Nestled next to Moab, Utah, and only a few hours Southeast of Salt Lake City, Arches National Park is worth the trip even if only for a day stop-over. We drove into Moab in the early evening, dropping our things at one of many economy hotels in the town, and continued into the park for a sunset hike up to the infamous Delicate Arch. Racing the sun, we practically ran the 1.5-mile climb to the arch, laughing at our ragged breath and tired legs. The exertion was welcome after a full day’s drive from Texas. The views were impeccable, shifting with the light and shadows. If possible, prepare to stay in the park after sundown to see the night sky. We packed lunches and spent the entire following day in the park exploring and hiking. Below is a list of some favorite spots and tips from our day and a half here.
TRAILS WE ENJOYED
Delicate Arch | About three miles round trip, this iconic arch is a popular one. It often represents the park and even the state of Utah (on license plates). There are some steep sections during the ascent, so allow more time if you’re traveling with children. At the base of the trail, near the parking lot, there is a cave of petroglyphs, too. This spot is a favorite for photographers at sunrise and sunset, so be prepared for crowds, especially in the summertime. Also, consider bringing a flashlight and fleece jacket to stay and enjoy the night sky.
Landscape Arch | This arch is nestled along the Devil’s Garden trailhead and is the world’s largest arch. Spanning 290 feet, the scale is incredible and worth seeing. The trail is easy and manicured, which also means it’s heavily trafficked. Unlike some of the other arches in the park, visitors are required to view it from behind a fenced area after a large chunk of the formation broke off and fell a few years ago. Hiking enthusiasts and climbers should continue past Landscape Arch toward a primitive trail that climbs up onto a couple of towering rock formations. This was our favorite part, but would be more difficult (and dangerous) for young children. A longer, more difficult primitive loop trail also diverts from the main trail just before Delicate Arch.
Park Avenue | This trail is an easy out-and-back and perfect for geology lovers! You could see the rock textures and formations really well and the way erosion and time have created patterns in the rock. You can also park at the trailhead for a sweeping view or walk down a few steps into the canyon to get a feel of the space. Unless someone in your group is interested to study the rocks, there’s little need to walk the full mile where it connects to a different part of the main the road again. Also, because the path is in a canyon of formations, it was really hot, even early in the summer day.
Balanced Rock | This anomaly is just off the main road, so it’s possible to drive by and enjoy it from afar without stopping. For those who want a closer look, the trail is an easy quarter-mile walk from the parking lot.
Prepare for the Weather | This is the high desert, so temps can fluctuate with the hour. In the summertime, the day temperatures climb into the 90s and in certain spots tucked away from wind gusts, it feels like an oven. Be prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. Pack a fleece jacket to have on hand when temps drop at night, even in summer.
Plan for Stargazing | Pack headlamps or flashlights to enjoy the night sky at Delicate Arch or an easier trailhead. We missed doing this, but I hear the views are phenomenal. Also, if you have one, pack a large lens for your camera to catch the night sky.
Arrive Early in Summer |Like every national park, Arches is more crowded in the summertime. Lines begin to form at the entrance around 9 or 10am, so arrive early if you’re staying outside of the park.
Drive Instead of Hike | Not everyone enjoys or is able to hike trails, but Arches offers sweeping views to enjoy from the car windows, too. Even if you’re passing through Moab, it’s worth the time to drive through and view the arches and formations near the road. Balanced Rock, Park Avenue, the Petroglyph caves are easy spots to enjoy just off the road. Landscape Arch is a short, easy walk in.