Hiking in Arches National Park
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Getting out on any one of the park trails will surely cause you to fall in love with this Martian landscape. But remember, you are hiking in a desert environment. Many people succumb to heat and dehydration because they do not drink enough water. Park rangers recommend a gallon of water per day per person.
Balanced Rock Trail. You'll want to stop at Balanced Rock for photo opportunities, so you may as well walk the easy, partially paved trail around the famous landmark. This is one of the most accessible trails in the park and is suitable for small children and folks who may have difficulty walking. The trail is only 0.3 mi round-trip; you should allow 15 minutes for the walk. Easy. Trailhead approximately 9 mi from park entrance, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Broken Arch Trail. An easy walk across open grassland, this loop trail passes Broken Arch, which is also visible from the road. The arch gets its name because it appears to be cracked in the middle, but it's not really broken. The trail is 1.3 mi round-trip, and you should allow about an hour for the walk. Easy. Trailhead at end of Sand Dune Arch trail, 0.3 mi off main road, 11 mi from park entrance, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Double Arch Trail. If it's not too hot, you can walk here from Windows Trail. This relatively flat trail leads you to two massive arches that make for great photo opportunities. The 0.8 mi round-trip gives you a good taste of desert flora and fauna. Easy. Trailhead 2½ mi from main road, on the Windows Section spur road, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Park Avenue Trail. The first named trail that park visitors encounter, Park Avenue Trail is an easy 2-mi round-trip walk (with only one small hill) amidst walls and towers that resemble a New York City skyline. You'll walk under the gaze of Queen Nefertiti, a giant rock formation that some observers think has Egyptian-looking features. If you are traveling with companions, make it a one-way, 1-mi downhill trek by having them pick you up at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint. Allow about 45 minutes for the one-way journey. Easy. Trailhead off main road, 2 mi from park entrance, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Sand Dune Arch Trail. Your kids will return to the car with shoes full of bright red sand from this giant sandbox in the desert and will love exploring in and around the rock. Do not climb or jump off the arch as doing so has frequently resulted in injuries. Set aside five minutes for this shady, 0.3-mi walk and as much time as your children's imaginations allow for play. The trail intersects with the Broken Arch Trail, so if you visit both arches it's a 1½-mi round-trip. Easy. Trailhead off main road, about 15½ mi from park entrance, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Windows Trail. The first stop for many visitors to the park, Windows Trail gives you an opportunity to get out and enjoy the desert air. Here you'll see three giant openings in rock and walk on a trail that leads you right through the holes. Allow about an hour on this gently inclined 1-mi round-trip hike. As 90% of visitors won't follow the "primitive" trail around the backside of the two windows, take advantage if you want some desert solitude. The primitive trail adds an extra half hour to the trip. Easy. Trailhead off main road, 9½ mi from park entrance, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Devils Garden Trail. Landscape Arch is the highlight of this trail but is just one of several arches within reach depending on your ambitions and the heat. It's an easy 0.8 mi one-way trip (mostly gravel, relatively flat) to Landscape Arch, one of the longest stone spans in the world at 306 feet and one of the most fragile-looking. In fact, you can see where a 60-foot-long piece fell off the underside in 1991, leading to the closure of the trail that used to go under the span. This serves as a reminder of the impermanence of the features in the park. Beyond Landscape Arch the scenery changes dramatically, and you must climb and straddle slickrock fins and negotiate some short, steep inclines. Finally, the stacked spans that compose Double O Arch come into view around a sharp bend. Allow up to three hours for this round-trip hike of just over 4 mi. For a still longer hike, venture on to to see a formation called Dark Angel and then return to the trailhead on the primitive loop. The hike to Dark Angel is a difficult route through fins with a short side trip to Private Arch. If you hike all the way to Dark Angel and return on the primitive loop, the trail is 5.9 mi round-trip, not including possible (and worthwhile) detours to Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, Tunnel Arch, and Pine Tree Arch. Allow about five hours for this adventure, take plenty of water, and watch your route carefully. Pick up the park's useful guide to Devils Garden, or download it from the website before you go. Moderate. Trailhead off main road, 18 mi from park entrance, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Tower Arch Trail. Check with park rangers before attempting the dirt road to Klondike Bluffs parking area. If rains haven't washed out the road, a trip to this seldom-visited area provides a solitude-filled hike climaxed with a giant rock opening. Allow from two to three hours for this 3.4-mi round-trip hike, not including the drive. Moderate. Trailhead 24½ mi from park entrance, 7.7 mi off main road, Klondike Bluffs parking area, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Delicate Arch Trail. To see the park's most famous freestanding arch up close takes effort and won't offer you much solitude—but it's worth every step. The 3-mi round-trip trail ascends via steep slickrock, sandy paths, and along one narrow ledge (at the very end) that might give pause to anyone afraid of heights. Plus, there's almost no shade, which makes it very hot in summer. Still, at sunrise, sunset, and every hour in between, it's the park's most popular and busy trail. The reward is not just the view, but the opportunity for photo ops directly under the span, so be sure to bring your camera. Allow two to three hours for this hike, depending on your fitness level and how long you plan to linger at the arch. If you go at sunset or sunrise, bring a headlamp or flashlight. Don't miss Wolfe Ranch and some ancient rock art near the trailhead. Moderate. Trailhead 13 mi from park entrance, 2.2 mi off main road, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
Fiery Furnace Hiking. This area of the park has taken on a near-mythical lure for park visitors, who are drawn to the forbidden nature of Fiery Furnace. Rangers strongly discourage inexperienced hikers from entering here—in fact, you can't enter without watching a safety video and getting a permit ($4). As a result, up to one month's advance reservations are now required to get a spot on the ranger-led hikes ($10) through this unique formation. A hike here is a challenging but fascinating trip amidst rugged rocks and sandy washes into the heart of Arches. The trek may require the use of hands and feet to scramble up and through narrow cracks and along vertigo-inducing ledges above drop-offs and there are no trail markings. If you're not familiar with the Furnace you can easily get lost and cause resource damage, so watch your step and use great caution. Call or visit the park Web site for reservations, which are a must. The less intrepid should look into Fiery Furnace from the Overlook off the main road. Difficult. Trailhead off main road, about 15 mi from visitor center, Arches National Park, UT, 84532.
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