Some of Utah’s finest parks are located not far from the town of Moab, in eastern Utah and near the Colorado State border. One of these unique parks is undoubtedly the Arches Park (Arches National Park), which has the highest concentration of natural rock arches in the world. It houses more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, as well as many strange rock formations, creating an exceptional landscape made of contrasts and colors. The Arches Park stretches over an area of 310 square kilometers, and lies at the heart of a high desert area, at an altitude varying between 1,245 meters and 1,723 meters.
Arches National Park is one of Utah’s iconic parks where you can indulge in the pleasures of hiking in breathtaking natural landscapes! This desert park is located in the south-east of Utah. It is one of the most visited by Europeans that are largely fascinated by the landscape of giant arches whose red, orange and white strata are iridescent magical reflections at sunset. The best known of these 2000 arches is the Delicate Arch that has even become the symbol of Utah. It rises 14 meters high and offers, through its natural “window”, a breathtaking view of the La Sal Mountains, in the background. In the evening, the grazing light makes the sandstone glow and reveals all its beauty. Adding splendor to its beauty and fame, it must not be forgotten that this park has an impressive number of other rock formations that are also spectacular and worth seeing, such as, the Double Arch, with its two arches in the form of 8 and the Landscape Arch, whose footbridge is 89 meters wide and is placed 32 meters above the ground.
Essential hikes of the Arches National Park
There are a number of hikes trails in the Arches National Park as well as points of view distributed along the main panoramic road which crosses it, or secondary roads. These hikes consist for the most part of a round trip. Their point of departure is usually along the road, where parking facilities are provided. It is, of course, difficult to do all that there is, especially during a road-trip where we want to see different parks. Here is are some of the must-see hikes.
The Delicate Arch (5 km – Gradient 150 m)
This 14-meter high arch is the park’s most famous arch, and probably the world’s most famous natural arch. It is the symbol of Utah. It is found in particular as a background image on license plates or on certain stamps of this state. The discovery of the Delicate Arch is also accompanied by the discovery of the splendid panorama of the surrounding Rocky Mountains! It is ideal to hike in the late afternoon in order to enjoy the ark from the glowing light of the sun, giving it beautiful reddish aspects.
Here’s a walk that lets you see what is arguably the park’s most beautiful arch and one of Utah’s symbols. For access to the starting parking of the hike, take on the right, 20 km after the entry of the Park, the indicated route leading to Delicate Arch. Two kilometers further, the car park is on the left. If you continue on the road, you reach the short walk that gives access to the view on Delicate Arch. But this point of view is distant and does not allow to appreciate the dimensions of the arch, it would be really a pity to be satisfied with it … Before starting the walk for Delicate Arch, do not forget the slight detour to Wolf Ranch (historic ranch of the late 1800s) as well as neighboring petroglyphs (dating from 1650 to 1850) “Natives”.
Two hundred meters before reaching the arch, to the right, is a small arch. If you have the courage to climb the rock, it is a superb view of Delicate Arch that you will have from up there. If not, be satisfied with the no less superb classical view of the ark and its amphitheater
Delicate Arch is sublime at any time of the day but at sunset, it’s even better, the colors are magnified.
The return is made by the same way.
The Landscape Arch (88 m)
This arch is also worth seeing. It is indeed the largest natural arch in the world! It is over 88 meters long! It is accessed by walking the trail of Devils Garden. This trail can also lead to other arches (named Pine Tree Arch, Double O Arch, etc.). Indeed, access is forbidden there since large blocks were unhooked from the ark at the beginning of the 90’s, making the site dangerous and constantly threatening to collapse.
The “Double Arch” (2 m)
We are talking here about two arches, because the Double Arch consists of two huge arches that juxtapose, hence its name. The dimensions of this structure are 45 meters wide and 32 meters high. In other words, you feel very small when you are below … It is a spectacular arch, actually made up of 2 arches sharing the same base. For a more spectacular overview, do not hesitate to climb the rock up to the level of the second arch.
Park Avenue Trail (3.2 km)
Access is from Park Avenue’s point of view where there is a small car park. This walk down Park Avenue between the imposing red cliffs. This is not a loop the path ends at Courthouse Towers on the Park’s main road. You will have to turn back unless you can have another car, for example, if you are in two groups. There are no arches here but you will feel very small in this mineral environment!
Balanced Rock (400 m)
This is one of the images of the Arches Park with Delicate and Landscape Arches. This rock in balance has served in many advertising campaigns. A short path goes around the rock. There are also beautiful views of the Windows area and off the snow-laden La Sal Mountains outside the summer period, making it a stark contrast to the colorful rocks of the desert.
The Windows (1.6 km – Gradient 45 m)
Let’s see on an easy loop no less than three arches! South and North Windows and Turret Arch. Absolutely beautiful at sunset! You can (or not) borrow the Primitive Trail. It provides great views of the surrounding desert and rocks of various shapes and forms and the Sal Mountains in the background.
Garden of Eden (10 minutes)
This is a viewpoint accessible by car on the road leading to Windows. We can see the surrounding desert, imposing rocks of various shapes and the La Sal Mountains. It is also a good spot at sunset.
Sand Dune Arch (600 m)
Park at the parking lot of Sand Dune Arch, newly redone and enlarged. It is about 26 km after the entrance of the Park. The trail is flat, short and easy. It gives access to a beautiful arch encased in a beautiful environment of rocky spurs and small sand dunes, hence its name.
Broken Arch (2 km)
It is also accessed from the Sand Dune Arch car park. We can combine the visit to both. The trail passes through desert meadows to rocky spurs of red sandstone where the arch is located. It is then possible to continue under the arch and make a loop that goes to the camp of Devil’s Garden then returns to the parking lot of Sand Dune Arch passing between high orange cliffs.
Arch Skyline (600 m)
2 km after the Sand Dune Arch car park and 1 km before the end of the park road, you will find the start of the short path to Skyline Arch and a small recess to park your vehicle. This arch is located near the Devil’s Garden Campground. So, for those who camp, it can be a good exploration 2 steps from his tent! In 1940, a section of the arch collapsed, doubling its size. You can still see the landslide at his feet.
This is a great spot at sunset.
Devil’s Garden (11.5 km – Gradient 150 m including the Primitive Trail on return)
It is the hike that will allow you to see the most arches. It is advisable, at least in summer, to hike in the early morning to avoid the heat. We can, or not, borrow the return Primitive Trail. Attention, this lengthens the hike and the Primitive Trail is harder than the main path (walking in the sand, orientation from Cairns) provide plenty of water in any case!
The Primitive Trail can also sometimes have holes of water to pass, or to circumvent!
To access the start of the hike, go to the bottom of the Park and park on the large parking lot … which can be already full if you arrive too late in the morning during tourist periods. But the rotation is fast. A little patience and a place will be released.
Some arches are accessible after a short detour from the main path. The first arch you can visit is Pine Tree Arch, which opens onto the horizon. A pine grows in the middle of the ark, hence its name. before reaching Pine Tree Arch, you can walk a few meters to the Arch Tunnel viewpoint, then you go to Landscape Arch, the largest arch in the world and looks so fragile.
After a small climb on the rock, we can then access Navajo Arch, very intimate.
One can even climb the rock wall to the right of Partition Arch to have a view of the arch but also of the surroundings. There are cairns to guide you, being careful, it is not very hard and the view is superb and you will see rocks in the shape of ET head.
Fiery Furnace (3.5 km – 3 hours – moderate)
It is a kind of labyrinth formed by narrow canyons and rocky spurs. To access this site there are two solutions:
- Obtain a permit from the Arches Visitor Center. However, the orientation in these very narrow canyons is very difficult.
- Participate in a guided tour with a Ranger. Tours must be booked in advance and are limited to 25 people. The price is $ 10 per adult and $ 5 per child under 12 years old (children under 5 are not allowed). The walk is quite sporty because it requires a little climbing. The duration of the visit is about 3 hours.
Eye of The Whale Arch (1km)
In front of the Balanced Rock car park, take the generally maintained track that leaves on the left and follow it for about 1.5 km.
In general, this area where is a formidable concentration in natural arches. These arches are formed by the action of rainwater, wind and thermal amplitude. The “Sandstone” is indeed quite fragile, which has the effect of giving us these fantastic landscapes of arches but also mounds worked by erosion. 2000 arches are listed in the Park. Delicate Arch is even the symbol of Utah. Landscape Arch is the largest natural arch in the world, 89 m long at 32 m above the ground and at the thinnest spot only 1.80 m thick!
It takes at least a full day to enjoy the Park. During a visit in summer where the temperatures can be extreme, we will privilege early morning and late afternoon for visits. It is, moreover, the moments when the colors are the most beautiful. In general, it is advisable to stay at least 3 nights in Moab to visit the fantastic environment of this city including the two national parks of Arches and Canyonlands.