Arches is the land of red rocks, sand, and a seemingly dried up landscape. Yet, its vast openness has inspired millions of people each year with it’s simple beauty and geological marvels. Arches National park is a wonder to be amazed and explored with the entire family.
Before you Begin:
- The crowds in Arches can be frustrating. There is limited parking at each site so it’s best to come early. During summer, expect lines and walking a bit further to reach your destination.
- The mid-day heat can get brutally hot during the summer. Plan to do your hiking and sightseeing in the early morning hours (before 12).
- Be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and set a reminder on your phone to reapply as needed. With the sweat and fun activities you will need to reapply often. Remember to also wear a hat!
- You will see little stacks of rocks throughout the park lining the trail as you hike. These stacks are called cairns and they are there to help you along areas that are hard to follow. Do not touch, alter, destroy, or build new cairns in any way. Please communicate this firmly with any children you bring with you to Arches, someones life may depend on them for guidance.
- The soil in Arches is actually a biological crust that is living and growing for thousands of years, so please stay on the trail. That photo you want to take is not more important than the thousands of years of work by the microbes in Arches.
- Many of the hiking paths are accessible to those with limitations. Check out the Arches NPS website for more information.
What We Saw:
The Visitors Center
A great way to start the day is at the Visitors Center. Fill up your water bottles, pick up a map or a newspaper and plan your day with the rangers. You can walk through the information center to learn more about the area or stay awhile and watch a short documentary in the theater.
Don’t forget if you have kids to pick up a Junior Ranger packet for a learning opportunity that earns them a Junior Ranger badge!
Ranger Morning Walk at Park Avenue
Our first stop after visiting the Visitors center in the morning was at Courthouse Towers. Every day at 9:30 AM they have Ranger-led programs. Since we were traveling with children we thought this would be the best introduction to the area.
We ended up being the only ones there that day for the program, despite the park having so many tourists. We had our own private Ranger walk with Ranger Pam. The walk was really excellent. Ranger Pam explained the history and geology of the Arches National Park in the context of the formations near Courthouse Towers. We got somewhat up-close to Viewpoints: The Three Gossips (Graces), Sheep Rock, The Organ, and The Flatiron Building.
Morning Ranger Walks: 9:30 AM, June 18–September 30. Not accessible to those in wheelchairs.
We decided to start at the furthest possible point in the park and work our way backwards, seeing what we could fit into a day without doing too many super long walks in the heat.
After our walk we drove all the way to Devil’s Garden. We took the trail that actually takes you to several different arches with Landscape Arch probably being the most well known of them. Before reaching it, we took a side trail to see Tunnel arch and Pine arch.
We then continued on to Landscape arch. Landscape Arch is the widest of the arches in the park. In a few years or so the arch will become so thin it will crumble away.
Accessibility: Barrier-free but does contain minor obstacles, steeper grades and temporary washouts.
This is supposed to be the most famous arch in the park but we were a tad disappointed. After our two morning walks it was starting to get very warm (we did just leave Devil’s Garden!) We decided not to take the hike up to Delicate Arch as to not get more overheated. Because of this we just went to the two lower viewpoints (Lower Viewpoint and Upper Viewpoint) for the arch which are really quite far away. Nonetheless it was a bit exciting to see such a beautiful natural exhibit.
There are three ways to see Delicate Arch which make is possible for any age or ability to view it.
Lower Viewpoint – 100 yards from the parking lot – with a zoom lense. Only path access friendly.
Upper View Point – a 0.5 mile uphill climb.
Delicate Arch Trailhead – A tough 3-mile hike (roundtrip).
Whichever way you choose to see Delicate arch, make sure you are prepared; and check in at the Visitors Center with their recommendation if visitors should make the hike in the heat.
One of the most popular areas of Arches is the Windows Section. When viewed from a distance on the trail, the Windows look like a pair of glasses. You can climb right into the arches and take some amazing photos. Look at the little people in the left arch for scale how big these are!
Take the Windows trail to see the arches from different angles.
Easy Walk: 1 mile (roundtrip). Time: 60 mins.
Double Arch is among the best that Arches National park has to offer. It is a stunning display of the erosive capabilities in the park, and it helps you to appreciate the forces that shaped the landscape. You get two arches in one! Plus, Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park so its even cooler that you get to stand under it.
The arches were covered with people seeking shade from the heat by the time we arrived. We settled in for a nice view from the top while the kids played and climbed around on the rocks.
Easy Walk: 0.5 mile (roundtrip) from carpark. Time: 30 mins.
Accessibility: Windows Trail (first 100 yards only). Double Arch accessible up to the bottom rim.
A massive rock that appears to be barely resting upon a pillar. Close to the road and easily accessible. From far away this looks pretty cool but it’s nothing amazing. When you walk the trail around it you can fully appreciate it’s scale and wonder at how it hasn’t yet collapsed yet
Easy Walk: 0.3 mile. Time: 15 mins.
Accessibility: All access!
Where We Ate:
Devil’s Garden Picnic Area
There is really not anything to eat at Arches so it is a must that you bring your own food. We packed a cooler and filled it with water and high protein snacks full of healthy fats to give us plenty of energy and keep us full throughout the day. We also packed a few “watery” fruits like apples and watermelon to help keep us hydrated and refreshed.
We picnicked in the Devil’s Garden picnic area because I saw it had trees on the website. I am so glad we did. We found a wonderful shady spot, cooled off from our morning hikes, and ate while lizards crawled on the rocks around us.
Make sure you also buy a small case of water bottles, and BRING YOUR OWN water bottle. You need at LEAST 2 liters per person (4 standard water bottles). Water fill up stations are at the Visitor’s Center and Devil’s Garden at the Trail-head and Picnic area (it’s a hand pump).
- Use the park’s newspaper for trail information (difficulty, length, elevation, etc.)
- Check weather conditions online before arriving and at visitor center.
- If you encounter a hand-pump for water, gently lift it up and water will flow out in a minute. Do not attempted to draw up water by “pumping” that will simply be turning the water off and on repeatedly. Hand-pumps that I used were at the Devil’s Garden Picnic area by the trash cans and at the Visitors Center.
- If you are sensitive about smells, you may want to use the restroom at the Visitors Center, all others are pit bathrooms.