Arches National Park was the first stop on our Mighty 5 Utah Road Trip and it definitely lived up to the hype. We have to admit we didn’t have the highest of expectations for Arches since anytime a place is so talked about it normally doesn’t live up to our expectations.
On that note we have to admit we were pleasantly surprised!
We had an amazing time at Arches National Park and are excited to make sure that you do too. While some people might argue that one day is not enough time to see all of Arches, we think it is plenty of time to see the highlights. In one day, you should be able to do some of the most popular hikes and see some of the most popular viewpoints. If you are not excited about hitting the trail then one day is also plenty of time to drive the amazing scenic loop and still get an opportunity to see amazing viewpoints just a few feet from the road.
One Day Arches National Park Itinerary
- Stop at Visitor Center – Get a map, check out the store and ask the rangers questions
- Drive by Balanced Rock – 15 min
- Drive to and hike Window Trail and Double Arch Trail – 1 hour
- Drive to and hike Delicate Arch Trail – 2-3 hours
- Drive to Fiery Furnace Viewpoint – Lunch Time with a View – 1 hour
- Drive to Devils Garden and hike to Landscape Arch – 1 hour
- Drive to Park Avenue and hike to Courthouse Towers – 30 min
Arches National Park Visitor Center
We start every hike at the Visitor Center. This allows us to check in with the rangers, confirm the hikes we want to do are accessible that day and of course shop at the gift shop.
The most important reason for checking in at the visitor center with the park rangers is to check trail conditions as well as any surprise warnings that could change your plans and the trails you take. Depending on the time of year, some roads might be closed due to snow, some trails could have been washed away due to rainfall or construction could have shut down certain parts of the park. Rangers will always have the most up to date information and if you are lucky might have tips to make the most out of your day at the park!
Our first stop in the park was Balanced Rock but in reality, it was more of a “Cali Roll Stop” if we are being honest. We actually didn’t get out of the car and unless this is one of the only stops in the park for you, we recommend you drive by get a look and keep on trucking to make the most out of your day.
The trail to Balanced Rock is only 0.3 miles round trip, and if you are someone who is not looking to really do a big hike then this might be a great short hike for you. We will say, though, if you only have time for one quick hike for the day then we would wait for our next stop in this itinerary.
Windows Trail and Double Arch Trail
The Window Trail and Double Arch Trail are located less than 0.1 miles apart which makes them ideal so tackle at the same time. The trailheads for both trails are located off Arches Scenic Road on the Windows Road. We recommend to find a parking spot at either of the two trailheads and stay at the spot until you move on to the rest of the park.
Both trailheads are connected by a dirt path that makes it easy to enjoy both trails without moving your car. There are also toilets which we recommend to use here if they are not busy since most other restrooms at big trailheads such as Delicate Arch normally have a long line depending on the time of the season.
The Windows Trail and Double Arch Trail offer a great warmup for your day. As stated earlier, if you only have one stop then this one is hard to beat. You will be able to see multiple beautiful and eye-popping arches that will definitely fill your Instagram feed with pictures that’ll make everyone have FOMO.
These are the two of the trails we recommend to anyone visiting Arches National Park that is looking for great views but also easy non-technical hiking. The trails are mostly compact dirt without any major elevation changes except for stair steps that are very manageable for most people including small children. These trails are perfect for visitors without hiking equipment and can easily be completed/achieved in basic running shoes and a water bottle.
Depending on your fitness abilities you might spend an hour, or up to two hours if you are taking your time. We do think an hour minimum is necessary to truly experience these trails and soak in the desert beauty.
As with any trail or outdoor activity make sure you are dressed for the weather and have plenty of water no matter how long or short the trail is. If you are hiking in Arches during the summer, sun block and water will be crucial due to just how hot southern Utah can get.
Delicate Art Trail
When people think of Arches National Park, they might not know the name of Delicate Arch but they can definitely recognize it. If there is one hike that Arches National Park is famous for it is the Delicate Arch Trail. We cannot recommend this hike enough and truly think if you are physically able then this is a must do hike in Arches.
The entire hike is 3 miles round trip and should take about 2 to 3 hours depending on how long you stay at the amphitheater overlooking the Delicate Arch.
Depending on the season you are hiking in it is extremely important to bring enough water and sun protection. The entire trail is fully exposed with little to no shade offered from start to finish so it would be fast and easy to get dehydrated during Utah’s hot summers.
The first mile of the hike is decently steep and on pure rock so comfortable hiking shoes are highly recommended. After the first mile of rock, you will be hiking on desert sand until you get to a rock bed again that leads you to down a small trail on the side of the mountain to the Delicate Arch amphitheater. Our big piece of advice to anyone that is venturing out for their first hike or are still beginners is to take it slow, stop frequently and enjoy the views rather than hustling up as fast as possible.
This trail is quite popular if not the most popular trail in Arches National Park, meaning it gets crowded early and fast. When we visited a few days before New Year’s we were shocked how many people where there already even during the winter season. Parking can definitely be an issue so get ready to do a few loops around the parking lot if you arrive midday, no matter if its high or low season.
We truly did love the Delicate Arch hike and would say most people would be able to hike it since there are no real technical sections. The hike is very steep and if you are not in great hiking shape then be prepared to take longer than the 2–3-hour window but there is nothing wrong with that.
As always make sure to bring enough water and snacks for the hike, once you arrive at the Delicate Arch amphitheater area you can setup for a perfect picnic with a VIEW! We spent about 45 minutes at the arch and just took in every inch of the view. If you want to get a good photo there is an unofficial system that works rather well. Everyone is very orderly in getting in line and making sure you can take a picture with no one in the background.
Fiery Furnace View Point
The Fiery Furnace View Point is a perfect midday stop to grab a lunch in your car with a view. After a few hours of hiking at Delicate Arch we knew we needed to recharged before wrapping up our day with a few more hikes.
It is a quick drive from the Delicate Arch trailhead to the Fiery Furnace and luckily there are also restrooms at the viewpoint. Depending on the time of year you can setup a ranger led hike down Fiery Furnace which we have heard is very impressive, however this is not a hike you could do without a guide.
There are no restaurants or food options inside Arches National Park so you must make sure to bring drinks and food with you!
Devil’s Garden and Landscape Arch
Another top choice trail at Arches National Park is the Devils Garden Trail to Landscape Arch. If you have the time this is not a spot to skip over. The entire hike is 1.6 miles round trip but if your legs feel up to it you can continue much further to see 6 more arches!
This was one of the last hikes we did on our one-day Arches National Park trip and it’s a great way to end your time in the park. Devil’s Garden is located at the very end of the Arches Scenic Road, from the park entrance, it takes about 45 minutes if you drive non-stop. The area has plenty of parking but during peak season it can also fill up fast. There are restrooms, picnic tables and a campground area for those spending the night.
There are a couple of highlights on the trail if you are doing the Landscape Arch and back. The first quarter mile of this trail is in our books one of the coolest and unique stretches of any trail we have done. We wish we had a better way to describe it but the pictures do not do it justice and it truly is just one of the best starts to any trail.
The hike to the bottom of Landscape Arch is not a very technical or strenuous hike and is mostly compact dirt with slight elevation gains. The last quarter mile or so is pure desert sand and we must recommend good shoes since we saw a lot of other hikers struggling in non-hiking footwear on the loose sand.
The Landscape Arch is the largest arch in the United States and it truly is a sight to behold. It is pretty amazing just how long the arch is and hot thin it is in some areas. There have been recent collapses of the arch which really reminds us just how much National Parks can change in our own lifetime.
Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers
Our last stop for the day at Arches National Park would be at the Park Avenue Viewpoint towards the Courthouse Towers. We had originally planned to hike the Park Avenue Trail since it is only a mile one way or but our legs where tired and truthfully a cold beer at Moab brewery was calling our name.
The trail does have some decent elevation gain on the way down and back out but the trail is mostly compact dirt and nothing too technical. If you are not inclined to hike the Park Avenue trail the viewpoint not far from the parking lot is worth the stop.
We highly recommend this stop for anyone wanting to catch a different view of park since the rising canyon walls on each side of the trail truly are awe inspiring.
One part of the park that we did not dive deep into is the scenic drive that you will be completing if you follow our preferred itinerary for the park. The drive is quite breathtaking with quite a lot of changing scenery the entire way from the park entrance to the Devils Garden parking lot.
If you are short on time and in the area, we highly encourage you to at least take the drive and stop at Fiery Furnace and Park Avenue Viewpoint to get two unique views of the park. These two points will not take much time away from the drive and are also close enough to both parking lots that you will only be walking a few feet each time.
Arches National Park is definitely worth the hype for being one of the best parks in Utah. If you want to see plenty of natural arches then you have arrived at the right spot.
One of the best things about Arches National Park is just how much it offers to all levels of hikers and those just wanting to get a good view from their car. We think there is something for everyone and even if you take somethings out from our one-day itinerary you will still get to see a ton of the park.
We will add that if you are looking for a more challenging day then continuing down Devils Garden trail is the way to go. You can do the entire loop and come back the Primitive Trail side for some real adventure.
Lastly, we hope you enjoy your time at Arches and continue to the other fascinating Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah. This truly is a road trip of a lifetime and it was one that exceeded all of our expectations. You can read more about the Mighty 5 Road Trip and our experiences and tips here.