- 1 Park Overview
- 2 Getting Into The Park
- 3 Avoiding The Crowds
- 4 Best Things To See and Do
- 5 Camping
Although most people know Arches for the famous Delicate Arch, there are more than 2,000 documented arch structures within the park borders. There is one main road that leads into the park and goes all the way to the back of the park ending at Devils Garden Campground. There are also a few offshoot road that lead to the Windows Section and Delicate Arch.
There is no Wifi in the park and cell reception is very limited once you get past the Park Avenue Viewpoint. We were able to get a signal easily in the Park Avenue parking lot whenever we needed it.
Getting Into The Park
Arches National Park is one of the most crowded parks in the entire NPS system. They will close the park to visitors each morning once it has reached capacity. If you arrive when the park is full you’ll need to wait and come back later, even if you have a campground reservation.
In busy summer months the park can close by 10am and usually stays closed for around 3 hours. Plan on getting to the park early or arriving after it has reopened for the day. You can check the official park twitter account to see if the park has closed the few days before your arrival to have a better idea of what to expect. It is also the first place they’ll update if it has reopened, which is important because you can’t see the gates from the road.
Avoiding The Crowds
Most of the early visitors will head 18 miles to the back end of the park and start at Devils Garden Trailhead. They will then work their way back towards the front of the park, skipping Delicate Arch, and then double back to Delicate Arch for sunset.
This is the most logical way to do things, but since everyone is doing it, you’ll face crowds all day if you follow along.
The reasoning for this plan is that most people want to see Delicate Arch at sunset and it is a tough hike during the heat of the day. Also the Devils Garden Trailhead is a massive area that you could spend hours hiking through. Many visitors want to beat the heat at both places, so that means Devils Garden in the morning and Delicate Arch at sunset.
We were staying next to the Devils Garden trailhead in the campground and when we drove by at 10am the parking lot to the trailhead was full and cars were even double parked, blocking others in. Since we were staying multiple days in the campground we drove to the front of the park and started at Park Avenue. Due to the closure of the park around 10am that day, when we got up to the front we were among the only ones there! Everyone else had driven past the front to get to the back.
Best Things To See and Do
Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead
The Park Avenue trail is a 1 mile one way hike that will take you through breathtaking rock formations. It starts at Park Avenue and ends at Courthouse, which is the next scenic viewpoint. If you don’t want to hike the trail both ways have someone drop you off at Park Avenue and pick you up at Courthouse. It is also downhill going this direction, if you start at Courthouse you’ll be hiking up hill the whole way.
If you only want to get a taste of this area, stop at Park Avenue and go the the scenic overlook, which is just a short walk from the parking lot.
Courthouse Towers Viewpoint
Courthouse Towers gives you access to the same hike as Park Avenue, just from the other end. It also is the stopping point for seeing Three Gossips, The Organ, Tower of Babel and Sheep Rock. All of these formations are visible from the parking lot.
There is a small turnout to see the Petrified Dunes after Courthouse Towers. There are no hiking trails here, just a quick stop to see the area from a viewpoint. On the opposite side of the road you’ll be looking at the Great Wall.
Balanced Rock is a 3,600 ton boulder sitting atop a base. The structure is 128 feet tall. There is a short path that goes all the way around the rock and it is .3 miles in total. This boulder will eventually come tumbling down due to erosion, but nobody knows when.
There is limited parking at this stop.
Garden Of Eden
If you turn right at the next road you’ll be headed to the Windows section of the park and the first stop you’ll come to is the Garden of Eden. This is an open hiking area where you can explore various rock structures and also possibly see people climbing them as this is a very popular rock climbing area.
The Windows is a major park area which is the starting point to see and hike to many arches. Even if you are not a hiker, the drive The Windows section of the park is magnificent. If you want to get out and hike you’ll have plenty of paths you can choose.
The main things to see at The Windows is the South Window, North Window, and Turret Arch. This trail is a little over 1 mile with just a slight elevation gain. The main trail is much easier than the primitive trail so stick to that if you are trying to conserve time and energy.
There is also a trail to Double Arch on the other side of the parking lot.
After getting back to the main road you’ll next come to Panorama Point. This is a quick stop and a good place to eat lunch if you’ve packed something to eat. There is parking and plenty of benches from which you can enjoy a sweeping panorma of the park.
Deciding how you’ll view Delicate Arch is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when visiting Arches National Park. There are 3 viewpoints from which you can see it. Two are easier and don’t require elevation gain, but are quite a ways away, and the other is the trail that leads to the actual arch. It is a difficult 3 mile trail with no shade and quite a bit of elevation gain.
We have an entire blog and video dedicated to hiking to Delicate Arch which goes into more detail about what you’ll face on your hike.
The basics are that you’ll need to get to the arch early enough to get a parking spot, at least 2 hours before sunset. The hike could take you an hour due to the elevation gain so bring plenty of water so you can deal with the sun. There is also some exposure to heights and the end of the hike.
The hike is incredible and totally worth the effort. Be prepared and heed the warning signs of what you are getting into.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
The Fiery Furnace Viewpoint consists of a small parking area and short path to an overlook to view the Fiery Furnace area. You cannot hike on your own in this area but you can take a ranger led hike through the area.
Sand Dune Arch
One of our favorite arches in Arches National Park was Sand Dune Arch. You’ll walk through sand dunes to get to this beautiful structure which is surrounded by sand. The hike is not far at .3 miles and its a good place for kids as we saw many of them playing in the sand.
The hike to Skyline Arch is an easy short out and back hike following a clear trail. It is not a busy area but the parking area is also small.
Skyline Arch can also be viewed after a short hike through the Devil’s Garden campground. If you go this route you’ll have a view from the opposite side.
Devil’s Garden Trailhead
One of the main hiking areas of the park, this section is very busy in the morning but not busy at all in the afternoon. If you are planning to do some of the long hikes, come early, but if you are going to stick to the shorter ones you should visit later in the day.
Hikes are classified in 3 sections, green, blue and red. The green hikes are easy and they get progressively longer and harder when you are in the red section. It is .8 miles to the landscape arch, 2 miles to the Double O Arch, and 7.2 miles to hike the entire trail.
Devils Garden Campground is the only one in the park and is one of the best NPS campgrounds we’ve ever stayed at. There are no hookups but there is a bathroom with running water and flush toilets.
What makes this campground special is the setting. You are tucked away among rock formations and can hike to some of the park features from your campsite. It is a much better option than staying in Moab and fighting your way back into the park the next day.