Just off Balanced Rock, a side trip can be made to the Parade of Elephants and the Windows Section. However, I catched a glimpse on the Parade of Elephants from my hike around Balanced Rock.
In the back of the picture – the La Sal Mountain range. Maybe, some of the pinnacles have been arches in the past – some of them look at least as if they once have been connected with a “bridge”.
Featuring the greatest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, ARCHES NATIONAL PARK boasts over 2,000 stone arches and numerous stone formations, in the 119 square miles (76,518 acres) Park. Many of the formations in the Park have distinctive names like Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, The Three Gossips, Courthouse Towers, Devils Garden, Garden of Eden, Parade of Elephants and Balanced Rock. Many are easily viewed from the road or from the many Viewpoints throughout the Park.
Arches National Park offers a number of Hiking/Walking trails to suit any experience level - Easy - Moderate - Strenuous. I highlight these in my Sports Tips section. For those who wish to tour by car, there is a paved scenic drive. The Main Sections are: The Garden of Eden, The Windows Section, Wolfe Ranch/Delicate ARech, Fiery Furnace and Devils Garden, where the park's Campground is located.
Arches is 5 miles north of Moab on Highway #191
Hours of Operation:
Arches is open every day of the year, 24 hours a day. The Visitor Center is open daily (exept December 25) during the following hours.
Spring - October 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
November - Spring 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Restrooms are located throughout the Park including the Visitor Center and Devils Garden.
Entrance Fees at Arches National Park are $10.00 per vehicle for a seven day pass. $5.00 per person for motorcycles, bicycles and walk-ins.
In the Windows Section which is at the end of a spur road off of the main Park road you can hike to a variety of arches. We took a loop trail that led us to Double Arch, Turret Arch, North Window, and South Window Arch. Of these arches Double Arch was my favorite (see photo).
Drive about 2 miles into the park from the Visitor Center and walk the two-mile hike along Park Avenue. This trail has an elevation change of 320 feet and descends into a canyon where you walk along a sand and sandstone wash with towering rock formations and sheer walls around you. The trail itself is rated as moderately easy, which I would agree with.
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.
This trailhead, located near the Devils Garden Campground, will take you to seven major arches. It took us about 3 hours to hike this trail. This trail begins as an easy walk, which takes you to Landscape Arch and then continued on along the primitive trail, which is graded difficult which led us to Wall Arch, Navajo Arch, and Partition Arch. To follow this primitive path the park has stacked small rocks to form cairns which lead you along the way. Although you are led over sandstone slabs, rocky footing in areas, and contains many short elevation changes, it seemed more moderate than difficult to us. Landscape Arch is very large and quite thin. The sign stated that due to erosion on the delicate structure it could come down at anytime. The primitive path was fun to hike, and the arches along it were all wonderful and quite different.
Arches National Park isn't just known for the natural arches, but also the interesting balanced rocks. Balanced Rock is one of the park's iconic balanced rock sculptures, and has laid out a small trail for vantage points all around.
After entering the park off Highway 191, north of the Pertified Sand Dunes view point, across from the intersection of Willow Flats Road, and just south of the turnoff for the windows section of the park, Balanced rock has it's own turn-off parking area.
The park has developed a trail, just .2 miles around this amazing rock formation for vantage points all around. This 55 foot, 3,500 ton Slick Rock boulder sits 128 feet up on a pedestal of mudstone.
It is just a matter of time before this rock falls. A companion rock, the "Chip off the Old Block" formation toppled during the winter of 1975-1976.
There is also a picnic area and pit toilets at this stop.
My intro photo shows the view from the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. This area is located a short distance from the Visitor center. Further on you will find Courthouse Towers where you can view the rock formations and read signs about the birth and death of an arch. We found every lookout point along the way worth the stop. Some of these stops do involve a short walk to view the arch, so to really get the most out of the drive plan to get out and do some short hiking trails. One of these takes you to Sand Dune Arch, which is tucked between two fins.
This really is a beautiful arch, but it is not easy to get to. It is a 3 mile round trip with an elevation gain of 480 feet. There is no shade, so I can imagine on a hot summer day, it would be quite challenging.
We made the hike in late afternoon in October, so it was a bit cool and windy. There are fabulous views all the way up and should take you about 45 minutes to reach Delicate Arch. It is well worth the effort.
The arch sits high atop a stone mesa, perfectly framing the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the distance. See my travelogue for more views from the hike.
Delicate Arch is best photographed in late afternoon. Many people (hundreds) make the hike up for sunset and hike down in the dark. Be sure to bring a flashlight.
Walk a short quarter of a mile distance from the campground amphitheatre to the Skyline Arch. Then take a 1 and a third mile hike to Broken Arch. This trail is marked with rock cairns, and will lead you through grassland, fin canyons with sand dunes, and slickrock. This trail was marked as an “easy trail” but to me it was more moderate as there were a couple of moderately tricky areas where you needed to climb over slickrock and through one of the arches. The photo was taken by my husband and shows me standing in Broken Arch to give you an idea of the size of this wonderful arch.
The first viewpoint in the park also offers a fairly easy one way hike through Park Avenue. A small hill leads into a smooth rock canyon bottom with high walls and interesting rock formations including balanced rocks! This hike is about a mile long......not a loop trail!
Directly next to the "Parade of Elephants" you can see another fascinating place called "Cove of the Caves". I just couldn't believe my eyes seeing so many weird rock formations, caves and arches. The red rocks just added to the beauty of this place.
Probably the most popular arch!! To get close to it requires a three mile round trip hike. There is a 480 ft. elevation gain over mostly open slickrock. Wear shoes with good tread and don't attempt when it's raining. There is no shade on this entire trail so it is best in the morning or late afternoon. Bring water and sunblock. They say the arch is best viewed at sunset.......so that is when everyone goes!! It's even more spectacular without the crowds!!
At the Delicate Arch Trailhead sits a weathered log cabin and a corral. These are the remnants of the Wolfe Ranch....home to disabled Civil War Veteran John Wesley Wolfe and his son, Fred. They settled here in the late 1800's and ran their primitive cattle ranch for more than 20 years.
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.
This is the only campground in Arches National Park. There are 52 site to choose from. Current...more