7 Best Hikes in Arches National Park (from a Utah local)
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Arches National Park is one of the five national parks in Utah. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to huge sandstone walls, fins, and balancing rocks to explore! It really is an incredible place.
There’s a variety of hiking trails in Arches National Park. The trails lead to incredible viewpoints and arches that can’t be seen from the road.
I live in Utah, so I’ve had the opportunity to visit the park many times over the years! It’s one of my favorite parks to take visiting friends and family to, and there are some excellent hikes in the park.
In this post we’ll cover:
- the best hikes in Arches National Park
- hiking tips and what to expect for each hike
- potential hazards and challenges of hiking in Arches
- possible itineraries if you only have 1 or 2 days
Where is Arches National Park?
Arches National Park is located in southeast Utah, five miles north of Moab on US 191. (See map below.)
The park is open 24 hours a day, year-round.
Planning a trip to Arches?
Make sure to check out my complete guide to visiting Arches National Park, including the best time of year to go, camping options, and more!
Best Hikes in Arches National Park
For reference, an Arches National Park map can be found here.
1) Park Avenue Hike
Trailhead: Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
From the Arches Visitor Center, this is the first trailhead you’ll encounter on your left. From the Park Avenue Trailhead, the hike starts off paved until the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint.
After the viewpoint, the trail is rock and sand, and you’ll begin a descent into a beautiful canyon. This section of the trail has rock stairs. The trail continues down the wash to Courthouse Towers viewpoint and parking area.
At that point, you turn around and hike back up to the the Park Avenue Trailhead. If you have a driver in your group that doesn’t want to hike, they can pick you up at the Courthouse Towers viewpoint. That option would shorten this hike to 1 mile long.
On this trail, you’ll encounter loose rocks, sand, and a few bigger stones to step up and over.
It’s a short hike, but it gets a lot of sun, so make sure you have enough water. Also, keep in mind that if you start at the Park Avenue Trailhead, you’ll be hiking uphill on your way back, so save some energy for that!
2) The Windows Loop and Double Arch
Trailhead: The Windows Section Parking and Trailhead
Distance of The Windows Loop Hike: 1 mile round-trip
Distance to Double Arch: 0.5 miles round-trip
I like to group these sections together because The Windows Loop and the trail to Double Arch are very close to one another, and accessed from the same parking lot.
The Windows Loop trail brings you to a view of North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. The whole loop is 1 mile, but you can always turn around sooner and hike out the way you came if you don’t want to do the entire loop.
After or before hiking the Windows Loop, I recommend checking out Double Arch. You can see Double Arch from the parking lot, but it’s worth the 0.25 mile walk to get up close. If you want, you can climb up and over some of the bigger rocks and get right under the arches!
3) Delicate Arch
Trailhead: Delicate Arch
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Delicate Arch is arguably the most iconic hike in all of Utah! After all, Delicate Arch is what you see on most Utah license plates. I’ve done this hike 4 times, and it impresses me every time!
This entire hike is on open slickrock with no shade. It will be HOT, and even though it’s a short hike, you need to pack at least 2 liters of water per person.
The first 0.5 mile of this trail is on a well defined trail that’s easy to follow. Then, you start a steady climb up a rock face which you can see from the parking lot. At this point, you’ll need to follow the rock cairns because there’s no defined trail on the rock.
At the top of the rock face, the trail levels out for a bit and you’re hiking over more rock and sand.
Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail traverses a narrow rock ledge for about 600 feet (183 meters). Since this part of the trail is narrow, it can become a bottleneck when the trail is busy.
You can see photos and video of Delicate Arch, but nothing compares to seeing it up close in person. It’s truly spectacular.
Once you’re at the arch, you can actually walk under the arch. Be warned, this is a super popular photo opportunity, and you might have to wait in a line to get your chance. It’s also a dangerous area with a ledge, so be careful.
If you’re looking for more solitude and you’re a confident hiker, avoid the crowds by going up to Delicate Arch for sunrise. That’s when the above photo was taken. You’ll need to start your hike in the dark, so a headlamp and confidence in navigation will be important. In the dark, it’s much harder to see the rock cairns and find the trail.
4) The Fiery Furnace
Trailhead: Fiery Furnace Viewpoint and Trailhead
Distance: roughly 2 miles total
The Fiery Furnace is a maze of narrow sandstone canyons that requires you to climb up and over large sandstone rocks and wiggle your way through narrow passages.
To enter the Fiery Furnace, you must join a ranger-guided hike or obtain a day-use permit at the visitor center. You cannot enter the fiery furnace without a permit!
In the Fiery Furnace there’s no defined trail, but there is a marked route that you can follow if you hike counterclockwise. That means, from the parking lot, take the trail on your right. If you hike clockwise, the small guiding arrows in the Furnace will be at your back, and you won’t see them.
While there is a marked route, it is possible to get lost in this area. It’s very easy to lose your sense of direction and GPS devices don’t work well when you’re down in the Fiery Furnace.
It’s recommended that you do this hike on one of the ranger led tours.
Rangers offer Fiery Furnace hikes Spring through Fall. Tickets for these hikes are in very high demand, and reservations are required.
You can reserve tickets for morning hikes up to six months in advance.
How to Get Permits:
- To make reservations for ranger-led hike, click here.
- For more information on how you can get a permit to go on your own, click here.
5) Broken Arch
Trailhead: Sand Dune Arch Parking Area and Trailhead
Distance: 2 miles round-trip
This trail starts at the Sand Dune Arch parking area. From the parking area, there’s a defined trail. Almost right away, the trail splits. To get to Broken Arch, continue straight.
If you follow the trail to the right and you’ll end up at Sand Dune Arch in about 0.15 miles. This is a short hike in shade and deep sand. It’s worth the short detour and it’s a great short hike for kids!
After the trail splits, the Broken Arch trail will cross a large meadow. You’ll be able to see Broken Arch in the distance. Continue to follow the trail until you get to Broken Arch.
The trail continues under the arch and eventually leads you to the campground where you can continue to follow the loop back to the meadow section of trail.
Part of this loop includes moderate scrambling.
6) Landscape Arch
Trailhead: Devils Garden Trailhead
Distance: 1.6 miles round-trip
Landscape Arch is one of the world’s longest stone spans. Not surprisingly, this is a very popular area of the park.
This hike begins at the Devils Garden Trailhead which is about 18 miles from the Arches Visitor Center. The trail is hard-packed and relatively flat all the way to Landscape Arch. There are small hills, but overall, there’s no significant elevation gain on this hike.
The park rates this hike as easy. Along the trail to Landscape Arch you’ll see side trails to Pine Tree and Tunnel arches which you can explore if you want to make your hike a little longer.
Note: The trail does continue beyond Landscape Arch, but it becomes a lot more difficult at this point. Read “The Primitive Loop” section below for more information.
7) Double O Arch
Trailhead: Devils Garden Trailhead
Distance: 4.2 miles (longer if you take the Primitive Loop)
This hike begins at the Devils Garden Trailhead and you follow the same trail you would take to get to Landscape Arch (see above). This is the main trail.
Around Landscape Arch, the trail will split: straight is the main trail, and to your right you’ll see The Primitive Trail.
Continue straight on the main trail to get to Double O Arch via the most direct route. From the parking area to Double O Arch and back, is 4.2 miles.
Beyond Landscape Arch, the main trail is more challenging. You’ll start to climb over sandstone slabs. There are sections of the trail that are on narrow ledges and you’ll be exposed to heights. You’ll also be hiking on slick-rock, which is slippery, even when dry. Signs and cairns mark the way.
To make this hike longer, you can hike to or from Double O Arch on the Primitive Trail. Not only would this make your hike longer, but also more challenging. See more on the Primitive Trail below.
The Primitive Trail:
If you want more of a challenging hike with more solitude, you can choose to hike the Primitive Trail loop to get to or from Double O Arch. As the name implies, this trail has fewer trail markers and it’s a much less defined trail.
On this trail, you can expect hiking through sand, uneven surfaces, up steep slopes, rock scrambling, narrow drop-offs, and possibly crossing a pool that may contain water.
If you’re uncomfortable with heights or rock scrambling, I would not do this hike. In addition, this trail is not recommended when rock is icy, wet, or covered in snow.
Personally, I like to hike to Landscape Arch and then break off onto the Primitive Trail there, ultimately hiking a counterclockwise loop to Double O Arch and back to the car.
However, feel free to do it in either direction.
Hazards and Challenges of Hiking in Arches
Sun and Heat
The temperature at Arches National Park can get very hot, and most of the hikes provide very little shade, or none at all. This makes hiking even more difficult.
When you’re out hiking in the sun all day, it’s important that you have sun protection and that you drink enough water throughout your hike. Carry water on your hikes!
Don’t just apply sunscreen at the start of your day and forget about it. Pack sunscreen, SPF chapstick, sunglasses, and maybe even a hat so that you can keep protecting yourself throughout the day.
Note: Southeast Utah is part of the Colorado Plateau. This is a “high desert” area that experiences wide temperature fluctuations. Although it might be very hot during the day, the temperature can drop dramatically in the evening and you might have to layer up.
Water is available at the Arches National Park visitors center and the Devils Garden Trailhead. There’s no other water source along the 18 miles in-between these two ends of the park.
Hydration is crucial. A single water bottle is not going to be enough, especially if you’re hiking. On hikes, carry a water reservoir in your backpack instead of a water bottle. Then you can sip water through the hose throughout your hike instead of having to stop and dig a water bottle out of your bag.
Dive Deeper >> All about water for day hikers.
I like to have a bigger 50-liter water storage container in my car so I can easily fill up my water bottle and water reservoir while I’m in the park.
No Cell Service
Arches National Park has very limited cell service. Don’t count on it. Do any of your communication down at the visitors center before you head deeper into the park.
Hiking in Sand
There are sections of these trails that require you to hike in sand. Hiking in sand is a lot more challenging than hiking on a more even packed surface. It’s just good to be aware that this will be an added physical challenge, so you can plan your hikes accordingly.
Hiking on Sandstone
Hiking on sandstone can be very slippery, even when dry. That’s why sometimes it’s referred to as slickrock. Be careful as you hike up and over it.
Possible Hiking Itineraries
I know that most people come to Arches National Park with only a few days to explore. Having done all these hikes and a lot of them more than once, below is what I would prioritize seeing if you only have one or two days to hike.
If you have 1 day
Delicate Arch is my favorite hike in the park, and since it’s also such a Utah icon, I would prioritize doing the Delicate Arch hike!
This area does get very crowded and hot. Start in the morning to maximize the day.
In the afternoon, check out some of the other more easily accessible arches and features in the park like Double Arch, the North and South Windows, and Balanced Rock.
If you have 2 days
For you’re first day, you could hike Delicate Arch and then explore some of the more easily accessible arches and features in the park that I mentioned on the 1 day itinerary above.
On day two, hike in the Devils Garden area of the park. (See hikes 6 and 7 above.)
You can hike as much or as little as you want in this area of the park.
If you still have some energy left, the walk to Broken Arch is easy and beautiful. You can just hike to Broken Arch and turn around there instead of doing the whole loop.
Hiking in Arches National Park is a great way to see and experience the park!
I hope you found this Arches National Park hiking guide helpful as you plan your trip. If you have any questions about these hikes, just ask me in the comments below!
I would LOVE to see content on more wooded areas. I live in Pennsylvania and there are TONS of parks to hike, but they are typically heavily forested and wet/muddy. Have you ever been? I’m just starting to get into hiking/camping and LOVING your stuff! Thank you so much for all of this!
I grew up in Connecticut, but I live in Utah now so that’s why you don’t see tons of wooded areas in my posts! It’s very different out here with the desert, and even the mountains have a totally different feel than out East. It’s pretty crazy! Anyway, I’m so happy to hear that you’re getting into hiking and camping. Hopefully, I can get out towards Pennsylvania soon for some hikes!