Best Things to Do in Arches National Park fi

Best Things to Do in Arches National Park

By Tom Harrison on May 05, 2024
13 min read

Arches National Park is best known for its natural stone arches resembling Mars. This iconic red rock wonderland boasts over 2000 arches, the densest concentration of sandstone arches in the world.

Each arch in this park ignites curiosity in its own way. The best part is that the best of these enchanting rock formations are easily accessible without a lot of hiking.

Of course, you'll find more than just arches here. This American West desert park also boasts other enchanting geologic formations, including monoliths, giant balanced rocks, fins, and pinnacles. Plus, it’s home to epic sunrises and sunsets, hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, and a variety of wild animals. 

In this guide, we reveal the ten best things to do in Arches National Park. We’ll also discuss how to get there, the best time to visit, and where to stay. 

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Arches National Park. Photo by: Zack Frank.

Key Takeaways

  • Arches National Park is best known for its dense concentration of natural stone arches, balanced rocks, fins, and pinnacles. The park is also a haven for hikers, campers, and wildlife lovers. 
  • The town of Moab, located 10 minutes from the entrance, is the closest to all the best things to see in Arches National Park. 
  • Canyonlands Field Airport in Grand County, UT, is the closest airport to Arches National Park. The drive from the airport to the park takes approximately 37 minutes. 
  • Two days are the perfect amount of time for a first-time visit to Arches National Park. 
  • Devils Garden Campground is the only accommodation option inside Arches National Park. There are no hotels, lodges, restaurants, or gas stations inside the park. 

Things to Consider Before Visiting Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of Utah's Big Five national parks, along with Zion, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef.

Arches National Park is located in Grand County in southeastern Utah. The closest towns and cities to the park are:

  • Moab- 5.2 miles (10 minutes)
  • Grand Junction, Colorado- 110 miles (1 hour 41 minutes)
  • Glenwood Springs- 194 miles (2 hours 45 minutes)
  • Salt Lake City- 230 miles (3 hours 40 minutes)

This national park was named a national monument in 1929 and redesignated as a national park in 1971. It covers an area of 76,519 acres (or 119 square miles) and is known for having the densest concentration of natural arches. 

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Sunshine at Pine Tree Arch in Arches National Park. Photo by: Spatesphoto.

How to Get to Arches National Park

The closest airport to fly into for Arches National Park is Canyonlands Field Airport (CNY). Canyonlands Field Airport is located around 16 miles north of Moab and has daily flights from Denver and Las Vegas. You can rent a car from Canyonlands Field Airport or take a shuttle to the park. 

If Canyonlands Field Airport is not a feasible option, your next best option is Grand Junction Regional Airport. This is the third largest airport in Colorado and has direct flights from major cities, including Salt Lake City, UT; Denver, CO; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Los Angeles, CA. Grand Junction Regional Airport is 110 miles away, or a drive of about one hour and forty-five minutes. 

International travelers may prefer flying to Salt Lake City International Airport, which has more affordable direct flights. The airport is about 235 miles from Arches National Park, or a 3.5-hour drive. 

How Many Days Do You Need to Spend in Arches National Park?

Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Arches National Park, but you could also spend three days and still have plenty of things to do.

In two days, you will have enough time to stop at the most iconic viewpoints and soak in the beauty of this desert landscape without rushing. 

In addition to sightseeing, remember there are many other things to do at Arches National Park, including hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Two full days allow you enough time to hike several short and long trails, try your skills at rock climbing, and explore the park’s historic sites on a bike.

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Skyline Arch near Devils Garden Campground. Photo by: jaypetersen.

Where to Stay in Arches National Park

There are no hotels or lodges inside Arches National Park. Accommodation inside the park is available at Devils Garden Campground. 

Devils Garden Campground is the only campground in Arches National Park. It's located at the end of the Arches Scenic Drive, some 18 miles north of the park's entrance. It has 51 sites, including two group sites, and has flush and vault toilets. 

Devils Garden Campground is open year-round. Campsites can be reserved up to six months in advance for stays between March 1 and October 31. For winter camping (November 1 through February 28), the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Best Hotels Near Arches National Park

While there are no hotels inside Arches National Park, accommodation options abound in and around Moab. Moab is less than a 10-minute drive from Arches National Park and boasts over 30 hotels, 20 B&Bs, and plenty of campgrounds, condos, and camp trailers. 

For the best budget hotels that put you near Moab things to do, consider:

  • Holiday Inn Express and Suites Moab
  • Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn
  • Comfort Suites Moab
  • Mainstay Suites
  • Sleep Inn and Suites
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Photo by: sbthegreenman.

Best Campgrounds Near Arches National Park

If Devils Garden Campground is booked up, the area around Moab has over 30+ public and private campgrounds to choose from. 

Here are some of the best campgrounds near Arches National Park:

  • Moab Valley RV Resort and Campground
  • Horsethief Campground
  • Willow Flat Campground
  • Kayenta Campground
  • Archview RV Resort and Campground

What to Wear When Visiting Arches National Park

Arches National Park is in a high desert, with elevations between 4,085 and 5,653 feet above sea level. While summer days are typically hot, mornings and evenings are often chilly.

When visiting Arches National Park in summer, your backpacking checklist should include enough layers to help you adjust. Bring light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to allow your body to regulate temperature. 

Arches National Park in winter experiences lows of 0-20° F and highs of 30° to 50° F. If this is your best time to visit the park, especially for the fewer crowds, a thick jacket is a must-have. 

See our selection of women's hiking clothing and men's outdoor wear for visiting Arches National Park in any season here.

Besides clothing, there are a few other items that you shouldn't miss in your Arches National Park camping checklist. Here are other must-bring essentials:

  • Water (LOTS of it)
  • Snacks
  • Headband for hiking
  • Sun hat or cap
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Hiking boots and hiking socks
  • Binoculars
  • Sunglasses
  • Cooling towel
  • Gloves (for winter visits)
  • A first aid kit (see our customizable first aid checklist)
  • Binoculars and a camera to capture the best of Arches National Park
  • Bug spray
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What to Do and See in Arches National Park

Hike to Delicate Arch

Begin your list of what to do in Arches National Park by hiking to the iconic Delicate Arch. This beautiful arch is among the most photographed rock formations in the world and definitely one of the best hikes in Arches National Park

Depending on how much hiking you want to do, you can access Delicate Arch in two different ways. If you want a close view of this majestic sandstone arch, your best option is to park around the Wolfe Ranch area and hike the Delicate Arch Trail.

The Delicate Arch Trail is a 3.2-mile (round trip) hike considered moderately strenuous because it's steadily uphill. It has an elevation gain of 480 feet and takes about 1 hour and 35 minutes to complete. The trail takes you past the 1907 Wolfe Ranch Cabin, which has a dam nearby, and the Ute Indian Petroglyphs. 

For a less strenuous view of Delicate Arch, drive past the Wolfe Ranch parking lot to the Upper/Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint parking lot. Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint is a stone's throw away from the parking lot and offers an easier view of the arch from one mile away. For a less obstructed view of the arch, hike the 0.5-mile Upper Delicate Viewpoint Trail.

Delicate Arch is among the most popular things to see in Arches National Park, meaning it gets crowded. The best time of day to hike this trail is during sunrise or sunset. 

How much time do you need for Delicate Arch? The hike and time to soak in the mesmerizing views from the arch takes around three hours. 

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The Delicate Arch by: Mike van den Bos.

Witness Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch is not just a must-see attraction in Arches National Park. It's the largest natural arch on the planet at 306 feet and one that's probably at the end of its lifecycle. Its extremely slender center suggests that it may collapse at any time. Be sure to check it off your bucket list ASAP. 

Landscape Arch is located in the Devils Garden area. To access it, drive the entire length of Devils Garden Road from the entrance and park at the parking lot. The arch is accessed via the Devils Garden Trailhead, which starts from the parking lot. 

The hike to Landscape Arch from the parking lot is easy and doable by almost anybody. The hike is 1.5 miles (out-and-back) with very little elevation change, thus its popularity with families. 

How much time do you need for Landscape Arch? The hike to Landscape Arch takes about 45 minutes one way without factoring in the time spent taking in the views at the site. 

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Landscape Arch. Photo by: Fyle.

Photograph the Tunnel Arch

The Landscape Arch is not the only unique rock formation you'll come across along the Devils Garden Trail. Tunnel Arch is actually the first arch you'll see when hiking this trail. 

About 0.2 miles from the Devils Garden Trailhead, keep right at the fork to Pine Tree Arch Trail) and turn right again after about 330 yards to take the Tunnel Arch Trail. This trail is easy and has almost nil elevation, making for a great hike for all skill levels. 

The Tunnel Arch is a 53-foot tunnel through a thick fin of desert sandstone, hence its name. It's about four feet wide and five feet high. While it doesn't have the same wow factor as other arches in this area, it's a good way to kick-start your hunt for the best arches in this park. 

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Tunnel Arch. Photo by: Petr.

Stand Beneath Pine Tree Arch

After checking out Tunnel Arch Trail, backtrack to Pine Tree Arch Trail and continue straight to Pine Tree Arch. Pine Tree Arch is about 250 yards from the junction of Pine Tree Arch Trail and Tunnel Arch Trail. 

This arch gets its name from the pine trees that grow beneath it and in the immediate area. Compared to Tunnel Arch, this is an Arches National Park must-see because it's larger, and you can get up close and even walk through it. Also, Pine Tree Arch allows for a wider range of photos thanks to its location. 

How much time do you need for the Pine Tree Arch Trail? Most people hike to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches as detours while on the longer hike to Landscape Arch. Generally speaking, both arches will add 30-40 minutes to your hike time. 

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Pine Tree Arch. Photo by: SVDPhoto.

Hike to Double O Arch

Hiking to Double O Arch is one of the top Arches National Park things to do due to its uniqueness. This unusual rock formation comprises a big arch atop a smaller one. 

Double O Arch is past Landscape Arch on Primitive Trail. The trail is relatively easy to follow, although it involves climbing over the ends of the fins. A short walk past Landscape Arch, you'll find a short spur trail leading to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch. Both of these side trails are highly recommended if you want to hit all the cool places to visit in Arches National Park. 

Double O Arch is located about half a mile from the junction of the Navajo Arch Trail and Primitive Trail. 

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Double O Arch. Photo by: Jovannig.

Enjoy Rock Climbing or Rock Art at Dark Angel 

Dark Angel is another fascinating rock formation you should check out in the Double O Arch area. It is not an arch but a massive, cool-looking spire of rock about 150 feet tall. 

Climbing it is one of the best Arches National Park activities. But note that permits are required. Just standing next to Dark Angel is a humbling experience, even if you had not planned for some rock climbing. 

The area around Dark Angel is also packed with petroglyphs and pictographs dating 700 to 6000 years ago! 

The Dark Angel Trail branches off the Primitive Loop Trail around the Double O Arch area. It's a half-mile hike to Dark Angel and another half-mile back to the main trail. 

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Dark Angel. Photo by: Cavan.

Explore the Windows Section

The Windows Section is where most of the best things to see at Arches National Park are located. This is the area we'd recommend if you only have a little time at Arches and still want to see some cool arches and do a few short hikes. 

Follow Arches Scenic Drive for 9.1 miles to the Windows Section. Turn right onto The Windows Road just after the Balanced Rocks pullout. Drive for another 2.5 miles to the end of the road. The road ends in a big parking lot, from which several hiking trails start.

Hike Double Arch Trail

Double Arch is a spectacular must-see in this area. As the name suggests, these are two arches that share a single stone foundation for their legs. Double Arch is visible from the parking lot. But as you get closer, its beauty unfolds, and you start appreciating its immense beauty. 

The hike to Double Arch is an easy walk from the parking lot. The trail is about 0.25 miles one-way and mostly flat. You can climb up Double Arch, but beware that it’s a bit steep. 

While here, you can tick off other arches, including Cove Arch and Ribbon Arch. 

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Double Arch Trail. Photo by: Christian B..

Soak in the Scenic Views from the Windows

No one leaves the Arches without exploring the North Window and South Window arches. The hike to these massive windows is gentle and starts at the Windows Section Parking lot. 

Get Up Close and Personal with Turret Arch

Turret Arch is another cool site you must see in the Windows Section of Arches National Park, Utah. This arch is significantly taller than most arches in this area and has a tower next to it, hence the name. 

About 200 yards from the Windows Section Parking Lot, keep right at the fork to get to Turret Arch. The hike to the arch is easy with minimal elevation gain, making it great for small feet.

Although it's less popular than its neighbors (North Window and South Window), the Turret Arch is among the most dramatic formations in the park. You can stand under it, walk through it, or sit around it as you take in the breathtaking views of the La Sal Mountains. 

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Turret Arch. Photo by: Intricate Explorer.

Final Thoughts

If you’re in Utah (or are planning to visit soon), be sure to make a beeline for Arches National Park. A spectacular playground with more than 2000 naturally occurring arches, hoodoos, fins, and monoliths, Arches National Park is a must-see if you love exploring nature. Note that this is a popular park thanks to its easy accessibility and enjoyable hikes. We advise arriving early to enjoy all the best things to do in Arches National Park before other intrepid souls start pouring in.

Featured image by: Moriah Wolfe.


Are there animals in Arches National Park?

Over 50 mammal species and 273 bird species live in this park. Some of the animals most visitors encounter are rock squirrels, antelope squirrels, mule deer, desert cottontails, chipmunks, and kangaroo rats. Snakes and lizards are common sightings, too. 

What is the best month to visit Arches National Park?

Considering its location in a high desert, the best time to visit Arches National Park would be April through May and September through October. The weather during these months is mild, allowing more time for fun things to do in Arches National Park. Note that Arches is most active between May and October. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit Arches National Park is from November through March. 

Do you need a car for Arches National Park?

It’s recommended to have a car when visiting Arches National Park. There’s no public transportation inside the park. A 4x4 won’t be necessary, though. Rental cars are available in whichever airport you fly into for Arches National Park. You can also explore the park on a guided tour with any of the commercial tour companies in Moab. 

Can you swim in Arches National Park?

Swimming in Arches National Park is only allowed in water sources with a continuous supply of water. It’s recommended not to drink or swim in the water in desert potholes as they support tiny aquatic microsystems. These desert organisms are extremely sensitive to anthropogenic effects. 

Can you get into Arches National Park for free and without a reservation?

A park pass is a must for all Arches National Park visitors. You may enter the park without a reservation before 7 AM and after 4 PM. Other times you can enter the park without a reservation are when you have camping reservations, hold a Fiery Furnace ticket, or are on a commercial tour. 

Tom Harrison
Tom Harrison

Tom Harrison is an intrepid explorer and fervent nature lover. Through his clean writing style, he invites readers to join him on an exhilarating journey into the wilderness.


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