There are plenty of stunning National Parks all over America and Arches National Park is one of the most beautiful and unique. In fact, it’s one of the highlights of Utah. Arches National Park offers great landscapes of arches and incredible rock formations. There are tons of short walks, long hikes, and even a couple of canyoneering routes throughout the park that are just waiting to be explored.
Top Arches National Park Hikes
The drive along through the park is stunning, but why just drive through it when you can get up close and personal with some of the magnificent sandstone fins, famous arches, and steep canyons? The place itself might remind you of Bryce Canyon due to the sandstone and the amazing red-orange colors.
When you decide to visit Arches National Park you will want to give yourself a couple of days, especially if you are planning on doing some hiking. Use our list of the 15 best hikes in Arches National Park so you can decide which one needs to be explored first.
1. Delicate Arch Trail
Delicate Arch is perhaps the most iconic image of Arches National Park. The trail, approximately three miles round-trip, is a moderately strenuous hike that ascends 480 feet, offering an unforgettable experience for adventurers.
Hiking Delicate Arch Trail isn’t just about reaching the symbol of Utah; it’s a journey revealing diverse geological features and a unique desert ecosystem. The first half-mile traverses a well-defined path, leading hikers through vast prairie lands dotted with native shrubs.
Upon crossing the one-mile mark, the trail becomes increasingly challenging, moving up slick rock with cairns guiding the way. The strenuous uphill hike rewards with sweeping vistas of the sprawling desert and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the distance.
As you make the final ascent along a rock ledge, a 200-foot drop-off on one side, the Delicate Arch comes into view. Standing as a natural monument amidst the stark desert backdrop, it leaves hikers awestruck with its raw, natural beauty. Depending on the time of day, you might even catch sight of a spectacular sun setting behind the arch, casting a warm, orange glow.
Among popular hikes in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch Trail tops the list, not just for the picturesque arch but also for the breathtaking panoramic views along the way. There is a good reason that this is the number one hike in Arches National Park.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Trail Length: 3 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 2-3 hours Elevation Gain: 480 feet Trailhead: Wolfe Ranch
2. Landscape Arch Trail
Landscape Arch Trail, part of the greater Devil’s Garden Trail system, presents a relatively easy and family-friendly hiking experience. The 1.6-mile round-trip trail, with only a slight elevation gain, leads hikers to the Landscape Arch – a remarkable geological formation reputed as one of the longest natural rock arches in the world.
The trail meanders through a juniper-pinyon woodland, offering glimpses of sandstone fins, before revealing the majestic Landscape Arch. Spanning an impressive 306 feet, the arch is an exceptional testament to nature’s creative force, illustrating the power of erosion in shaping the environment.
The path to Landscape Arch is well-trodden and relatively flat, making it accessible to hikers of varying skill levels. But don’t let the easy trek fool you; the stunning view of the slender arch delicately balanced amidst a backdrop of rugged sandstone formations makes this hike one of the most popular in Arches National Park.
If you’re keen on photography or simply appreciating awe-inspiring views, the early morning or late afternoon light provides the perfect illumination on the arch, enhancing its ethereal beauty. Wildlife enthusiasts might spot cottontail rabbits, lizards, or even mule deer along the trail.
Though not the hardest trail in the park, hikers should always be prepared with water and sun protection, as shade is scarce. Regardless of its moderate challenge, Landscape Arch Trail’s unique draw and picturesque sights firmly establish it as one of the park’s premier attractions.
Difficulty Level: Easy Trail Length: 1.6 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 1 hour Elevation Gain: Minimal Trailhead: Devils Garden
3. Tower Arch Trail
The Tower Arch Trail offers a more secluded experience away from the park’s primary areas. This moderately strenuous trail is about 3.4 miles round-trip, leading hikers through an intriguing landscape to the spectacular Tower Arch.
Starting near the Klondike Bluffs parking area, the trail winds through a landscape of red rock fins and sandstone hills, colored a brilliant orange in the morning or late afternoon sunlight. The path features diverse terrain, from sandy washes to slick rock scrambling, offering an adventurous experience for hiking enthusiasts.
At the trail’s climax, the Tower Arch stands like a grand gate in an ancient sandstone fortress, flanked by towering rock formations. Its distinctive feature is the massive rock pillar standing close by, creating a dramatic setting that is a delight for photographers.
Due to its relative remoteness, the Tower Arch Trail is less traveled, providing a sense of solitude rarely found on other hikes. The trail demands more exertion, with steep grades and scrambling sections, which might pose it as one of the harder hikes, yet it rewards with magnificent, undisturbed views and a unique sense of exploration.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Trail Length: 3.4 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 2-3 hours Elevation Gain: 620 feet Trailhead: Klondike Bluffs
Park Avenue Trail
The Park Avenue Trail is a must-see for those visiting Arches National Park. Its easy access and moderate length of 1.8 miles round-trip make it a delightful introduction to the stunning desert landscapes that define the park.
Starting from the parking area, the trail descends into a canyon lined by colossal sandstone walls on both sides, reminiscent of towering city skyscrapers—hence the name, Park Avenue. Among these natural monoliths are The Courthouse Towers, The Organ, and Queen Nefertiti, all bearing resemblance to their namesakes.
As hikers traverse the relatively flat trail, they’re treated to the spectacle of these sandstone cliffs glowing in hues of red, orange, and pink under the shifting sunlight. This trail might not rank as the hardest in Arches National Park, but its enchanting sights make it a highlight for visitors.
The Park Avenue Trail is excellent for photography, especially during sunrise and sunset when the play of light and shadow creates a dramatic effect on the landscape.
Difficulty Level: Easy Trail Length: 2 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 1-2 hours Elevation Gain: 320 feet Trailhead: Park Avenue Parking Area
5. Primitive Trail
For hikers seeking a more rugged, off-the-beaten-path hike, the Primitive Trail in the Devil’s Garden area is a perfect choice. This is definitely one of the hardest hikes in the park, as the Primitive Trail is a 7.2-mile loop that you are almost always hiking alone, so it requires a good level of fitness and great navigational skills.
The trail begins with the same path leading to Landscape Arch, then veers off to explore the park’s more remote terrain. You’ll encounter sandstone fins, narrow washes, and smaller arches like Private Arch nestled away from the crowds. The hike’s beauty lies in its raw, untouched feel, offering a glimpse into the wild side of Arches National Park.
Navigating the Primitive Trail can be challenging. There are sections with steep descents, sandy pathways, and slick rock scrambling, which all contribute to its hard hiking reputation. Cairns marks the way, but hikers must remain alert to stay on track. This strenuous trek demands preparation: proper hiking boots, ample water, and a trail map are a must.
Despite the challenges, the thrill of exploring a less-traveled part of the park and the incredible, unspoiled views make the Primitive Trail a rewarding endeavor for experienced hikers.
Difficulty Level: Difficult Trail Length: 7.2 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 4-5 hours Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet Trailhead: Devils Garden
6. Double O Arch Trail
Double O Arch Trail, situated in the park’s northern section, Devil’s Garden, is a moderately difficult hike that rewards with remarkable views and the unique sight of two natural arches stacked atop each other. The trail, approximately 4.2 miles round-trip, takes you past some of the park’s most beautiful scenery.
The hike starts on the same trail leading to Landscape Arch, then veers off through a fascinating landscape of sandstone fins. It can get challenging, with steep grades, narrow ledges, and Slickrock sections, but the reward is worth the effort. The Double O Arch, with its two stacked arches, is a sight to behold, demonstrating the fascinating intricacies of natural erosion.
The upper arch spans around 71 feet, while the smaller arch below measures approximately 21 feet. The sight of the Double O Arch silhouetted against the sky is particularly striking, and it makes a fantastic photo opportunity.
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult Trail Length: 4.2 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 2-3 hours Elevation Gain: 670 feet Trailhead: Devils Garden
7. Balanced Rock Loop Trail
Balanced Rock, one of the park’s most iconic features, is accessible via a short and easy-loop trail. At 0.3 miles long, the Balanced Rock Loop Trail may not be a marathon hike, but it offers an up-close view of this extraordinary geological formation.
The trail winds around the base of Balanced Rock, providing various perspectives of this precarious natural sculpture. The ‘balancing’ rock is about as big as three school buses and looks like it’s defying gravity. This stunning rock formation is a classic example of a ‘hoodoo’, where a harder rock layer on top protects the softer layer beneath from erosion.
Balanced Rock Loop Trail is perfect for families, beginners, or those short on time. Even though it’s one of the easiest trails in Arches National Park, it leads you to a sight that’s nothing short of extraordinary. The trail is accessible year-round and can be enjoyed at any time of day, though the setting sun casting a warm glow on the rock is a sight to behold.
Difficulty Level: Easy Trail Length: 0.3 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 15-30 minutes Elevation Gain: Minimal Trailhead: Balanced Rock
8. Ribbon Arch Trail
If you crave a less-traveled path in Arches National Park, Ribbon Arch Trail might be the hike for you. This moderately strenuous trail stretches around 5.4 miles round-trip and leads to the unique Ribbon Arch, a spectacular structure that stands as a testament to the power of nature’s forces over time.
The trail takes you through the Klondike Bluffs area, an intriguing terrain characterized by dense concentrations of sandstone fins and towering red rock formations. The path winds through small canyons and sandy washes, gradually ascending to a panoramic viewpoint. From here, you can observe the diverse landscape of the park, including the majestic Ribbon Arch.
Ribbon Arch, named for its thin, elongated shape, creates an awe-inspiring spectacle. The sight of the slender arch against the backdrop of the vast desert and rugged cliffs is truly captivating, offering a fantastic opportunity for photography.
While not necessarily the hardest hike, the Ribbon Arch Trail does require a fair level of fitness due to its length and sandy sections.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Trail Length: 1.6 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 1-2 hours Elevation Gain: 290 feet Trailhead: Devils Garden
9. Devils Garden Loop Trail
The Devil’s Garden Trail is the longest and one of the most popular hikes in Arches National Park. Stretching around 7.8 miles if all spur trails are included, this trail offers hikers the chance to see eight distinct arches, including Tunnel Arch, Partition Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and the iconic Landscape Arch.
One thing you can be guaranteed with this hike is that you will be seeing arches and formations that are unnamed and not seen by a whole ton of visitors. Just be aware that there are some steep dropoffs at different sections of the trail so proceed with caution.
The Devil’s Garden Trailhead is located at the end of the park road, about 18 miles north of the Arches Visitor Center. It basically starts at the Devils Garden Campground is available via reservation from March through to October.
Like most trails in the park, parking can be busy and is limited so you’re best to arrive early. Devils Garden is one of the premier locations in the park.
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate Trail Length: 7.2 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 3-5 hours Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet Trailhead: Devils Garden
10. Moab Canyon Pathway
The Moab Canyon Pathway is a versatile trail, popular among hikers, cyclists, and runners alike. This multi-use pathway runs 12.7 miles from Moab to the Arches National Park entrance, showcasing dramatic views of red rock landscapes, the Colorado River, and the La Sal Mountains.
While technically not located inside Arches National Park, this trail offers the chance to appreciate the region’s stunning geology without the crowds often found at popular park spots. The pathway is mostly flat and paved, making it an easier hike for those who prefer a less strenuous outing.
Particularly noteworthy is the section of the trail through the Moab Brands Focus Area, which features unique rock formations and a series of mountain bike trails. Whether you’re hiking at sunrise or sunset, the changing colors of the sky reflected on the surrounding cliffs create a breathtaking spectacle.
Difficulty Level: Easy Trail Length: 12.7 miles one way Time to Hike: Approximately 5-7 hours Elevation Gain: Minimal Trailhead: Lions Park
11. Elephant Butte
Elephant Butte is the highest point in Arches National Park, offering a challenging climb and rewarding 360-degree views. This strenuous 3.8-mile round-trip hike requires some scrambling and route-finding skills, earning its reputation as one of the park’s harder hikes.
The trail begins at the Garden of Eden parking area, meandering through a series of rocky sections and sandy washes. As you ascend, the trail becomes less defined, but cairns mark the general route. The final climb to the summit involves a scramble up a steep sandstone slope.
Once atop Elephant Butte, you’re rewarded with expansive views of Arches National Park, the Colorado River, and the surrounding high desert landscape. On a clear day, you can even spot the La Sal Mountains in the distance.
Due to the hike’s difficulty, it’s essential to prepare accordingly: wear sturdy footwear, carry plenty of water, and avoid the hike in extreme heat or during winter when ice may be present.
Difficulty Level: Difficult Trail Length: 1.5 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 2-3 hours Elevation Gain: 600 feet Trailhead: Parking lot near Balanced Rock
12. Fiery Furnace and Surprise Arch Trail
The Fiery Furnace is not your typical hike. It’s a labyrinth of sandstone canyons, fins, and natural arches, including the hidden gem – Surprise Arch. This 2-mile round-trip trail is considered one of the park’s more challenging hikes due to the lack of a marked trail and the need for scrambling and route-finding skills.
This adventurous hike requires a permit or a ranger-led tour, the latter being highly recommended for first-time visitors due to the complexity of the terrain. Within the Fiery Furnace, you’ll encounter narrow passages, towering sandstone walls, and unique rock formations, creating a surreal, otherworldly atmosphere.
Surprise Arch is a secluded arch tucked away within the Fiery Furnace’s maze-like structure. As its name implies, stumbling upon this arch amidst the labyrinth can indeed feel like a surprise, adding to the thrill of exploration.
You should also note that the only way to enter the Fiery Furnace is with a ranger or with an individual permit.
Difficulty Level: Difficult Trail Length: 2 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 2-3 hours Elevation Gain: 150 feet Trailhead: Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
13. Dark Angel
Dark Angel is a standalone sandstone pillar located at the end of the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop Trail. This additional 0.8-mile out-and-back extension makes the full hike a challenging 8.6-mile round-trip journey, but the sight of the Dark Angel and the panoramic views from the base are well worth the extra effort.
Rising 150 feet above the surrounding desert landscape, Dark Angel is an imposing figure against the backdrop of clear blue skies and rugged terrain. This monolith, visible from various points along the trail, is a distinctive feature in an already dramatic landscape.
The trail itself offers an adventurous journey, passing several iconic arches and traveling through varying terrain. While challenging, it’s also deeply rewarding, offering some of the best views in Arches National Park.
Difficulty Level: Moderate Trail Length: 4.2 miles round trip from Devils Garden Trailhead Time to Hike: Approximately 2-3 hours Elevation Gain: 590 feet Trailhead: Devils Garden
14. Windows Arch and Turret Arch Trail
The Windows Section is one of the most popular areas in Arches National Park, and the Windows Arch and Turret Arch Trail provide a short, easy hike to some of the park’s most famous arches. This 1-mile round-trip trail is perfect for families, offering excellent photo opportunities and stunning views with minimal effort.
The trail loops around the North and South Windows, often referred to as the Spectacles due to their side-by-side resemblance to a pair of eyeglasses. Additionally, the trail provides a close view of Turret Arch, named for its resemblance to a castle tower.
Each arch offers a unique perspective on the power of erosion and the beauty of natural architecture. Despite being one of the easier hikes in Arches National Park, the Windows Arch and Turret Arch Trail should not be missed.
Difficulty Level: Easy Trail Length: 1 mile round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 1 hour Elevation Gain: Minimal Trailhead: Windows parking area
15. Double Arch Trail
You might recognize the Double Arch itself as it was famously featured in the opening scenes of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and for good reason.
The trail to Double Arch is a relatively short and easy 0.5-mile round trip, making it accessible to hikers of all ages and skill levels. The path is well-defined, with only a slight incline, leading from the parking area to the base of the Double Arch. Because of this, it is one of the most family-friendly hikes within the park and offers an excellent introduction to the beauty and natural wonders found in Arches National Park.
The Double Arch is a coalescence of two natural arches that share a common end, creating a unique spectacle within the park’s landscape. These intertwined arches stand as a testament to the power of erosion and other geological forces that have shaped the park over millions of years. The arches’ combined span is over 200 feet, making it one of the largest formations of its kind in the park.
Difficulty level: Easy Trail Length: 0.5 miles round trip Time to Hike: Approximately 15-30 minutes Elevation Gain: Approximately 40 feet Trailhead: The trail starts from the Double Arch parking lot, which is located 15.7 miles from the Arches Visitor Center at the end of The Windows Road.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most popular hikes in Arches National Park?
The most popular hikes in Arches National Park include the Delicate Arch Trail, the Landscape Arch Trail, and the Devil’s Garden Trail. These trails are famous for their striking natural features such as Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and a variety of other arches along the Devil’s Garden Trail. Their popularity is also due to their moderate difficulty level, making them accessible to a broad range of hikers.
What is the number one hike in Arches National Park?
The number one hike in Arches National Park is generally considered to be the Delicate Arch Trail. This 3-mile round-trip hike leads to Delicate Arch, the most iconic and photographed arch in the park. The trail provides unparalleled views of the arch and the surrounding landscape, making it a must-do hike for any visitor to the park.
Is Delicate Arch a hard hike?
The Delicate Arch hike is rated as moderate. The trail is about 3 miles round-trip with a 480 feet elevation gain. The path includes some steep sections, exposed slickrock, and no shade, making it potentially challenging, especially in hot weather. However, with proper preparation such as carrying ample water, wearing appropriate footwear, and avoiding peak heat times, most people in good health can complete the hike.
What is the hardest hike in Arches National Park?
The hardest hike in Arches National Park is arguably the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop. This 7.8-mile loop is the park’s longest trail and involves hiking on rugged and uneven terrain, including narrow ledges and sections that require scrambling. The extension to Dark Angel can add to the challenge. Despite its difficulty, it’s also one of the most rewarding hikes in the park, offering views of numerous arches and diverse landscapes.
What do I need to hike in Arches National Park?
If you are looking to hike in Arches National Park you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for every eventuality. You’ll want to make sure you are wearing lightweight, loose-fitting clothing and hiking boots to make sure that you are comfortable when exploring the trails. Some other key items to take with you in a backpack are:
Sun protection Waterproof clothing Additional clothing in case you need to layer up Bug and bear spray First aid kit Quick-drying towel A head torch Food (Energy gels and bars, electrolyte tablets, snacks) Plenty of water Binoculars Hand sanitizer
This list is not extensive and there are plenty more items you could bring along with you. It just depends on the length of the hike as to what else you might need.
Arches National Park provides a unique opportunity to explore a stunning landscape teeming with incredible geological formations. Each trail offers a unique perspective on this extraordinary park. Whether you’re seeking an easy stroll or a challenging adventure, Arches National Park has a trail just for you. Remember, the park’s beauty lies in its delicate ecosystem, so leave no trace, respect the wildlife, and always stay on marked paths to preserve the park for future generations.