This relatively small National Park is home to the highest concentration of natural arches in the world – at last count, there were over 2,000! The colorful red rock landscape enchants visitors, making you want to rediscover these mind-bending formations over and over throughout your lifetime. I had only two days to explore the park, which is not nearly enough time, but I did manage to see some of the most popular landmarks.
Where to Stay: Base Camp
The best place to set up camp or grab an air-conditioned hotel (recommended in the summer) is in Moab, Utah, a town that prides itself on being in between two National Parks. There are many options in town, but you should try to book ahead to get the best places and prices.
Visiting Arches National Park in Summer
I arrived at Arches National Park at the tail end of summer, when the heat is almost unbearable. If you’re like me, and dumb enough to book your trip August, be sure to bring a lot of water and protection from the sun. The heat is actually part of the experience, so embrace it! Plan your hikes for early in the morning, and then go from a swim in the afternoon at a nearby spring or creek. Come back to your favorite arch for a magical sunset. Stay late for incredible stargazing.
Delicate Arch Hike
The most famous arch in the park is Delicate Arch, which can be seen from the park road, but is best experienced by taking a 3-mile roundtrip hike. The reward? The chance to stand underneath the lone arch, which frames a heavenly oasis.
Locals suggest hiking out to Delicate Arch at sunset for a beautiful view, but doing so has become a popular activity among tourists. Instead, I conquered the hike early in the morning to avoid the crowd and afternoon heat.
Tip: Obtain a permit to camp at the foot of Delicate Arch for a spectacular sunset, milky way and sunrise view!
Drive the 18-mile Park Road
If you don’t have a lot of time to hike and explore Arches National Park, just driving the 18-mile park road is worth the visit! Immediately as you enter the park, you’ll be wowed by colossal stone formations with vibrant red hues.
One feature easily seen from the road is the enormous Balanced Rock (55 feet high), perched on top of a stone pedestal. I was convinced (and frightened) the precarious giant would topple over from a gentle breeze. This, of course, did not happen. But it will one day!
Windows & Double Arch
Instead of braving the crowds at Delicate Arch for sunset, I watched the fireball fade over the horizon from underneath North Window. The Windows Section features some of the largest arches in the entire park, most of which are easily accessible from the parking lot. Double Arch was my favorite; the two opposing stone arms stretched out, creating a gorgeous spectacle.
If you have more time…
I had to hit the road after spending only two nights near Arches National Park, but the town of Moab and eastern Utah has so much more to offer. If you have more time, try canyoneering in Arches’ Fiery Furnace, a hike out to Mill Creek and a day or two at Canyonlands National Park.