Arches National Park is located just outside the quirky little town of Moab, Utah. Bordered by the Colorado River in the southeast, this red-rock wonderland is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including its poster-child, the massive, red-hued Delicate Arch. I’d seen plenty of photos of the stunning arches and knew I needed to visit, but nothing could prepare me for how breathtaking this park really is. It’s truly nothing short of spectacular! Here are 3 hikes you must do if you are planning a trip to Arches National Park.
1. Double Arch and the Windows – Easy
This hike is all about doubling your fun! Not only do you get two arches and two windows, you get two great stops in one! First, find a parking spot right in the middle of these two incredible sights. The walk to Double Arch is an easy one. Less than 5 minutes over very flat terrain and you are there. But don’t think this is a quick stop! You’ll want to spend several minutes enjoying the impressive arches from all angles. And if you’re daring, you might want to climb up into the arch and peer through to what lies beyond.
Once you’ve gotten a closer look and taken enough photos, turn around and walk in the opposite direction towards the Windows. The Windows are two giant arches that truly are windows to the stunning surrounding scenery. Sometimes referred to as “the spectacles,” they also look a little like two giant eyes watching over the land. You can even make out a giant sandstone fin “nose” between the eyes! The hike up to the windows is easy, over mostly flat terrain with a few natural stairs. On your way back, you can either choose to take the primitive trail to see the views from the other side of the windows, or loop around to see Turret Arch. The entire hike is about a mile.
2. Double O Arch in Devil’s Garden – Moderate
Double O Arch is located at the far end of the Devils Garden Primitive Loop. Park your car at the Devil’s Garden and follow the signs to Landscape Arch. The majority of this trail is flat and easy, and a little less than a mile in you’ll be treated to a spectacular view of the park’s longest and thinnest arch.
After Landscape Arch, the trail becomes much more rugged and challenging. At one point, it almost seems like the trail comes to an end. You’ll need to muster up the courage to climb up and over one of the large sandstone fins to carry on. After this point, for me anyways, the hike became much more about enjoying the solitude and surrounding beauty than even making it to the Arch. You feel like you are on the top of the world – or on another planet – and nothing can stop you. The trail is a little difficult to follow but keep an eye out for the marked signs and stacked rocks and you’ll be just fine. Here is an example of what you can expect.
3. Delicate Arch – Difficult
I saved this hike for last because I had seen so many photos of this stunning arch that I knew it would be the most spectacular. I also knew how difficult the hike was. I’d been warned. But I had to see it. So after filling up my camelback with plenty of water, lacing up my hiking shoes and grabbing my walking stick, I was on my way. Just walking up to the trail I could see the massive mountain in front of me that I needed to climb – and it was straight uphill. I took a deep breath and started climbing. I’m not going to lie – it was tough. I had to stop several times to catch my breath. I was grateful for the backpack full of water. After making it up the massive hill, I expected to see the beautiful arch, but it was nowhere in sight and was saddened to see there were still more trail and stairs of rocks to go. The entire hike is about 3.2 miles, or 1.5 miles each way – but it’s mostly uphill. The final stretch of the hike is not for the faint of heart – or those scared of heights. You’ll walk along a path carved out of a rock cliff with no railings and a sheer dropoff on the side. It gets a little harrowing when there are people going in both directions.
But the payoff when you round the corner is jaw droppingly spectacular and is worth every difficult and fearful step you took to get there. I recommend bringing a snack and planning to spend a little time up there enjoying the arch and celebrating the fact that you made it! If you’re a people watcher like me, you’ll love watching the people line up to get their photo taken under the arch and the crazy poses they’ll do for the camera. It’s recommended to allow 2 hours for this hike, but I suggest allowing 3 hours so you can take your time, enjoy the hike and spend some time relaxing at the arch before you have to head back.
In the end, I spent almost two full days exploring all that Arches National Park had to offer. I did the hikes, I stopped at all the photo stops and I did the scenic drives. It was all breathtaking. I would not recommend visiting Utah without making time for a stop in this National Park. And I would not leave Arches without doing these three fabulous hikes!
Did you know? A natural arch is only considered to be one if it has an opening at least three feet wide. Also, whoever discovers a new natural arch gets to name it.
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Life in Wanderlust