the drive through Arches National Park is in the top ten in the world. It is easy and incredible. There are stunning vista at every turn.
It is dotted with viewpoints and trail heads all along it's length. You could use up your camera card just on the drive to the top. Be sure to bring extra batteries.
This is fully accessible to every one with a car or bike. This could be done in as little as a fe hours or you could spend days.
Take a drive here and be transformed.
This is the classic Arches day hike. We always do it with people that have never seen Arches. It is a great way to get really up close to some arch formations. Parts of the trail are very easy and others are a bit more challenging and exciting.
This is also the location closest to the campground so if you are camping there it is very easy to do this hike very early or at dusk when the light is soft.
This is not a hike to miss.
As much as many of us like to go it alone, this is one hike that pretty much requires a guide: the furnace is a labyrinth of twists and turns, and there are no cairns. None. Zip zero. The park offers daily 3-hour guided hikes from March - Oct. that often fill up well in advance so reserve your spot via the web link below. It's not long - around 2-3 miles - but requires 3-point scrambling, ledge straddling, shimmies through tight cracks, jumping gaps, and fanny sliding so it's not exactly a stroll in the park either. You're also not allowed to throw in the towel partway through: once in it, you're in it for the long haul.
So assuming you can lift your legs 2 feet or so, do not have knee or back problems and aren't afraid of heights or confined spaces, you're good to go! And it's not really as scary as it can sound.
For all of the intimidating name, the Furnace has quite a lot of shade: its red glow around sunset gave it the "fiery". Your ranger will be stopping along the way for short talks about the geology, flora and fauna, and demonstrating best ways of scrambling the most challenging spots. He/she will offer to lend a hand here and there but learning how to do it yourself is all part of the experience. I got a few scrapes and scratches on this one but enjoyed the moments of levity when some of the folks performed, er, interesting acrobatics to get themselves from point A to point B. Hey, whatever works?
If there is one drawback, it's that there were few opportunities for taking photos: everything on you had to go in your backpack so the camera was tough to get to in a hurry. If you want to do some quick shooting, try to be at the front of the single-file line as the guide has to stop now and again to let slower hikers catch up, and that's when you squeeze off a few. You can also take some when stopped for lectures but those were often in places with lots of extreme contrast or poor lighting in general. I managed a couple when the line was at a crawl but no time for futzing.
To know before you sign on the line:
You must bring 2 full bottles of water
Wear hiking shoes or boots with a good tread - no open-toe sandals allowed
Wear a backpack - both hands must be free
Everything in your pockets must go in the pack to prevent loss while sliding
Hiking poles are not permitted
No children under age 5
You CAN do this one on your own with a permit (fee), a video safety session, and prior canyon navigation skills but they still strongly recommend going with someone experienced with the route: don't rely on GPS as some of them don't work in this maze, and cairns are strictly prohibited. Don't try sneaking in, either - you'll be escorted out and fined if they catch you. Some private companies also offer tours but they're expensive; park tours are a bargain at $10 an adult and less for children and seniors.
Here's another easy one that's only .5 miles RT on a pretty flat sand and gravel path: no sweat. Movie buffs might recognize it as having had a small cameo in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" - you can see a still from that scene here:
A bonus about this one is that you can jump on the short connecting trail south to The Windows and Turret Arch (see next tip) and see 3 cool things without moving the car. Yup, parking areas for both the Windows and Double Arch will be packed during peak hours so find a spot at either and kill both birds with one stone.
So here's the whole enchilada: Devil's Garden Trail with primitive loop. The longest maintained trail in the park, it combines:
• The easy sections to Landscape, Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches (see previous tip)
• The more challenging section to Double O with spurs to Partition and Navajo arches plus the spur to Dark Angel (see previous tip)
• An undeveloped trail across washes, over slickrock, and through a fantastic landscape of giant fins with a few arches scattered here and there
After Double O Arch, you do the 1/2 mile spur to Dark Angel and back, and then head left at the fork to the primitive loop trail. Look carefully for cairns and footprints in the sand/soil that mark the way. About 1/3 mile or so into the route you'll take a right-hand spur of about 1/4 mile or so to Private Arch, then return to the trail as it meanders across the washes and open areas of sage and juniper, scrambles over expanses of rock, and slogs through deep sand. Keep your eyes out for any unmarked arches along the way. Eventually the trail ascends to the junction of level ground near Landscape Arch and you just follow that back to the parking area the way you came in.
You can also do this counter-clockwise by entering the route at Landscape: look for the sign that says " Caution - Primitive trail, difficult hiking". In hindsight, I'm glad we did it the other way as getting DOWN from some of the slippery high spots (I am very short) was preferable to trying to get UP.
When all is said and done, you will have covered around 8 miles (you'll likely do more wandering than they indicate in the trail guide) and seen an amazing piece of Arches that eludes the vast majority of visitors. It takes a bit of work: I had to do a fair amount of sliding off points that short legs won't easily manage, and it's shadeless and hot so bring as much water as you can carry. Worth it? Without a doubt. This last piece of the trek is less about arches than about vantage points above and among a forest of mammoth red fins, and you'll find rare moments of solitude that aren't possible practically anywhere else in this very busy park.
You can download the trail guide from the link below:
They call this a moderate but I think it's easier than that. It's a nice, flat two-mile RT that starts at the end of the paved path at the overlook and down a steep flight of stairs to the trail. From there it follows along a dirt-and-slickrock path through a dramatic landscape of towering red sandstone fins, towers and monoliths to its termination near Courthouse Towers Viewpoint and the scenic drive. From here, simply retrace your steps.
It's tempting to walk the shoulder back to the parking area but because it can be so busy - with drivers looking at the scenery and not the road - they ask that you don't. Anyone who can do up/down a loooong flight of stairs can do this one, and it's a nice hike with kids.
This is the one which should have been assigned the Delicate Arch title; go figure. Landscape is the 2nd longest natural span in the world but maybe the most dramatic as it's so impossibly thin: only 6 feet in the narrowest point. It shed some large sections in 1991 and 1995, making its dainty, graceful arc appear even more fragile so who knows how many years it can hang on for dear life? The arch is on the first section of the Devil's Garden trail and is the turnaround point for most casual sightseers. It's 1.6 miles RT and has some sections of deep sand but is otherwise fairly level. It also draws big crowds so expect the route - and the parking area - to be very busy.
Landscape had a bit part in "Wild Rovers" - see a still from the movie here:
About 1/3 of a mile from the trailhead you'll see a sign for a spur trail to Tunnel and Pine Tree arches leading off the right. Tacking these onto the Landscape Arch section of Devil's Garden Trail only adds another .5 mile or so to your ramble and is a nice addition to easy-hikes list.
More robust trekkers can continue on another couple of miles from Landscape to Double O Arch with a couple of spurs to other arches along the way. You can also add a primitive loop to that for an 8-miler that's the longest and most challenging route in the park: see my tips on these if interested.
Another easily accessed but very impressive arch, Skyline is just a toddle (.4 mile RT) on a level gravel/sand trail: bring the tots. It's near the end of the scenic drive in the Devil's Garden area and while the path isn't up to handling wheelchairs, visitors with disabilities can see the arch from the road. This one is particularly photogenic when the sky is a deep, clear blue!
If you don't want the workout that it takes to see Delicate Arch up close (although I highly recommend it) you can still see Utah's state symbol from a vantage point on the ground. Delicate Arch Viewpoint is handicapped-accessible and the surfaced path is only 100 yards RT. You'll be viewing the arch from a distance but it's quite a sight with the sheer rock face in the foreground. Look closely for the teeny-tiny hikers up on top to get a perspective of the size of this arch - use binoculars if you have them, and pack a zoom for the camera.
You can escape the worst of the crowds and stretch your legs a little more by taking the moderately strenuous 1/2 mile (one way) trail that climbs up to a slickrock ridge and away from the lower viewpoint. It ends at a rim overlooking the steep canyon (ooh - that's a heckuva drop there) and is another great place for pictures.
This isn't the only balancing act you'll see at Arches but it's probably the most impressive and certainly the most popular 'cause it's right beside the road. I'm not sure I'd even call the walk around this one a hike as it's really just an easy .3-mile loop around the base but that's what the park calls it so hey, I'll go along with that. This is a nice one for the wee people and bigger folk who can't do - or don't enjoy - longer treks. A stroll around will give you some different perspectives and a little dirt on your shoes. You can see from the size of the people in the 2nd shot how big this thing is. There's a parking area here and expect it to be packed during peak hours.
The visitor center is at the entrance to the park - 5 miles from Moab - and should be your first stop. Here you can talk to the rangers about the best activities for your abilities, check special events and ranger programs, sign up for the Fiery Furnace tours (or do that online) and fill your water bottles. It also has displays, a gift/book shop and restrooms, and is wheelchair accessible. What you can't do here is reserve campground spots or purchase food: you need to stock your packs before you come.
This is a very busy park and the campground fills months in advance so book your spot as early as possible:
The park is open 24/7, and the visitor center is open every day of the year except Dec. 25th:
April through October: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
November through March: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The arches are but a small part of what is visually attractive in this park. As you climb out of the valley that houses Moab, the scenery becomes progressively more spectacular. Stuck on the bus as I was, I just couldn't wait to get out and get busy with my camera but opportunities were sadly limited.
As it turned out, our first stop is one of the best places to visit, arguably the best.
There are many arches here and you're spoilt for choices where to head off to first. Luckily our guide knew the best places so I trudged off to North Window first
When they say "arches", they mean "arches". Arches are an unusual formation in the world of geology but here they have a list of all the arches.
Now, an arch isn't called an arch unless it's over a metre round. Bearing that in mind there are, wait for it, over 2,000 in this park!
Naturally enough, they are spread over a large area and some are much more accessible than others. In fact, some require overnight treks to view.
However, some places have them in abundance and the place where you view the North and South Window has several within a kilometre radius with the Cove of Arches being the most prolific.
As Arches NP is spread out on quite a huge area, and the famous rock formations are not within a short reach, you will not be able to see all of them during only one day of visit. Some even require a longer hike to see their full beauty.
So I‘ll mark all sights in my tips in the heading, if they can be seen by just a short car stop or if you need to hike around.
It’s maybe best to decide beforehand, which landmarks you want to see and which trails you want to hike, plus some extra time, as the scenery is just too beautiful to rush through. Otherwise you end up like me in winter – being in Devils Garden at nearing sunset.
Coming from the visitor center, and drive around the big wall on your left, you will start to gasp in amazement of the view that opens up to you. Left hand side, you will see the famous Park Avenue, with it's gorgeous walls and rock formations.
Get off the car and do a small hike - either do the full trail or stroll just a bit inside to get closer to the rocks.
Even from here, at the southern entrance of this part called Park Avenue - as it resembles a city skyline, frozen in red rock - you will get the first impression of what Arches "is all about". You will see a small wash, flanked by huge sheer walls, and already some funny formations, which all got their special names.
On my first visit to Arches, we got off at the northern parking spot, and had a look down into Park Avenue - which was also very rewarding.
This is the only campground in Arches National Park. There are 52 site to choose from. Current...more