they list these same trails as easy, moderate and strenuous - which can be confusing. A long hike isn't necessarily strenuous if it's all on flat ground, and a short hike can be a real workout if it involves a lot of difficult scrambling and steep ascents. So what's the deal?

    Firstoff, Arches National Park sees visitors of all ages, nationalities and physical abilities. I've seen my share who confuse the word "park" with paved paths, water fountains and short, easy strolls to shady benches. I've seen tourists climb off buses in spiked sandals and Sunday clothes (see my "What not to wear" tip under warnings and dangers), enter long and very hot trails with no water, carry babies about in August without hats or other sun protection, and pretty much issue open invitations to sprained ankles and/or nasty cases of sunstroke, sunburn or dehydration.

    That said, the park folks have to err on the side of caution to get visitors who haven't done their homework to listen up. Is the Fiery Furnace really all that strenuous? Not for seasoned hikers maybe but it'll be a lousy experience for a chubby couch potato with back and knee problems. Is Delicate Arch really all that tough to get to? It is if you're trying to climb open slickrock with smooth-bottomed shoes and no water on a July afternoon.

    So I've chosen to err on the side of the more cautionary as well and use the park's easy/moderate/strenuous ratings for my tips. Best thing to do? Some reading before you come and talk to a ranger at the visitor center before setting off. He/she will help you assess how well you're equipped/physically fit and recommend treks that you can do and will enjoy. And remember; just about ANY hike (with the exception of Fiery Furnace) can be scratched if you get into a situation you can't handle: just turn around and go back the way you came.

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    Skyline Arch

    by Basaic Written Jan 13, 2012

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    Skyline Arch is a short distance from the Devil's Garden Trailhead. The arch was much smaller until a massive rock fall in 1940. Today the arch has a span of 77 feet and is 33.5 feet high. You can see some of the remnants of the rock fall at the base of the arch.

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    Devil's Garden

    by Basaic Written Jan 13, 2012

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    Devil's Garden is at one end of the scenic road and includes a trail leading to several different arches. To me, the most interesting arch is Landscape Arch which is slightly less than 2 miles roundtrip from the trailhead. Landscape Arch is one of the longest freestanding arches in the world. The arch is 306 feet from base to base, and about 180 feet high. In 1991, a rock slab 60 feet long, 11 feet wide and four feet thick fell from the underside of the arch. The arch is now incredibly thin.

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    Wolfe Cabin

    by Basaic Written Jan 13, 2012

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    John Wesley Wolfe came to this area in the late 1890s, from Ohio. He was a veteran of the Civil War and moved to the drier climate in the west to help relieve the pain in his leg from a war injury. In 1906, Wolfe built a better cabin with a wood floor which is what you see today.

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    Delicate Arch

    by Basaic Written Jan 13, 2012

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    Delicate Arch is the most famous feature in the park, and is displayed on the Utah state license plate and numerous Utah souvenirs. The arch's opening is 45 feet (14 m) tall and 33 feet (10 m) wide. The appearance of the arch has also given rise to a number of colorful names like "Cowboy's Chaps" and "Old Maid's Bloomers". You can view the arch from one (or both) of the viewpoints or take the difficult 1.5 mile one way hike up to the arch. Elevation change is 480 feet.

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    Panorama Point

    by Basaic Written Jan 13, 2012

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    The area in front of you has been repeatedly covered by salty sea water. By some 250 million years ago, layers of salty deposits up to 1000s of feet thick blanketed the valley. A series of geologic occurrences resulted in the valley you see today.

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