Arches National Park, Moab
What a stunningly beautiful park! One of the most spectacular I have seen so far in the US. It features arches and pinnacles and all sorts of weird formations sculpted by the wind in the red Endrada sandstone.
The only downside is that it is very crowded. Nicely paved roads lead to the main attractions which are than a short walk from the parking lot, and therefore you can never be away from people! Anyway, just drive all the roads, ignore the RVs and enjoy the landscape!
I definitely enjoyed the following trails:
Devil's Garden: past "landscape arch", it is less crowded as the hike becomes slightly difficult and the views are absolutely to die for! 7.2 miles (11.5 km) round trip
Delicate Arch (photo): definitely worth it despite the crowds (it is the most famous arch and symbol of Utah) because of its amazing setting. 3 miles (4.8 km) round trip
Tower Arch: this hike is beautiful and away from the crowds as you have to drive on a wash-boarded dirt road for 10 miles before reaching the parking lot. 3.4 mile (5.6 km)
$10 per vehicle, a pass good for a week
Spend a full day exploring National Park. Start off at information center located near the entrance of the park. Take a good 30 minutes to learn about the geology and topography of the area. It's a great information center with insightful exhibits.
Then take your car or car rental around the park. Stop at as many monuments as possible. It is a wonderful experience. And make sure you bring your camera - if you don't you will regret it. Here are some Arches you must visit:
- Delicate Arch (furthermost arch)
- Double Arch
- Sand Dune Arch
Other rock formations worth seeing:
- Balanced rock
- Devil's Garden (you'll find the Sand Dune Arch there)
But there is a lot I didn't get to see because I only had a few hours there. So I recommend taking a whole day to visit the park.
- Hat (hot/sunny)
- Sunglasses (windy/dusty)
- Water (not many places to refill)
- Snacks (not many, if any, places to buy food)
- A car (you'll need a car to explore the whole park)
Arches National Park, in southern Utah, consists of 119 square miles and boasts over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. The park is just 5 miles north of Moab, so if you're in town, it would seem a shame to miss this iconic park.
Arches National Park was designated a national monument on April 12, 1929 and further designated as a national park on November 12, 1971.
Arches National Park boasts the highest density of naturally formed arches. Most of the arches in this nature park are wind-eroded formations of Entrada Sandstone. Some arches, such as double arch, are pothole arches, being formed by water erosion.
But, arches are not the only geologically enchanting aspects of the park. Interesting rock formations show layers of erosion influences and other geological events.
You may explore the park in your own vehicle, or hop upon a tour bus and be guided through the amazing features. If you have a high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle, there are some back road 4x4 trails that will bring you to remoter areas of the park.
Some iconic geological symbols of the park include:
Delicate Arch — a 52 foot freestanding arch
Balanced Rock — a 55 foot, 3,500 ton Slick Rock boulder sitting 128 feet up on a pedestal of mudstone
Landscape Arch — a 290 foot arch - the largest in the park
Petrified dunes — petrified remnants of sand dunes
Entrance to Arches can be gained with all federal lands passes. Or:
Individuals: $5 (Good for 7 Days)
This fee applies to motorcycles, bicycles and walk-ins (per person).
Vehicles: $10 (Good for 7 days)
This fee includes all occupants of a vehicle.
Local Passport: $25 (Good for one year)
Good for entrance to Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges.
Please see my Arches National Park pages for more information.
Delicate Arch is one of two of my favorite arches at Arches National Park. My other favorite is Sand Dune Arch. However, between the two arches, Delicate Arch makes visitors work much harder. Sand Dune Arch is located an easy 500 feet from the road, whereas Delicate Arch is located 2 miles from the road on top of a giant slick rock formation.
Before making your way up to the arch you can take a 5-minute pre-hike detour to check out Wolfe Ranch. The Ranch was settled by John Wesley Wolfe and his son in the late 1800's. All that's left of them now are two small cabins and old cattle gates. You can then loop around to see an original petroglyph panel of Native American images showing people on horseback.
The hike up to Delicate Arch is strenuous. There is very little shade and it is uphill for the majority of the way. The hike up takes about 40 minutes or so - I wasn't really timing myself, but that seems about right. Keep your eye out for collared lizards, they are really beautiful and they don't flee from people - great photo opportunity. Delicate Arch is the perfect reward for this strenuous hike. It sits delicately and powerfully on the edge of a cliff. It's a beautiful rock formation that is a combination of sand stone and salt. Overtime, the salt "melted" away from the center of the formation and left the strong sand stone to fend for itself - and it's fending quite nicely! In fact, this arch is a celebrity and is often embedded within Utah license plates.
If you plan to go on this hike, remember to:
- Bring plenty of water
- Wear sunscreen
- Bring snacks (and keep the garbage in your bag)
- Bring sunglasses
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes/sandals - shoes with good grip
This park is the #1 reason tourists flock to Moab. Please see my Arches travel pages for lots of cool stuff to see and do.
Some wonderful hiking trails, all not very long and some very easy to walk from the car. A good mix with some primitive trails and well maintained trails. Entry into the park is only $10 and good for a week. There are over 2000 arches in the entire park.
The visitor center is very informative and a few years back was renovated it was nice that they did not increase the entry fee after the renovation (unlike Bryce). The drive to Devils Garden and the end of the park is not to be missed.
Camping is available but sites are at a premium and need to be reserved online before hand. There could be some available same day but need to check in with the rangers at the visitor center.
Arches National Park is known for its dramatic rock formations. Here, you will find massive sandstone buttes, petrified dunes, balancing rocks and of course, the greatest concentration of natural arches found anywhere in the world.
There is an 18 mile scenic road that traverses the park and dozens of hikes ranging from a few minutes to a few hours.
See my Arches NP pages for more photos and info.
Devil's Garden hiking. Photo: Devil's Garden trailhead. February 1996.
This is a great hike with 9 arches if you do the entire loop which is 7.2 miles / 11.5 kilometers. The terrain gets a bit more difficult after Landscape Arch and involves some scrambling. Most people turn around at Landscape Arch. This is one of the best hikes in the park.
Arches National Park
Photo: Landscape Arch
You can easily spend an entire day here. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to drive from Moab to the very end of the park (Devils Garden) and that's if you're not making any stops. If its your first time in the park, you'll be making stops quite often. It's an amazing place.
Don't miss Delicate Arch at sunset. The Devils Garden hike is well worth doing. The Windows section is also worthwhile and everywhere there are short walks to the arches. The Fiery Furnace is also something you should see if you have time. You need to go on a ranger led hike here though which needs to be booked at least the day before. There are limited spaces and it is popular.
Arches National Park is only 5 miles northwest of Moab on US 191. This national park, which preserves over two thousand natural sandstone arches, contains the largest number of natural arches in the country. Some of the other wonderful features in the park include canyons, balanced rocks, fins, and pinnacles, all accented with beautiful colors. Besides these natural wonders you may wish to take a walk to the historic Wolf Ranch. Just beyond the old Wolf Ranch cabin are some excellent historic Ute rock art carvings in the side of a flat rock face. While visiting Arches National Park, you will be able to see many of the highlights from the road, or short foot trails. But if you love hiking, there are many opportunities for reaching formations farther into the park. For more detailed information on Arches visit my Arches National Park in Beautiful Utah pages.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park preserves over two thousand natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch, in addition to a variety of unique geological resources and formations. In some areas, faulting has exposed millions of years of geologic history.The extraordinary features of the park, including balanced rocks, fins and pinnacles, are highlighted by a striking environment of contrasting colors, landforms and textures.
To fully appreciate Delicate Arch plan on spending an afternoon there rather than just taking the twenty minute hike and than snapping a few pictures and leaving. Delicate Arch was meant to be viewed from many different angles and during different times of the day as the shadows of the Arch move like clock work. Though many tourist choose to sit on the natural stone benches it would be highly recommended to walk around the Arch and view it from the side and from behind the Arch where there is a drop off into a canyon. Many tourists miss out those spectacular views!
Arches National Park of course has beautiful rocks in a dry desert setting. Of course the famous "arches" are here. It is very hard to take pictures of the various arches because the tourists (including myself) gaulk around and stand in the way so it's hard to take a photo of rocks without people in the way. I did get a couple of shots off without any interference. It was so hot when we went here, and mind you we were on a motorcycle so we were exposed to the elements, we didn't get to sit in a car with air conditioning like everyone else! I hate hiking in the heat and the walk up to the arches was total torture for me! Bring lots of water and sunblock, and make sure you have a car with air conditioning if you are going to this part of the country in the summer!
The website has lots of information including rules on bringing pets, more photo's and descriptions of the plant life and animal life in this area.
Don't think that going in the evening (like we did) was going to do us any good by being "cooler". The rocks hold their heat in and expunge the heat all evening long, so it's always hot!
Do you want to see rock arches? Then this is the place to come. Within the National park there are 2000 documented arches. That doesn't include many others in the surrounding area. My favorite is Delicate arch, but I have also enjoyed among others Corona and Bowtie arches, Tower arch, Double arch, Wilson arch.
This is along the hike in the Devil's Garden. Many people end their hike here, as it gets more difficult with lots of rock scrambling. There used to be a trail up to this arch, but it was closed when we were there.