This iconic park showcases the pure power of mother nature. Due to the nature of these landmarks, I would rush out to Arches National Park before the landscape changes for good. The fragile rock formations that make this park so special are truly a sight to see.
There is one campground in Arches National Park, Devil’s Garden Campground, near the end of Park Road. Many people choose to stay in the nearby city of Moab and make the very short commute into the park from there. There are many accommodation options available in this adventure town, however, my party opted for the Lazy Lizard Hostel. This cheap option provided us with the opportunity to utilize a kitchen, cutting down on our food costs, laundry, showers, and air-conditioned sleeping arrangements. Since there were three of us we chose the private cabin option which can sleep 4-6 comfortably for an incredibly reasonable price ($46 a night); the cabins have an air conditioner, outlets, desk space and a personal parking space with a bench and picnic table. In that hot Moab heat, we were grateful for the opportunity to shower and sleep in a cool room each night.
I found the visitors center to be an exceptionally beautiful (and busy) one. You can fill up your water bottles at both the Visitor’s Center and Devil’s Garden. Take a look at the exhibits to learn more about the park’s history, geology, plants, and animals. You may also watch a park film that plays every 30 minutes in the visitor center.
TRAILS and SIGHTS.
TRAIL: Double Arch
DESCRIPTION: This .5 mile, heavily trafficked out and back is great for the whole family. You may stop at the base of the arch and gaze up in wonder or do some light rock scrambling and get right up under double arch’s two, huge, intertwined arches.
TRAIL: The Windows (North and South Window) & Turret Arch
DESCRIPTION: A 1-mile round trip gentle climb up a gravel trail leads to the massive North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. You can return to the parking lot via the same trail, or take the slightly longer primitive trail around the Windows by starting at South Window viewpoint. As a fairly easy trail, it is often a very busy viewpoint!
TRAIL: Balanced Rock
DIFFICULTY: Very Easy
DESCRIPTION: You can’t miss this iconic landform from the road but if you want to get more up close and personal take the loop trail at the base of this fragile, picturesque rock formation. Part of the trail is paved and accessible to wheelchairs!
(Disclaimer: this photo is from a picnic table down the road)
TRAIL: Delicate Arch viewpoints
DESCRIPTION: Although I would not recommend either, if this is your ONLY opportunity to view Delicate Arch then please don’t miss out. There is one very easy viewpoint with a wheelchair-accessible view of the arch at a distance. Another mildly strenuous hiking trail climbs 0.5 mile (0.8 km) toward Delicate Arch, ending at a viewpoint separated from the arch by a steep canyon. You can’t reach Delicate Arch on this trail; to hike all the way to the arch, start from Wolfe Ranch.
TRAIL: Delicate Arch
DESCRIPTION: This free-standing arch has become widely accepted as the symbol of Utah. Begin this Hike at Wolfe Ranch which can be found off of the main park road on Wolfe Ranch Road.
TRAIL: Devil’s Garden (and Landscape Arch)
DESCRIPTION: At the very end of Park Road, 18 miles from the visitors center, you will find the trailhead for Devil’s Garden. You can hike this as an out and back or with a bit of a primitive loop thrown in there; either way, this trail will take you past 6-7 arches that you can only see along the trail.
The hike to Landscape arch is fairly easy, however, the terrain becomes much more difficult beyond this point. If you choose the direct path from the parking lot out to Double O arch, you will come across two small spur trails that I highly suggest. If you choose to take the primitive trail you will still come across these spur trails, but know that you will be walking through soft sand, need basic trail navigation and rock scrambling skills with steep inclines and drop-offs. Round-trip, including all spur trails, this route will run you 7.2 miles; I suggest an early start in the heat of summer!
TRAIL: Fiery Furnace
DESCRIPTION: This is a guided tour that you should sign up for AS SOON AS you know you will be exploring Arches National Park. This natural labyrinth requires a Ranger Guided Tour or a permit from the visitor center. A permit for the Fiery Furnace is $6 per adult and you must watch an orientation video before exploring.
If you begin your day early enough, you can fit in pretty much all of the above-mentioned sights in one day; this would mean starting your day at sunrise and ending it close to or after sunset (don’t forget your headlamp!). Hiking Devil’s garden in the cool of the early morning hours is definitely a good plan; I’ve also heard that Delicate Arch at sunset is the real deal. Show up prepared and you should have a great day!