Arches National Park Travel Guide

USA  #8 in Best U.S. National Parks
Credit

Courtesy of lightphoto/Getty Images

Free Things To Do in Arches National Park

If you have extra time, Windows Section is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Arches National Park
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    #1 in Arches National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located in the Devils Garden area, Landscape Arch is North America's longest arch, stretching an amazing 306 feet. To view the arch, you can take an easy, flat 50-minute hike from the Devils Garden trailhead to the arch.

    Recent visitors described the hike as "easy" and definitely worth the trek, though they warned the trail can get crowded. They also recommended hiking past the Landscape Arch to the Double O and Partition arches if you have the time and stamina. Both sights are located beyond Landscape Arch and the trails to each are rated moderate to difficult by the NPS.

  • #2
    Balanced Rock
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    #2 in Arches National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    This iconic, 128-foot boulder, precariously perched on top of a thin pedestal of rock, is one of the park's top sights. Though it seems like it might fall over, the rock is actually attached to its eroding pedestal of Dewey Bridge mudstone.

    Balanced Rock can be seen from the road, but many recent travelers suggested parking and taking the short trail (less than half a mile) to the rock's base. A stop here is especially popular with photographers, who suggest a sunset visit, when the setting sun gives the rocks a deep, red-orange cast.

  • #3
    Windows Section
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    #3 in Arches National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Windows Section, which is about 2 square miles in size, is home to some of the largest arches in the park, including North Window, South Window, Turret Arch and Double Arch. It's also considered one of the park's most scenic areas. From the parking lot, there are a handful of easy trails that bring travelers to all of the arches. A short (less than a mile round-trip) gravel trail leads to the North Window, South Window and Turret Arch. You can also take a slightly longer primitive trail (about a mile in length) that leads around the Windows by starting at the South Window viewpoint.

    Recent visitors loved the easy trails and their proximity to the parking lot, but they also warned of large crowds. To avoid the throngs of sightseers, reviewers recommended getting to the Windows early in the morning. They also suggested taking the primitive trail that leads to the backside of the arches for a reprieve from the crowds.

  • #4
    Delicate Arch
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    #4 in Arches National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Delicate Arch has to be the world's most famous natural arch. The opening beneath the arch is 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, making it the largest free-standing arch in the park, and over the years, it has become the de facto symbol of the state of Utah.

    If you'd like to see the arch up close, you can take a 3-mile round-trip trail that climbs 480 feet uphill, passing the Wolfe Ranch cabin and a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs along the way. Because the trail is not shaded, requires a steady climb and traverses a narrow rock ledge for about 200 yards, the park defines the path as "difficult" and encourages travelers assess their physical fitness before attempting the climb.

  • #5
    Double Arch
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    #5 in Arches National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Double Arch, at 112 feet, is the tallest arch in the park. At 144 feet in length, it's also the second-longest arch in the park. Luckily, this natural wonder is easy to reach. The half-mile trail to Double Arch is a relatively flat, gravel-surfaced path that leads directly from the parking lot to the attraction. For those with limited time, or mobility, this is a very accessible, not-to-miss sight.

    This was a popular pit stop for many recent visitors thanks to the short trek to the arch. As is the case with other easy-to-reach sights in the park, Double Arch can get very crowded by midday, according to reviewers. Beat the heat and the crowds by visiting early in the morning. Photographers also suggest taking your time here to view the arch from all angles.

  • #6
    Arches Visitor Center
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    #6 in Arches National Park
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Start your park experience at Arches Visitor Center, located just a mile inside the entrance. Recent visitors call the center a "treasure trove of information." Along with exhibits inside and outside the center detailing the park's history, geology, plants and animals, on-site rangers can help you decide where to go and offer advice on trails and staying safe. There's also a bookstore and gift shop. Don't miss the park's film, "Window in Time," which plays every 30 minutes. Kids can pick up a junior ranger activity book and learn how to earn a junior ranger badge. This is also an ideal place to fill up your water bottles; water and restrooms are available 24 hours a day.

    The visitor center, which is accessible for free with park admission, is located just inside the park, near the main entrance and is open daily (except for Christmas Day). Hours vary. From April through September, it is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. From October through early November, it is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. In November, it is open from 8 to 4:30 p.m. and from December through February it is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, check out the NPS website.

  • #7
    Fiery Furnace
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    #7 in Arches National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Adventurous types love to explore the Fiery Furnace, a series of narrow passageways that leads through towering sandstone walls. Since it's easy to get lost among the labyrinth and because GPS technology does not work effectively within the walls, visitors must either take a ranger-guided hike or apply for a permit to enter the area alone (after watching a required orientation video). This is no ordinary hike. It is physically demanding, with areas that have irregular and broken sandstone, narrow ledges above drop-offs, gaps you must jump across and narrow spaces you must squeeze into and pull yourself up and through. In some places, you must hold yourself above the ground by pushing against the sandstone walls with your hands and feet.

    The park highly recommends that first-time visitors join a ranger-guided tour or go with someone who has been before. Visitors who have completed the hike call it "incredible" and "exceptional," but warn that it can be quite challenging and suggest skipping it if you are claustrophobic or scared of heights.

  • #8
    Wolfe Ranch
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    #8 in Arches National Park
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    In 1898, John Wesley Wolfe settled 100 acres here with his son, where they had a few head of cattle and eked out a living. They lived in a rough cabin for nearly a decade, but in 1906, when Wolfe's daughter, her husband and two kids arrived, she demanded they build a better cabin, one with real windows and wooden floors, which is what remains to this day.

    Visitors find it fascinating to peek in the windows and imagine what life was like in the late 1800s. Don't miss the petroglyph panel located near Wolfe Ranch, which is believed to have been drawn by the Ute people and depicts images of people on horseback. Though many were impressed with the preserved state of the cabins and the Ute Indian petroglyphs, they also said a visit here is best enjoyed on your way to the Delicate Arch, and isn't worth the trip unless you're in the area.

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