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5-Minute Guide To Arches National Park

Welcome to our quick guide to mesmerizing Arches National Park, giving you the highlights of what to expect from this rocky park in the Southwest.

Having trotted around more national parks than we can count on both hands (and feet), we consider ourselves something akin to park connoisseurs or, less fancily, really enthusiastic park nerds.

So trust us when we say that Arches is a must-see masterpiece for any traveler’s bucket list that we can’t wait to revisit again sometime.

If you’re looking for the cliff notes version about the park and what to do inside this geological wonderland, stick with us.

We’re here to guide you through the archways and straight into the heart of this breathtaking park; no walking boots required (though highly recommended)!

Arches National Park Overview

delicate arch under a sunset sky with oranges, pinks and purples, arches national park
Credit: Depositphotos

Nestled in Utah’s high desert, Arches National Park has over 2000 natural sandstone arches (because apparently, a few weren’t enough) scattered across a landscape that would make even the most seasoned traveler’s jaw drop.

It’s the kind of place where you expect dinosaurs to pop out because it’s so unreal.

And get this – the entire park covers a whopping 76,679 acres. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so you might want to start working on your cardio now.

Each arch has its own unique shape, size, and story, making it the perfect backdrop for those Instagram shots that scream, “I’m outdoorsy!”

But remember, it’s not just about the arches! The park’s got an entire ecosystem, including some resilient plants and animals that have mastered the art of desert living that are fascinating to spot as well.

Top Attractions:

  • Delicate Arch: You haven’t truly visited Arches if you haven’t paid homage to this iconic beauty. It’s like the Eiffel Tower of sandstone formations — overly photographed but still breathtaking every single time.
  • Devil’s Garden: Known for its deviously intricate trails, it’s where you go to pretend you’re on a quest for ancient treasure. Spoiler: the real treasure is the views.
  • Fiery Furnace: For those who like a bit of adventure with their sightseeing, Fiery Furnace is like the park’s maze on natural steroids. You’ll need a permit or a ranger-led hike to enter because getting lost here is apparently as easy as losing your car in the mall parking lot.
balanced rock stands atop a pillar under a blue sky in arches national park
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Scenic Drives:

  • Arches Scenic Drive: A road so picturesque, it might just convince you that Mother Nature was the original influencer. Don’t forget to wave at Balanced Rock; it’s the park’s unofficial greeter.

Popular Activities:

  • Hiking: From leisurely walks to “I swear I used to be in shape” trails, Arches has a hike for every level of ambition (or lack thereof).
  • Photography: Where every shot is postcard-worthy, and you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for your phone’s camera quality (unless you use a real camera…which we highly recommend!).
  • Stargazing: The sky here puts on a nightly performance that makes you wonder why anyone bothers with Netflix.

Wildlife To Watch For:

  • Desert Big Horn Sheep: The park’s real VIPs, strutting around like they own the place (because they kind of do).
  • Antelope Squirrels: Tiny but mighty, these little critters are the epitome of desert chic.
  • Ravens: The original goth birds, adding a touch of Edgar Allan Poe vibes to your scenic views.

Arches National Park Map

NPS map of arches national park
Credit: NPS

Know Before You Go

  • Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle
  • Reservations Required: Just when you thought splashing out $30 was enough to see the show, think again. From April 1 through October 31, you also need a timed entry ticket – because even nature’s wonders are going exclusive.
  • Shuttle System: none
  • Closest Big City For Airport Access: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Pets Allowed: Bringing Fido along? Pets are allowed in the park, but only in certain areas, and they must be leashed. It’s like the park’s way of saying, “Yes, but actually no.” You can bring them to some picnic areas, campgrounds, and pullouts on the scenic drive but not on any of the trails.
  • Best Guide Book & Map: Arches & Canyonlands National Parks and the Arches Map

3 Popular Things To Do In Arches

Brace yourselves for the ultimate suggestions to squeezing every drop of adventure out of Arches National Park with the most popular things to do that’ll make you forget all about scrolling your socials.

1. Hike Delicate Arch Trail

Hiking the Delicate Arch Trail is practically a rite of passage for anyone visiting Arches National Park.

This 3.2-mile round-trip trek is not for the faint-hearted but promises rewards that outweigh its challenges.

The arch stands at about 52 feet high and 32 feet wide, making it one of the park’s largest freestanding arches…and certainly the most iconic.

Here’s a scoop – it wasn’t always called Delicate Arch. Early settlers referred to it as “the Chaps” or “the Schoolmarm’s Bloomers” because, obviously, everyone sees something different in a giant rock.

And the trail offers unforgettable views and an up-close encounter with this stoic natural structure, ensuring your efforts are paid off with spectacular photo ops and bragging rights.

the north and south window arches in arches national park
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

2. Explore The Windows Section

Next up, shuffle those hiking boots towards the Windows Section, showcasing some of the most eye-popping rock formations you’ll lay your eyes on.

This area is like the celebrity lounge of Arches National Park, featuring not one, but three massive arches – North Window, South Window (collectively referred to as the Spectacles because, you know, they look like a ginormous pair of eyeglasses), and Turret Arch.

The best part? The trail is basically a walk in the park. Literally.

It’s an easy 1.2-mile round trip, making it perfect for those who prefer their hikes like their coffee – short and sweet.

The entire Windows Section serves up views so stunning your camera will beg for mercy.

And because we’re all about those juicy tidbits, did you know the North Window Arch has a span of 105 feet? That’s like stacking about 10 giraffes on top of each other, not that any giraffe would stay still for that.

3. Photograph Double Arch

Last but definitely not least, aim your camera lens at Double Arch, the park’s very own real-life optical illusion that makes you question if nature is just showing off or actually attempting a world record.

This behemoth consists of two giant arches sharing a common end – it’s nature’s own version of a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

Standing at a towering height of 112 feet and with an outer span of 144 feet, Double Arch takes the cake as the tallest and second-longest arch in the park.

And this spot is a dream for photographers, casual and serious alike, offering angles and compositions that could easily flood your social feed with thousands of likes.

Remember, lighting is everything, so catching the golden hour here will not disappoint.

some rock formations stand tall under a blue and cloudy sky in arches national park
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

Best Time To Visit Arches National Park

Spring and fall are the golden tickets to visiting Arches National Park. Temperatures are pleasant, allowing for comfortable exploration.

It’s the perfect time for photography, hiking, and witnessing the vibrant wildflowers of spring or the rich, golden hues of fall.

Where To Stay

Navigating the wilderness of accommodation options? Look no further, as we’ve curated the ultimate sleepover spots that are so comfortable that even the desert big horn sheep will want in.

Camping In The Park

There are also a few limited opportunities for backcountry camping with a permit, located at Devils Garden and Courthouse Wash.

Hotels Nearby (In Moab, Utah)

a rock formation that looks like princess lea with the buns in arches national park
© Discover Parks & Wildlife

What To Bring On Your Visit

Packing for Arches National Park? Make sure your luggage is as ready for adventure as you are. Here’s what to snag before you hit the road:

  • High SPF Sunscreen: Because looking like a lobster is only cool in seafood commercials.
  • First Aid Kit: For those moments when the rocks bite back.
  • Hiking Poles: To feel like a mountain goat, but with better balance.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Hydration is key, plus you get eco-points.
  • A Good Quality Camera: Not just your phone, because some views deserve extra pixels. We use a Canon DSLR, but we are behind the times. This mirrorless camera is the one we recommend and will buy when our DSLR finally gives up.

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