Top Hikes in Arches National Park
Arches National Park, world-famous for its natural sandstone arches, is a hiking paradise. Hikers can choose from a wide variety of trails, from short twenty-minute walks leading right up to many of the largest arches in the park to more adventurous hikes into lesser-seen areas. No matter your hiking ability or experience, the variety of hiking trails in Arches National Park will allow you to discover the amazing beauty of one of Utah’s finest national parks.
Why Visit Arches National Park?
Arches National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. Littered throughout the park’s 76,000 acres of stunning desert landscape are various unusual geological formations offering remarkable views around every corner. Arches National Park is a great place to visit year-round due to the warm desert climate. The park’s unique features and variety of outdoor recreational activities draw nearly 1.5 million visitors a year.
Now that you know why to visit Arches National Park, listed below are our top hikes in Arches National Park.
Arches Windows Primitive Loop
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers) loop
Trail highlight: Visit North and South Window Arches on a short, scenic hike that is easily accessible.
To access the trailhead, drive along the Arches Scenic Drive (Devil’s Garden Road) for 10 miles (16 kilometers) and turn right onto Windows Road. Drive to the end of Windows Road and park in front of the Windows.
From the Windows parking lot, follow the paved path towards the North Window. Soon you will reach a “Y” intersection. Take the short spur trail that leads to Turret Arch, where you can follow a small dirt trail providing access to the base of the arch.
After viewing Turret Arch, return to the “Y” intersection and head the opposite way towards North Window. Along this section, you will pass a junction to the South Window. You’ll come back to this later but for now, continue to North Window. Follow the trail as it climbs up to a wide opening revealing views of the surrounding area. After taking in the views, return to the junction to the South Window and follow the paved path to the viewpoint at the South Window.
From this viewpoint, most people return to their cars. However, we recommend continuing along the easy-to-follow “primitive trail”. Past the South Window viewpoint, the trail descends curving around the backside of a fin. Along this section of the trail, you will be rewarded with different perspectives of the North and South Windows.
The trail continues through the backcountry for about another half-mile (0.8 kilometers) before heading west and climbing the north end of the fin. From here views of Double Arch will be visible and other nearby rock formations. Continue on the trail to return to the parking lot.
Note: The Windows Area is very popular but once you begin hiking the ‘primitive trail” the crowds will lessen greatly. From the Windows Parking Lot you visitors can easily access Double Arch, another popular rock formation in the park.
Park Avenue Trail
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) round trip
Trail highlight: Hike along the bottom of a canyon and look up at the spires, pinnacles, and towers that make Arches National Park legendary.
The Park Avenue Viewpoint and trailhead is located just over 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) from the visitor center along the Arches Scenic Drive (Devil’s Garden Road).
The hike begins as a paved path until you reach the main viewpoint. This is one of the most epic viewpoints in the park so expect crowds. After taking in the view, the trail turns into stone steps as it descends into the canyon. Once on the canyon floor, the trail turns into a well-trodden dirt path and then slickrock and sand as it enters the wash.
The trail is shadowed by huge sandstone formations at the rim of the canyon including Queen Nefertiti, a sculpted rock formation atop the west wall that looks like the profile of an Egyptian Queen. Near the end of the hike the Three Gossips, a striking 350-ft tall tower with three summits sitting atop a sandstone pedestal, come into view. The hike ends at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. Turn around and retrace your steps from here to return to the trailhead.
Note: If you have access to two vehicles, you can begin at Park Avenue Viewpoint and have another vehicle waiting at Courthouse Towers Viewpoint making this a 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) hike.
Visiting Utah? How about a hike in Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks.
Devil’s Garden Trail
- Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
- Distance: 4.2 miles (6.7 kilometers) round trip
Trail highlight: The Devil’s Garden is filled with arches, spires, and fins, and offers some of the most breathtaking views. It is considered one of the premier locations in Arches National Park.
The Devil’s Garden Trail begins at the end of the Arches Scenic Drive (Devil’s Garden Road). The trailhead is well marked and is located near the main campground in the park.
At the very beginning of the trail, you will walk through two sandstone fins. The trail squeezes through these fins and then comes to the junction for Tunnel Arch. This short spur trail leads to a viewpoint of Tunnel Arch and then another spur trail that leads directly to the base of Pinetree Arch. Return to the main trail after viewing Pinetree Arch.
This section of the main trail is easy to follow as it heads towards the northwest, making its way to Landscape Arch. Along the way, you’ll be able to view many long, narrow sandstone fins to the west. At approximately 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), you will arrive at Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch stretches 306 feet (93 meters), making it one of the longest arches in the world. Due to recent falls of sandstone slabs, a small trail that used to lead hikers under the arch is now closed for safety. Please respect this policy.
Many hikers will turn around after viewing Landscape Arch but we recommend continuing on the trail to Double O Arch, and even further on if you choose. After Landscape Arch the trail gets more adventurous but nothing too extreme.
The trail now begins to climb up a long, thin sandstone fin. As you ascend, you will be rewarded with a different perspective of the surrounding landscape. Be mindful of your footing as there are some steep drop-offs along this section of the trail. The trail eventually comes to the junction for the Partition and Navajo Arches. Taking the spur trails to view these two arches is well worth it but it does add about 30 minutes to the hike.
From the junction for the Partition and Navajo Arches, the main trail leaves the sandstone fin and returns to a dirt trail for a short section until you begin walking along another sandstone fin. Follow the trail along the sandstone fin and once again be mindful of your footing as there will be a few more steep drop-offs along this section. You may also be distracted by the amazing views of the park’s scenery all around you.
At just under 2 miles (3.2 kilometers), the trail will come to the junction of Black Arch Overlook. Take the small spur trail here to view more incredible scenery and the Black Arch in the distance. Once back on the main trail, follow rock cairns as you scramble over sandstone slabs until you arrive at Double O Arch at around 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers). Double O Arch is a 150-foot (45 meters) tall sandstone column with two arches stacked on top of one another.
Note: Hikers can extend their hike by hiking to Dark Angel, another half-mile (0.8 kilometers) past Double O Arch. Hikers can also continue along the Primitive Trail and loop back to Landscape Arch, making the full hike just under 8 miles (12.8 kilometers). Please note that hiking the Primitive Trail is challenging and requires backcountry hiking navigation skills.
Additional reading: How to make the most of your stay in Moab, Utah
Sand Dune, Broken, and Tapestry Arches Loop
- Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
- Distance: 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometers) loop
Trail highlight: Visit three interesting arches as you travel through scenic desert landscapes.
The Sand Dunes Trailhead is located on the east side of Arches Scenic Drive (Devil’s Garden Road), just south of Devil’s Garden campground. From the trailhead follow the main path a short distance and turn right when you reach the first junction. This spur trail passes through two rows of sandstone fins as it leads to Sand Dune Arch.
Return the short distance to the main trail and turn right at the junction. This leads to Broken Arch. The trail goes through a desert flat area mixed in with sagebrush and juniper trees. At just over a half-mile (0.8 kilometers), the trail comes to a “T” junction. Turn right here to visit Broken Arch. The trail will now ascend slickrock slopes before reaching the base of the 60-foot (18 meters) wide Broken Arch, identified by the crack that runs the span of the arch. Hikers can scramble up the rock to take in views from underneath the arch.
Continuing following the trail that leads under Broken Arch as it travels between two rows of fins and passes several sculpted sandstone knobs. At 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) the trail comes to the junction for Tapestry Arch, a photogenic arch situated along a slightly curved fin and flanked by two alcoves.
After viewing Tapestry Arch, return to the main trail and continue towards Devil’s Garden Campground. You will need to walk along the campsite road and pick up the trail near campsite #51. From the campground, the trail will gradually climb over packed sandy trails and slickrock. At just over 2 miles (3.2 kilometers), the trail reaches its highest point offering nice views of the surrounding desert landscape.
From this overlook, the trail will descend through narrow slots of sandstone fins before emerging back to the desert flats and sagebrush back to the Broken Arch junction. Turn right at this junction and return along the original access trail to the Sand Dune Arch Trailhead.
Delicate Arch Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) round trip
Trail highlight: Delicate Arch, easily the most photographed arch in the park, is a hike not to be missed when visiting Arches National Park.
Head northeast along the trail that begins at the parking lot at Wolfe Ranch Cabin. After passing the turnoff for the Petroglyph Interpretive Trail, the trail will lead through desert terrain with limited shade. The trail will ascend red dirt hillsides before entering an area of slickrock slabs. You will need to follow rock cairns that mark the trail as you gradually climb up the slabs.
Once you climb over the slickrock, the trail will begin to level out and you will notice that you are hiking among huge domes of sandstone rock. Continue following rock cairns eventually coming to a ledge that hugs a rock wall. There is a small arch in this rock wall called Twisted Doughnut that provides your first glimpse of Delicate Arch.
The last section of the trail that goes around the backside of the rock wall has a steep drop-off on one side so be mindful of your footing. The path here can get as narrow as 3 feet (1 meter) wide. After clearing this last section of the trail, Delicate Arch emerges into your view. Take some time to roam around the area to observe this beautiful rock formation from different angles.
Note: We recommend this hike either for sunrise or sunset to capture the best lighting for your photographs.
Learn more about Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.
Tower Arch Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
- Distance: 3.4 miles (5.4 kilometers) round trip
Trail highlight: A rather rugged hike to one of the more remote corners of Arches National Park.
To access the trailhead, turn left onto the Salt Valley Road off of the Arches Scenic Drive (Devil’s Garden Road) and drive 7.2 miles (11.5 kilometers) before veering left onto the Klondike Bluff Road. The parking lot and trailhead are located at the end of the road.
From the trailhead, hikers will immediately begin climbing up hills to a rocky ledge. Along the top of the ridge, hikers will be rewarded with incredible views of the Salt Valley. After a short walk along the ridge, the trail descends towards the Marching Men, a series of four rock spires standing atop a huge eroded sandstone fine.
After roughly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), the trail begins to climb again as hikers meander through sandstone fins and other eroded rock formations. The trail leads to another marked junction signaling a path for a 4WD trailhead. Continue straight at this junction to access the viewpoint for Tower Arch. Here you can see the namesake “tower” that sits above the arch. Hikers can then scramble up to the base of the arch, which spans 92 feet (28 meters), to take in views of the La Sal mountains to the east. Spend some time exploring the area before returning on the same trail back to the trailhead.
Now that we identified the must-do hikes when visiting the Arches National Park, let’s review the essentials to bring along with you when hitting the trails.
- Map: Remember, your smartphone may not have reception at every trailhead. So print out a map of the area and know the important junctions on the trail. Alternatively, ask for a map at the park entrance, or download an offline version of the trail map through an app like AllTrails.
- Water: The amount depends on the climate where you are hiking, but a good rule of thumb is 1 liter (32 ounces) for every two hours of activity.
- Snacks: Always bring a snack, just in case your hike goes longer than planned. Trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit. Keep it nutritious.
- Sun Protection: Apply a layer of sunscreen on your skin before heading out for a hike, even if it’s a cloudy day. Consider wearing a hat or sunglasses to minimize exposure to the sun. You can wear SPF protective clothing as well.
- Headlamp: Whether for an overnight or day hike, bringing along a headlamp is an essential safety must-have. These are small, lightweight devices that fit easily into any bag. You never know when you might need it, and if you do, you’ll be happy to have one.
- Rain gear: Ultralight rain jackets pack down small and can easily fit into your bag. Rainstorms can pop out of nowhere and it’s best to be dry when out in nature.
- First aid kit: Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be big. But make sure you have the basics: bandaids, alcohol wipes, waterproof matches, moleskin, burn treatment, and duct tape.
Okay, now that we’ve got our hiking safety taken care of, get out there and explore the hiking trails of Arches National Park.
Come join Under30Experiences on a 9-day, 8-night adventure to Grand Canyon, Moab, & Arches.
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