Located just north of Moab, Utah – Arches became a national park in 1971, spanning 76,679 acres with more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches.
Now that’s a lot of arches!
According to the National Park Service, March through October is the busiest time with visitors totaling over 1.6 million.
So the question becomes, “How can I see everything there is to see in Arches National Park in just one day when it’s so large”?
Well, unless you have a helicopter I don’t think that is humanly possible.
BUT, we can narrow down some of the most breathtaking sites to make your day trip amazing.
We’ll go over tips on how to enjoy your day, the best ways to see Delicate Arch and other arches within the park, and complete your trip with a picturesque sunset at The Windows.
Tips to Enjoy Your Day
For a successful trip – especially if you are limited on time – it is always best to have a good plan.
These tips are meant to guide you as you build your more detailed one day itinerary for Arches National Park.
Remember, everyone has different needs and wants – so each journey will be slightly different and that’s okay!
The park is open 24/7, but the crowds start funneling in around 9am until early afternoon.
We noticed that after 3pm things seemed to slow down a bit – we were there the first week of March.
Traffic tends to pick back up in the early evening for those eager to catch a spectacular sunset.
Keep in mind starting early in the Summer is beneficial to beat the heat… just know that you won’t be the only one with that idea.
If you are a short distance from the park, you can always view the Arches entrance station webcam to see how many vehicles are lined up to enter before even leaving your location.
Be Prepared with Food and Water
The park has no food or lodging facilities so it is important that you bring your own food and water. FYI – the visitor center does have water if you need a refill.
It’s recommended that each person in your group carry at least 1 gallon of water per day. Depending on how you are spending your day, this can be done with a cooler full of water or a hydration pack.
As for food, you can bring snacks to eat on the go or have a picnic if you are lucky enough to find a picnic table. If not, just pull off at a viewpoint or parking lot to refuel!
Moab, UT is a 15 to 20 minute drive from Arches National Park Visitor center, so if all else fails, there are plenty of cool spots to grab a bite to eat in town.
Stop at the Visitor Center
Rangers are always on duty to answer any questions you may have on your visit.
They can provide detailed information on trail conditions, suitable trails for your group and drive times to get to certain areas.
If you are traveling with young ones, make sure to check out their Junior Ranger Program.
Also, exhibits are available inside and outside to provide you with the history and geology of the park, along with information of what animals and plants to keep an eye out for.
And if you’re anything like me and collect magnets from all your worldly travels, then you will definitely want to pick up a souvenir.
Just make sure to check the visitor center’s hours of operation so you don’t miss your chance!
Know the Rules
- Do not walk or climb on the arches or Balanced Rock.
- DO NOT carve into the rock. I don’t care what your initials are or who you love. Let nature do the carving!
- Drive the speed limit through the park and watch for bicyclists and pedestrians (we saw far too many people speeding – slow down and take in the beauty, people!)
- ATV/ORV use is prohibited.
- Pets are only allowed on park roads, in parking lots and/or your campsite… but must be leashed at all times. Pets are not allowed on or off trails, in the backcountry, or in buildings. Please clean up after your pet and dispose of it properly. And this should go without saying, do not leave your pet in your car – especially during the hot months!
- Permits are required for certain activities, such as canyoneering, rock climbing, backcountry overnight hiking, etc. Get your permits online or at the visitor center.
How to View Delicate Arch
Known as one of the most famous geologic features in the world, Delicate Arch will not disappoint with its massive opening of 46 feet high and 32 feet wide.
Unfortunately, you aren’t able to see it from the main road or even a parking lot.
Let’s look at the different ways to view this iconic arch!
Hike to Delicate Arch
We suggest arriving early to the park and heading straight to the trailhead to get a parking spot and to ideally avoid the crowds.
The parking lot can get full by mid morning, leaving only the Delicate Arch viewpoint parking lot as the overflow *this adds 2 more miles to your round trip*.
Although the trail is marked as difficult, we believe that is mostly attributed to the elevation gain and the ledges with drop offs that might give people with the fear of heights a fright!
The ledges aren’t “too” narrow, but make sure to take your time.
During winter months, the ledges can be snow packed and icy since it stays shaded.
The first half mile of the hike is pretty mellow with not too many ups and downs, but the remaining mile before reaching the arch will make you work for the view… it will all be worth it though!
Once you arrive, take it all in.
Typically a line forms if you want your picture taken under the spectacular arch.
As mentioned earlier, if you are looking for less crowds, try early morning just after sunrise.
If you are wanting to watch the sunset, it can get pretty crowded – but we’ve heard it is amazing.
During the summer there is no shade, so midday hikes could really be strenuous in the heat and sun.
Make sure to plan accordingly with proper food, water, clothing and sunscreen.
Don’t Miss: Summer Hiking: 7 Tips to Beat the Heat
Delicate Arch Viewpoints
Short Hikes to See The Sites
I know not everyone wants to partake in long, demanding hikes.
That’s why I’ve listed a few short distanced hikes/walks that will allow you to get out into the great outdoors.
Balanced Rock stands 128 feet tall and contrary to popular belief, isn’t balanced at all.
The boulder shaped rock is attached to its pedestal, but the pedestal is slowly eroding which is creating this illusion.
The rock is visible from the park road, but there is a small parking lot available in case you want to go for a walk around the base for a different perspective.
Sand Dune Arch
Although it’s a short distance to the Sand Dune Arch, you will be walking in loose sand and a narrow slot canyon.
This area is great for kids because who doesn’t enjoy playing in a little sand?
Remember to always leave what you find, that includes sand!
Once you are done exploring Sand Dune Arch and come out of the slot canyon, you can hike an additional 1.3 miles roundtrip to view the Broken Arch.
This is an easy trail that travels across an open grassland.
Skyline Arch can be seen from the main road, but you also have the option to hike in to see it up close.
The trail is relatively flat, with only a slightly uneven rocky beginning.
Once you’re standing near the massive wall housing the arch, you will notice a large pile of rocks nearby.
In 1940, a boulder suddenly fell out of the arch, doubling the size of its opening.
Most geologic transformations happen slowly over time, but occasionally you’ll see drastic changes that instantly alter the appearance – Skyline Arch being a great example of that.
The path to see Landscape Arch is part of the Devils Garden trail.
Even though the 7.9 mile Devils Garden Trail is rated difficult, the first section leading to Landscape Arch is graded gravel with minimal elevation gains.
You also have the option of checking out two more arches (Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch) if you add another half mile to your roundtrip.
The parking lot at Devils Garden Trailhead is large, but fills up fast… so even though I sound like a broken record, arrive early.
Drive to the Viewpoints
You can spend over two hours just driving the 36 mile scenic road through Arches.
Depending on how long you stay at each spot could add or subtract time.
If you don’t want to stop at every viewpoint, I recommend at least stopping at the following:
La Sal Mountains Viewpoint
Given the title of Utah’s second highest mountain range, you can take in the panoramic view of the La Sal Mountains.
A group of tall stone columns that reach over 4,000 feet.
If you hit this spot and just feel the need to shake your legs out, there is a trail that leads to Park Avenue Viewpoint for a close up of the towers.
Before turning on the road, you will first see Balanced Rock.
From here you will see Garden of Eden, Double Arch, Turret Arch, and the North and South Windows.
Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint
As mentioned above, this is the most accessible location without having to walk a long distance.
Named because of the warm glow on the rocks from the afternoon sun, Fiery Furnace is actually cool and shaded within its towering walls.
Here you will find fins, spires and canyons… along with a backdrop of the La Sal Mountains.
Skyline Arch Viewpoint
Visible from the main road, this large arch will not disappoint!
Watch the Sunset at The Windows
You will be surrounded by three arches, the North and South Windows, along with the Turret Arch.
Roughly 1 mile roundtrip, it is a relatively easy walk (with some steps) to view all three.
We chose to watch the sunset from the North Window, which then let the sun’s rays dance around Turret Arch.
Make sure to bring an extra jacket in the cooler months… once the sun sets, the temperatures drop very quickly.
Keep in mind that you may have to leave the park to grab dinner and then come back in the evening if you are visiting in the late spring and summer months.
Wrapping It Up…
As you can see, you have plenty of options to keep you busy for a day in Arches National Park.
Depending on whether you want to view the sites via hiking, driving or a combination of both is entirely up to you.
Just remember that with whatever you choose, that you are prepared, you do it safely and you leave no trace!