Arches National Park

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: January 2023

Arches National Park is home to more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, the largest concentration found anywhere in the world. These arches have formed over time, starting from cracks in sandstone fins that begin to widen from mechanical and chemical weathering. Besides arches, the park also contains other geological formations including spires, pinnacles, towering sandstone cliffs and balanced rocks. There is a paved scenic drive through the park that provides access to many viewpoints and hiking trails to catch a better glimpse of the desert scenery and interesting rock features.

Our game plan for the day was to see as many arches in Arches as we could. So we got an early start and arrived at the park first thing in the morning. The visitor center was still closed, so we continued along the scenic drive and planned to check it out on our drive out of the park at the end of the day.

We stopped at a series of viewpoints along the scenic drive, starting with the Park Avenue Viewpoint. From the parking lot, there’s a short path that’s paved that leads to a viewing platform of several massive sandstone fins on either side of the canyon walls. These rock formations reminded early visitors of skyscrapers lining a big city street. There’s a trail that winds down to the canyon floor to provide a closer look of the towering rock formations, but we had other plans for the day to see the arches.

Shortly after the road runs parallel to the Great Wall and there’s a series of more viewpoints of La Sal Mountains and other monoliths including The Organ, Courthouse Towers, Tower of Babel and Three Gossips.

We hopped back in the car for another few kilometres, stopping at the Balanced Rock (0.4km loop, rated easy) for a short hike. The trail is partially paved and wraps around a rock formation where the top looks like it’s balancing precariously on the lower, thinner rock pillar. It was formed as different rock layers erode at different rates. Eventually it will collapse.

From the scenic drive, the road branches off and leads to a few other viewpoints and trails. We turned right and drove to the end of the road where there’s a parking lot with access to a couple of hiking trails. We started with The Windows (1.6km loop, rated easy). The trail is short and sweet and passes the North and South Windows, two openings through the sandstone cliffs. There’s also a short detour to Turret Arch. The path then loops around the back of the Windows. This portion of the trail is considered primitive, but it was in good condition with minimal elevation gain and was super easy to navigate.

When we looped back to the parking lot, we took the short connector path to the trailhead for the Double Arch (1km round trip, rated easy). It’s a short trail through the sand that leads to the base of two giant arches that are connected at one end.

On the drive back to the main road, we stopped to check out the Garden of Eden Viewpoint that provides a closer look of a cluster of interesting rock formations.

We made another detour from the main road to check the Delicate Arch, the most iconic arch in Arches. There’s a hiking trail that starts at Wolfe Ranch that leads to the arch, but it’s rated difficult and is reputed to be icy in the winter. There are also two viewpoints of the Delicate Arch that don’t require much hiking to get to.

In the interest of time (and because we weren’t sure what the conditions were like on the trail), we opted for the easy route and went to the Lower and Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoints. From the two viewpoints, there is no access to the Delicate Arch from these trails. The path to the lower viewpoint is relatively flat and wide. It connects with the trail to the upper viewpoint that’s a bit more challenging and requires some uphill hiking. The views were okay as we were still pretty far from the Delicate Arch. This is where I wish my camera did a better job of zooming in.

We were back on the road for a short stretch before pulling over at the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. The Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons. The only way to enter is to join a ranger-led hike (which are only available spring through fall) or obtain a self-guided day-use permit. We haven’t quite mastered navigating trails in the desert and didn’t trust our ability to handle the maze-like nature of the challenging terrain, so instead we admired the views from the viewpoint. It’s good to stick to your strengths sometimes.

Most of the rocks in the park get their colour from the presence or absence of iron. When iron oxidizes it gives the rocks a red colour. The bands of white occur where water has removed the iron or bleached the rock through chemical reaction. Fiery Furnace gets its name from the warm glow seen on the red rocks as the sun sets later in the afternoon.

We made another short stop to hike to the Skyline Arch (0.6km round trip, rated easy). There’s a short path through the sand that leads to the base of a sandstone cliff with a large arch carved near the top.

We drove to the end of the road which marks the trailhead for the Devils Garden where there’s a high density of arches and other natural rock formations. There are several hiking options depending on how much time you have and how much of a challenge you’re looking for.

Our plan was to hike to Double O Arch, exploring all the various spur trails along the way. We followed along the Devils Garden Trail. The first portion of the path is wide and there are a few hilly sections, but it’s not too bad. Right away we got to start crossing some arches off our list. There’s a short side trail that leads to Tunnel Arch (0.2km one-way) and Pine Tree Arch (0.3km one-way).

Once we joined the main trail again, it’s about a kilometre to get to Landscape Arch. It spans 306 feet base to base and is the longest natural arch in the park.

After this point, the path becomes more challenging and starts with an intense climb up a steep ridge. The trail levels off and we followed the rock cairns to a junction where more arches are located in every direction.

We started with a detour to the left to check out Partition Arch, a window-like arch that overlooks the valley below and is located on the same fin as Landscape Arch, and Navajo Arch, a deeper arch-like tunnel through the rocks.

When we circled back to the junction we continued straight for the Double O Arch. This portion of the path required navigating over some ledges and slick rocks, but the path was well-signed with posts and arrows to point us in the right direction. There were some nice views of the valley below, including an overlook of Black Arch.

From Double O Arch, we took the spur trail to Dark Angel (0.8km one-way). Dark is right as the first portion is a bit sketchy. The path is narrow and super muddy, but we were committed. The path improves and leads to a ridge. As we were approaching the ridge, we were passed by a group of women who were running (!) the trail. We saw that they went down to the left of the ridge, so we figured that’s where the trail went. It wasn’t obvious how or where to scramble down the ridge, but we found a spot with some decent footholds and gave it a whirl. We then followed the footprints in the sand.

We turned a corner and found a sign that said we found something special. There was an impressive collection of petroglyphs etched into the walls of the ridge, showing signs that Native Americans have been here for thousands of years.

We kept going, not sure what we were heading towards. We continued to follow the footprints in the sand. There weren’t many of them but we knew that the group of women were still in front of us. We came across a dark rock pillar and found a sign to indicate that we had arrived at Dark Angel.

We found the main path again and followed that back to the junction for Double O Arch. The primitive trail continues onwards for a longer loop, but our navigational skills in the desert were still a bit questionable. And we were getting tired. So we turned around and headed back the way we came, but this time we didn’t have to take any of the side trails since we already hit them up on the way up.

On the drive out of the park, we made a quick stop to hike to Sand Dune Arch (0.6km round trip, rated easy). This out-and-back trail leads through the sand to an arch tucked among sandstone fins. The trail continues to Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch to form a longer loop, but at this point we were done for the day.

We hopped back in the car and started the long drive to Page, Arizona.


98 thoughts on “Arches National Park

  1. Fat Geisha says:

    What a beautiful place and these photos are amazing. I would love to go and explore it now. Thanks for sharing another great place to add to my bucket list 😃

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The desert landscape in Arches is pretty incredible with all those natural arches. We had a wonderful time trying to find as many of the arches as we could. It’s definitely a good one to add to your travel bucket list. Plus there’s so many other amazing parks nearby.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The petroglyphs at Dark Angel were such an expected surprise. If it weren’t for the group of ladies in front of us, we never would have found them. Sounds like it was meant to be. It is pretty amazing how there are so many natural arches in the area.

  2. gsilvosa63 says:

    It seems that you went to almost every available trail and arch at Arches! Good also that you started early. We got there a little late and had to deal with the heat and the crowd.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We certainly tried to see as many arches as we could. That’s too bad about the crowds. That’s one of the main reasons why we decided to visit in the middle of winter. Starting this year, Arches is now requiring visitors who come between April and October to make a timed reservation in advance in an effort to prevent overcrowding. Hopefully it helps.

  3. kagould17 says:

    This looks like an absolutely huge park and well worth the visit and the hikes. Some gorgeous photos Linda. It is always nice when the sun cooperates. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The lighting in the morning was fantastic for taking pictures. We certainly made the most of the day by visiting as many arches as we could. It was a fun scavenger hunt. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

  4. Darlene says:

    What amazing geological formations. The arches themselves are breathtakingly beautiful. I also love the petroglyphs. This is a great place for hikes and photography!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The natural arches are pretty incredible and it was neat to see so many in the park. The petroglyphs were such an unexpected surprise. We never would have found them if it weren’t for the group of ladies in front of us who veered off the trail. It was pretty special.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know! The best part was that we weren’t even expecting to see petroglyphs. The only reason we stumbled upon them was because we were following a group of ladies in front of us who made a detour off the main path. We just figured that’s where the path went and they looked like they knew where they were going. It was honestly the highlight of our day in Arches.

  5. Linda K says:

    These are some of the most beautiful and unique landforms I think I’ve ever seen! Your photos are stunning and I can’t believe you did so much in one day. Looks like you had the perfect day out and the weather certainly cooperated 🙂 I am definitely adding this park to my bucket list!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s pretty amazing how there are so many natural arches in this park. I love how each one is so unique and has a different shape and size. It must have been fun to name them. We couldn’t have asked for better weather to enjoy the scenery. Plus it was very comfortable for hiking. It’s definitely one to add to your travel bucket list, especially since there are a few other national and state parks nearby.

  6. Flowerpoet says:

    Wonderful adventure and post! Towers of Nature’s Creation and Weathered Glimpses Through Space. Strange Beauty. Thanks for sharing this! 😍🤩💖✨

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The landscape in Arches looked otherworldly with all those gravity defying arches and interesting rock formations. We had a wonderful time soaking in the scenery at Arches and just enjoying nature.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Arches is definitely a good one to add to your travel bucket list. The best part is that it’s close to so many other iconic national parks like the Grand Canyon.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks!! Arches was one of my favourite parks that we visited during our road trip through southern Utah. The natural arches are pretty incredible and it was a real treat to find some petroglyphs along the trail.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was fun to learn more about the geology in Arches, including why there are so many arches and how they formed. We had wonderful weather for hiking and enjoying the stunning scenery.

  7. Rose says:

    All your photos are so fabulously beautiful. It’s amazing to see so many interesting rock formations and no two are the same. I like the shot of the sun shining through the arch. The etched petroglyphs are such a valuable piece of history.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words. The rock formations and features in Arches were pretty special. It was such an unexpected surprise to come across the petroglyphs. That was easily one of my favourite hikes on our entire trip.

  8. Laura says:

    Just…wow. These photos are some of your best! This park looks so otherworldly and humbling- I have never been to this area and after reading this post- I am adding it to my travel wishlist 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Aww thanks, you are too kind. The landscape in Arches is breathtaking. It’s wild how many natural arches there are in this one park. It was fun to try to visit as many as we could. It was tough to move on and head to the next park. I wish we could have stayed for longer.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment! The hike to Double O Arch was my favourite. I couldn’t believe how perfect the lighting was. But the best part was stumbling across those petroglyphs. We certainly made the most of our day in Arches. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      You are too kind. Arches is definitely a great spot to add to your travel bucket list. The best part is that it’s close to a few other iconic national parks, like the Grand Canyon.

  9. Ab says:

    Your excursion looked amazing. The views arches, spires all look otherworldly look me in a beautiful and haunting way. And loved the artistic shot of the sun underneath the arch.

    It’s a little insane to see people running the trial, and in that heat, but to each their own I guess. 😆

    Also interesting to see some biblical reference in some of the chosen names in the spots that you visited.

    What a beautiful place on Earth!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s insane how many arches there are at Arches. The name of the national park seems very fitting. I love how each one is so unique. It must have been fun to be involved in the naming process of them. Those ladies who were running along the Double O Arch Trail were something else! If it weren’t for them, we never would have found those secret petroglyphs though. It was such an unexpected surprise.

      And speaking of unexpected surprises, did you hear the thunderstorm last night? Or should I say thundersnow. I had no idea that was even a term or that there can be a thunderstorm in the middle of winter while it’s snowing. How crazy. And the amount of snow we got is pretty crazy too. Best of luck shovelling!

      • Ab says:

        It’s nice when you discover something off the beaten path – and then be able to share them with others! Thanks to your blog, I’ll know to keep an out for them when I go one day!

        The shoveling was intense on Saturday. I was so sore after cuz the sun was melting the snow and made it even heavier. Hope you’re ok too. 😊

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. Stumbling upon those petroglyphs was such a special moment. I wouldn’t trust our advice in terms of finding where they are though as we struggled a lot with navigating some of the trails in the desert. And following the footprints in the sand doesn’t always work out. Thankfully we had the group of ladies in front of us who led us in the right direction.

        I hear yah about shovelling. We went out in stages to give our backs a break. But the longer we waited, the worse it got. Thank goodness the snow plow hasn’t come by yet on our street. That part is always the worst.

      • Ab says:

        Snow plows are the worst! They always wait until your driveway is clean to then clean the streets. 😆

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        No kidding. And if you don’t clean it up right away, it gets all hard and crusty, which makes it even worse. Hopefully we won’t get anymore major snowstorms!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was the last of the Mighty Five national parks on our itinerary in southern Utah and oh wow was it fantastic. It was pretty neat to see such a large collection of natural arches in one place.

  10. Bama says:

    What an aptly named national park! When I went to Wadi Rum in Jordan, I did see some arches, but not this many. I personally think the most impressive-looking is Landscape Arch with that long span. Do people walk on it? Or is it too dangerous and damaging to the natural formation itself?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The name of the park is very fitting with all those natural arches. I love how each one is different and has its own name. Landscape Arch was one of my favourites too. The trail used to go to the base of the arch where you could walk underneath it, but after a series of large rockfalls in the 90s, the park closed that portion of the trail. Fine by me as this meant I didn’t have to worry about having randoms in my pictures!

  11. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    So wonderful photography of variety of incredible rocks and the nature wonders 🌹🙏👍🏻😊
    Your explanation written so awesome 👏 first time seeing this beautiful place , grace wishes 💕

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. I had a fun time exploring many of the arches in Arches National Park. They were all very photogenic. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

  12. leightontravels says:

    Beautiful rock formations, what a stunning place to visit. Love the sign that announces the discovery of petroglyphs. I particularly like the Garden Of Eden viewpoint as the rock formations there are reminiscent of large-headed extraterrestrials.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Despite being in southern Utah for over a week at this point, the desert scenery continued to impress us. The landscape at Arches was so different compared to the other national parks that we visited with all those natural arches and other interesting rock features. The petroglyphs were such an unexpected surprise and turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. It felt very special to stumble upon them. Now that you mention it, those rock formations at the Garden of Eden do look a lot like a group of aliens!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I couldn’t agree more. The desert scenery in southern Utah doesn’t get old. I love how there’s something different to see at each national park.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I can easily see why Arches is one of your favourites. Out of all the parks we visited on our road trip, I wish we could have spent more time here. The landscape is incredible with all those gravity defying arches. It was fun to go on a scavenger hunt to try to find as many as we could.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s awesome that you were able to spend three days in Arches and complete a 20 mile hike. Our navigational skills in the desert were quite questionable and I don’t think that’s something we could have done, even if we had more time here.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Ha! I never understood why some people need so many selfies of themselves. The real subject of my photography is the scenery, not myself. We had to wait (impatiently) a few times for people to finish taking their selfies under the arches, which was kind of annoying. But I can only imagine how much worse it would have been (probably impossible) if we visited on a weekend or during peak season.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know! It’s pretty incredible how these arches have formed and that there’s such a huge collection of them in this one national park. I love how many of them have even been named.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The desert landscape in Arches is stunning with all those interesting rock formations. We had a fun time trying to find as many natural arches as we could.

  13. ourcrossings says:

    I love your beautiful photos, Linda 🙂 I am really amazed at the whims of nature and the passage of time. While most of the celebrated sites are arches, I find the cliffs, buttes, fins, and canyons magnificent too. As a nature lover, I would love to see the park in person. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It is pretty impressive to learn how some of these rock features and formations have formed over time. Geology rocks! Hopefully you’re able to see them for yourself someday. There’s so many parks in southern Utah, which makes for an excellent road trip adventure! Thanks for reading, Aiva. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Linda

  14. Mike and Kellye Hefner says:

    What a great day you had at Arches! The weather looked great on the day you visited, and you saw a lot for just one day there. Then to top it off with driving all the way to Page – you guys travel the way we do. Nobody would ever want to travel with us because we go non-stop until we can’t go anymore, then we get up and do it again the next day. There is too much to see and so little time! I loved your post.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The timing worked out well as the weather forecast was calling for rain in Moab over the next few days. I imagine some of the hiking in Arches would have been more challenging when the rocks are wet and slippery. Glad to hear that we’re not the only ones that try to pack in as much as we can while on vacation. And you’re right, I don’t think many of our friends or family would enjoy travelling with us. I run a pretty tight ship. There will be time to rest when we’re back from holidays!

  15. NortheastAllie says:

    Your photos of the rock formations are absolutely beautiful. You can see how unique the landscape is here, and the area looks spectacular. That is really neat that you found petroglyphs too, it is like a glimpse into the history of the region.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The desert landscape in Arches is pretty impressive with all those natural arches. Stumbling upon those petroglyphs was such an unexpected surprise and ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. We never would have found them if it weren’t for the group of ladies in front of us who turned off the main path. Talk about perfect timing.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It is too bad that you weren’t able to visit Arches. There never seems to be enough time! It was one of the highlights from our road trip through southern Utah and we wished we could have stayed for longer.

  16. wetanddustyroads says:

    So many beautiful rock formations – it’s truly amazing. I mean … all those arches! I can see why this park is called Arches National Park 🙂. The most arches we saw in one day during a hike was 10. And it’s always nice to see petroglyphs on one’s road, isn’t it. Beautiful photos!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The trail through Devils Garden definitely gave us the biggest bang for buck in terms of seeing so many arches, but the real highlight was stumbling upon those petroglyphs. It was such an unexpected surprise. We never would have found them if it weren’t for the group of women in front of us.

  17. usfman says:

    My wife and I will be driving around southern Utah on our next road trip. From your entries here, I realize that these parks are much bigger than expected. . So if you had only one half day, at Arches, where would you spend your time the most?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      How exciting! Southern Utah is a great spot for a road trip since there are so many amazing national and state parks nearby. Plus even the drive is incredibly scenic. The nice thing about Arches is that many of the arches are easily accessible. If you only have half a day, I would recommend visiting Double Arch and The Windows, hiking part of Devils Garden to Landscape Arch, and checking out some of the various viewpoints along the scenic drive through the park.

  18. rkrontheroad says:

    One of my favorite places. Years ago my son and I hiked to every arch. Your photos are terrific. Nice to see the early morning shadows, and sun peaking through a window.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It’s pretty impressive that you and your son hiked to every arch. We were only here for a day, so we tried to just hit up the highlights. I would love to return to explore the park more fully. Plus there are so many state parks nearby that we wanted to visit, but just didn’t have enough time.

  19. Bernie says:

    Such diversity even in arches. Love the range of colours as well. The navigation — I get that. It’s the same at Joshua Tree National Park. It can be sketchy and that makes it a bit nerve wracking so I get why you didn’t go in some areas. Cool that you followed the running (!!) women and saw the petroglyphs. Bernie

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. You’d think after visiting so many of these arches that the wow factor would eventually diminish or that they’d all start to blend together, but that wasn’t the case at all. Glad to hear that we’re not the only ones who struggle to navigate in the desert. Following the footprints in the sand doesn’t always work! Finding those hidden petroglyphs was actually the highlight of our time in Arches. It was such an unexpected surprise. Thank goodness for those women in front of us!

  20. alisendopf says:

    First off – wowzers! What a day. You must have a crick in your neck from looking up every two seconds. What a feast for the eye. Second, I love the names – the Three Gossips??? I’d love to know that history 🙂

    The one arch that blew me away is the Landscape Arch. How is it possible that it hasn’t collapsed yet like some of the shorter spans. I hope it lasts another few centuries.

    Thanks for the info on how the red rock is created. Always wanted to know that.

    I tried to visit this park years ago when we paddled the Green River out of Moab, but there was a Federal strike so all this area was closed. I had no idea it was so big. What an impressive area of the world.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We only had a day in Arches so we packed in as much as we could. The park staff were certainly creative in naming many of the different arches and interesting rock formations. It’s incredible how many of these arches are still standing as some of them look so delicate and seem to defy gravity, especially Landscape Arch. The trail used to continue underneath that arch, but due to a rockfall in the early 1990s, that portion of the trail was closed. Eventually the entire arch will collapse, but hopefully not for a long time.

      It’s too bad that you weren’t able to visit because of the strike. I guess that means that you’ll just have to return someday!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The desert landscape in southern Utah is beautiful and unlike anything we have here in Canada. I’m glad we went during the middle of winter as I don’t think I could handle the heat!

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