If you’re traveling through Utah, visiting Arches National Park is an absolute MUST.
This unique park full of sandstone, arches and natural formations will blow your mind. It honestly feels like you’re walking through Mars at certain points.
Like approximately everyone else in the country, my partner and I just set off for a cross-country road trip (summer of 2021), and though we were warned of long lines and swarms of people throughout the parks, what we found was … it actually wasn’t that bad.
Our epic 16 state road trip took us through Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, all of which were incredible. But Arches has got to be my favorite!
Here are my top tips on what to see at Arches National Park, where to stay while visiting, and how to prepare for a visit.
1. Arches Scenic Drive
If you’re not into hiking and just want to come take in some views with some light walks, then your best bet is to drive the Arches Scenic Drive, which stretches from Highway 191 until the Devils Garden Campground.
This is the main road in the park, and the one that all of the views/hikes/sights are off of. It is 19 miles long, and if you drove it straight through, it would take only a half an hour. But you’ll want to make some stops along the way!
Remember to pull off the road when you see a photo you want to take — don’t be that guy holding up the line by stopping in the middle of the road!
2. Balancing Rock
One of the early sights upon entering the park, and totally worth a stop! This short .3 mile loop gets you right beneath it, which makes for some fun perspective-altering photos!
Time: 15 minutes
3. The Windows (North Window, South Window & Turret Arch)
You absolutely must stop here! The windows are shaped like eyes and offer incredible views. Do the North Window, then do the South Window, and then end by visiting Turret Arch (one of the only arches you can walk in) before heading to the parking lot.
From the parking lot, you can also access Double Arch.
Time: Plan for 1.5 hours to see The Windows, Turret Arch and Double Arch. None are big hikes, but you’ll want to spend some time with each.
4. Garden of Eden
As you leave the Windows parking lot, you’ll pass the Garden of Eden. These views are epic, and definitely worth the stop.
Time: 10 minutes
5. Fiery Furnace
One of my favorite viewpoints of the park. I just love how unique the fiery furnaces look. This is not really much of a hike or walk, which is great if you’re getting tired by now.
Time: 10 minutes
6. Sand Dune Arch
If you’re over the sun and want a little break, take the short .4 mile walk via a sandy and shaded trail to the Sand Dune Arch. It’s almost entirely shaded and really neat!
7. Delicate Arch
Arguably one of THE most famous arches in all of Utah – and the arch that graces the Utah state licence plate! Delicate arch is most frequently visited for sunset, when it truly glows.
You can see it from the road (kind of), but it’s small. To truly appreciate it, you’ll need to hike.
This is 3-mile hike gains 480 feet in elevation, so it’s steep and it’s challenging — but it’s worth it. People come from all over the world for this hike, so if you’re lucky enough to do it, be patient, be kind and enjoy it.
Time: 3 hours
Where to Stay in Moab
First things first, you’re going to want to make Moab your home base for exploring Arches National Park, as well as Canyonlands.
Moab is about four miles away from the entrance of Arches National Park — so close that if you drive by and the line to get in is insane, you can turn around and go chill at your hotel pool for a while.
The cute little town of Moab gets absolutely packed during peak weeks of the summer, so be sure to book your hotel room well in advance.
We stayed at the Wingate by Wyndham Moab and it was great! We loved the pool and the breakfast service each day and it was a lovely home base.
Eat: Moab has no shortage of dinner options, but not all of them are great. The one exception? The Broken Oar, where we had sweet potato fries that kind of changed my life. Recommend!
Other top tips:
Time Your Entry Into the Park
The best times we found to visit the park were later in the afternoon. This park sees a huge rush during the morning hours (9-11 am) so be sure to go either before this, or wait until the morning crowd clears out and go in around 4 p.m.
If you choose to go in later in the afternoon, you’ll also have the benefit of being there for a desert sunset, which is something you just have to see to believe!
Determine Your Must-See List
Arches isn’t huge, so you could likely see it all in an afternoon, if you choose not to do any hikes. If you’re planning on hiking, then you’re going to need the full day or even two days.
It’s hot. You’ll need water. You’ll get tired from the sun. So determine what you want to see before you set out, to help make a game plan for the day before you get hot, hangry, and cranky (I speak from experience).
You absolutely must have sunscreen, more water than you think you need, and close-toed shoes. There are snakes, scorpions and other desert critters here, but the sun will get you faster than anything. Don’t come unprepared! The Utah heat is NO JOKE.
That being said, this national park is unlike any other and not one to miss. Come, have fun, and enjoy!