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Arches National Park is relatively small compared to other national parks and it is super easy to visit. There is just one main road called Arches Scenic Drive that runs through the heart of the park and all the viewpoints, overlooks, and trailheads leading to the hikes are located along this road. So if you are planning your trip to Arches right now, here are 8 things you can’t miss on your first visit to Arches National Park:

  • Stop at Park Avenue Viewpoint and (optional) Hike Park Avenue Trail
  • See the Balanced Rock
  • Stop at Garden of Eden Viewpoint
  • Visit Double Arch
  • Visit the Windows and Turrets Arches
  • Hike Devils Garden Trail and see Landscape Arch
  • See Dune Arch and Broken Arch
  • Hike Delicate Arch (sunset)

Before we dive in, I want you to know that Arches National Park can be combined with Canyonlands National Park, which is conveniently located no more than a 40-minute drive from Arches. Hands down, it is an incredible place to visit!

Did you know that right in-between Arches and Canyonlands is Dead Horse Point State Park? It sits right on top of a narrow mesa with breathtaking views of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.

Lastly, are you thinking of visiting any other Utah National Parks? How about getting inspired by this Epic 7-Day Road Trip Through Utah National Parks?

Arches National Park At-A-Glance

  • What is Arches National Park Famous For

Arches National Park is of course famous for its arches. It has the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. There are over 2,000 documented arches in the park, plus pinnacles, balanced rocks, fins, and other geologic formations.

  • What Are Some Cool Facts About Arches National Park

The entire park used to be underwater! What is now a dry seabed was once a shallow inland sea. When the seawater retreated, it left behind sand that the wind formed into dunes. Those dunes were petrified or turned into the rock that forms the park we know today.

Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in the park and the world. It is a 60-foot-tall freestanding natural arch. The arch is depicted on Utah license plates and a postage stamp commemorating Utah’s centennial anniversary of admission to the Union in 1996. The Olympic torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through the arch.

  • When Is the Best Time to Visit Arches

Hands down, the best time to visit Arches National Park is during the spring or fall months (April or May, and October). The temperatures are mild, the crowds are low, and you can find some solitude in the park, and the weather is just perfect to do some hiking. Early spring (March), or late fall (November) are not bad either, although, be prepared for some chilly conditions (wear lots of layers) and be prepared for even some snow. Summer is my least favorite time to visit Arches. It is hot with temperatures well into the 100’s F making it rather uncomfortable to explore the park. Not only the temperatures are high, but the crowds are at their highest levels as well. Winters can be cold with freezing temperatures and snow, However, I visited Arches in winter, and hands down, it looks spectacular with a little snow cover.

  • How to Get to Arches National Park

Most people coming to Arches fly into Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) (230 miles from the park entrance) and then, rent a car and drive. From my personal experience, Salt Lake City International Airport has the least expensive flights.

  • How to Get Around in Arches National Park 

There is no shuttle service at Arches National Park. The only way to get around the park is by having your own vehicle.

  • How Much Does It Cost to Visit Arches National Park

It costs $30 per vehicle, to enter Arches National Park. The entrance pass is good for 7 consecutive days. However, my recommendation is to get America the Beautiful National Park Pass. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites!

  • Where to Sleep and Eat When Visiting Arches National Park

The best place to stay when you are visiting Arches is Moab, UT. Here are some places that I stay at whenever I am in Moab, UT, and visiting Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. They are not anything fancy, but all of them have clean rooms and comfortable beds.

My first choice is La Quinta by Wyndham Moab. I stayed at this place a few times and I have no complaints. It is clean and well managed, and it is conveniently located. If La Quinta is all booked, then my recommendation is to try Mainstay Suites Moab.

The last time that I visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, I stayed at Element Moab, and I liked it a lot. It is modern, yet simple, and it has a full kitchen, which is very convenient.

There are lots of dining options in Moab, UT.

If you like pasta or pizza then head to Pasta Jay’s. It is a busy place, however, service is fast. Their pasta and all the sauces are very good. However, my vote is for the thin crust pizza.

Moab Diner is nothing fancy or gourmet, however, it is just good comfort food at a very reasonable price. Don’t miss their milkshakes. They know what they are doing!

I like good pizza, so Antica Forma is my place to go to. Their pizza menu is extensive! Plus, if you like Italian food, then there are lots of choices. What you simply cannot miss is their homemade mozzarella. It is delicious. For dessert try their tiramisu.

Map of 8 Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Arches National Park

Map of 8 Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Arches

Map of Arches National Park with 8 Things You Can’t-Miss on First Visit. Image Credit: National Park Service

8 Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Arches National Park

NUMBER 1

Stop at Park Avenue Viewpoint and (optional) Hike Park Avenue Trail

Honestly, every time I stand at Park Avenue Viewpoint, it takes my breath away! This place is stunning!

If you have time then, take the Park Avenue Trail. It is an easy out and back 1-mile hike with little elevation change that descends into a spectacular canyon surrounded by jagged walls. These walls reminded the travelers of the New York skyline and so it was named Park Avenue. You will pass by massive rock formations such as Three Gossips and the spectacular Courthouse Towers.

Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trail in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

Three Gossips in Arches

Three Gossips in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

Courthouse Towers in Arches National Park

Courthouse Towers in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 2

See the Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock, is one of the most iconic features in the park. It stands at a staggering 128 feet tall.

While this formation may appear to be an epic balancing act, it’s actually not balanced at all. This slick rock boulder of Entrada Sandstone sits attached to its eroding pedestal of Dewey Bridge mudstone.

There is a short loop trail that circles the base of this picturesque rock and gets you closer to Balanced Rock formation.

Balanced Rock in Arches National Park

Balanced Rock in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 3

Stop by Garden of Eden Viewpoint

Shortly after leaving Balanced Rock, you will reach a junction in the road. Make a right turn to the Windows Section of Arches National Park.

Right after you make the turn, to your left, will be Garden of Eden Viewpoint.

Garden of Eden is famous for its panoramic views of Arches National Park. The view of towers of rock, knobby hoodoos, and sandstone rock formations against the La Sal Mountains in the background is simply breathtaking!

First Visit to Arches National Park

View from Garden of Eden Viewpoint in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

Garden of Eden in Arches

View from Garden of Eden Viewpoint in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 4

Visit Double Arch

short and easy trail will lead you to the base of Double Arch which, actually,  are two grand arches joined at a common pillar at a 90-degree angle.

The Double Arch is the tallest and second-longest arch in Arches National Park.

The trail passes by a unique sandstone formation known as the Parade of Elephants while ascending 125 feet to the Siamese spans.

First Visit to Arches National Park

Double Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

Double Arch in Arches National Park

Double Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 5

Visit the Windows and Turret Arches

The Windows Trail will take you to massive North and South Windows. When you get to the North Window, make sure to capture awesome views of the Turret Arch looking through the North Window.

You can return to the parking lot by simply retracing your steps, or you can take a bit longer trail that goes around the Windows. It will give you more opportunities to take some stunning photos.

Next, take a short trail to the Turret Arch. It is one of the most intricate, castle-like rock formations in Arches National Park.

Turret Arch on Arches National Park

Turret Arch is seen through the North Window in Arches National Park

First Visit to Arches 

First Visit to Arches

Turret Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 6

Hike to Delicate Arch

There are two options to see the Delicate Arch. You can either take a Delicate Arch Trail (3 miles roundtrip) or you can go to Upper or Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint (at the end of the road) and admire it from a distance.

If you decide to take Delicate Arch Trail then what you need to know is that for the first half mile it is a well-defined trail. Then, it starts climbing at a sharp incline before it levels off toward the top. Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail traverses a narrow rock ledge, however, it is no more than 200 yards in length.

The Delicate Arch is stunning! The light opening beneath the arch is 46 feet high and 32 feet wide. It is the largest free-standing arch in Arches National Park.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 7

Hike to Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch

Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch Trail can be accessed from either Sand Dune Arch Trailhead or the Devils Garden Campground.

The trail is easy with almost no elevation change and it is fun to hike since it goes through sections of deep sand. So, take your shoes off, give your feet a little break and enjoy the sand between your toes.

Broken Arch is not really broken. It just has a thin section along the lintel.

Sand Dune Arch

Sand Dune Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

Broken Arch

 Broken Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

NUMBER 8

Hike the Devils Garden Trail

At the end of Scenic Drive in Arches National Park is the Devils Garden parking lot and the trailhead that leads to Devils Garden, the most spectacular hike in Arches National Park.

The entire Devils Garden Trail is 7.2 miles long. However, if you are not up to hiking the entire trail, it can be broken down into more manageable sections. If you can only do one section, then hands down, hike to Landscape Arch.

The trail to Landscape Arch is about 1.9 miles from the trailhead and it should take you about 50 minutes to reach Landscape Arch. Hands down, it is the most spectacular 290-foot arch, which is believed to be the longest natural rock span in the world.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

If you decided to continue hiking on Devils Garden Trail, then in 4.1 miles, you will reach another stunning arch, Double O Arch.

Double O Arch

Double O Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches 

If you are up to it then take a short side trip to Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches.

Tunnel Arch

Tunnel Arch in Arches National Park.

First Visit to Arches

When you reach Dark Angel Rock, it will mark the end of the trail.

Now, you have a couple of choices here.

You can retrace your steps and get back to where you started. Or, you can take the Primitive Trail. It is an alternate route, however, it involves hiking by some narrow ledges and over uneven surfaces, and scrambling on slickrock.

If you decide to take it, then do not miss a short spur to Private Arch.

Intrepid Scout's Tips for 8 Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Arches National Park

A visit to Arches National Park involves a bit of advance planning if you are visiting between the months of April and October.

  • From April 3 to October 3 Arches National Park implements a timed-entry system to help manage traffic and improve visitor experiences. It is very important that you reserve your timed-entry ticket as soon as it becomes available!
  • The park releases tickets first-come, first-served on Recreation.gov three (3) months in advance in monthly blocks according to the following schedule:

January 3 at 8 am MST: April reservations (April 3–30)

February 1 at 8 am MST: May reservations (May 1–31)

March 1 at 8 am MST: June reservations (June 1–30)

April 1 at 8 am MDT: July reservations (July 1–30)

May 1 at 8 am MDT: August reservations (August 1–31)

June 1 at 8 am MDT: September reservations (September 1–30)

July 1 at 8 am MDT: October reservations (October 1–3)

  • A limited number of tickets is available for purchase one day prior to entry at 6 pm MDT through Recreation.gov.
  • Once you get your ticket print it, download it, or take a screenshot of it (cell phone service is limited inside the park). Your Timed-Entry Ticket ($2 processing fee), photo ID, and park entrance pass or America the Beautiful Pass are required to enter the park.

Now, It Is Your Turn, I Would Like to Hear Back from You!

Are you planning your trip to Arches National Park?

Please let me know! Drop me a quick comment right below!

Click on any of the images below to get inspired and to help you with the planning process for your trip to Arches!

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