With literally thousands of arches and an endless sea of desert landscapes, there’s plenty to do in Arches National Park. From stunning formations to some of the most amazing star gazing on the planet, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Of course, you’ve got to hit up the best things to do in Arches. Although these activities are popular – there’s a good reason for it! But don’t underestimate the quieter regions of the park too.
This epic guide to things to do in Arches covers everything from the bucket list items to a few deep cuts.
Over the years, I’ve been to Arches National Park countless times. In general, the hikes are extremely accessible and the views are outstanding. Watching a sunrise or sunset here really never gets old.
In fact, it’s one of my favorite ways to relax after one of my more committing desert adventures.
Since I’ve been coming here since forever, I know exactly how to enjoy the best things to do in Arches National Park without the crowds.
Not to mention, I literally write about the outdoors for a living – making me an absolute pro at visiting the most amazing outdoor places in the world without standing in hordes of people.
I’m on a mission to give you the inside scoop on how to enjoy the most epic things to do in Arches National Park like a local, not a tourist.
About this Guide to Things to Do in Arches National Park
Inside this guide to things to do in Arches National Park, you’ll find:
- Arches National Park location
- When to visit Arches National Park
- The best things to do in Arches National Park (and what order to do them in)
- Additional Moab trip planning resources
Where is Arches National Park?
Okay, so arguably one of the greatest things about Arches National Park it’s easy to access from Moab.
A quick 10-minute drive north out of downtown Moab up Highway 191 brings you to the Arches Scenic Drive entrance (on your right). From here you’re in the park!
It’s impossible to miss since it’s well signed from both directions. This is the only entrance into the park.
Local Tip: It costs $30 to enter the park or it’s free with an America the Beautiful Pass.
When to Visit Arches National Park?
The best time to visit Arches National Park is in spring, winter, or fall. Avoid the entire Moab area in the summer.
Spring and fall offer the best weather (as well as significant crowds). The winter is much colder – think below freezing and light snow – but the park is virtually empty compared to the rest of the year.
Summer is the hottest and most crowded time of year. You really can’t be outside without shade for most of the day and the crowds are swarming, so avoid the park at this time.
PSST…Arches National Park is one of the most popular national parks in America – get there early (like before 7 am early) to avoid the timed entry system.
Timed Entry for Arches National Park
Recently Arches National Park introduced a new timed-entry system, so here’s what you need to know. If you want to enter the park between 7 am and 4 pm from April through October, you’ll have to snag a special timed-entry reservation.
Now, the good news is you can secure your spot up to 3 months in advance. All it takes is hopping online at 8 am MST 3 months before the specific month you’re planning to visit. For instance, if you’re eyeing a May adventure (any day), mark your calendar for February 1 at 8 am MST to grab your timed entry.
But, hold on a second, here’s a tip: While a handful of slots open up the day before at 6 pm, don’t rely on this as your primary plan. To play it safe, make sure you book your slot in advance. It’s a breeze – just head over to recreation.gov and reserve your entry time.
Pro Tip: If you enter before 7 am or after 4 pm during the reservation period, you don’t need to save a spot. November through March there are no timed entries required.
The Best Things to Do in Arches National Park
Let’s dive into the most amazing things to do in Arches National Park. You’ll find all sorts of tips about how to beat the crowds at some of the most famous Arches National Park landmarks.
1. – 3. Go on a Hike of a Lifetime
Hiking in the desert is one of the best things to do in Arches and you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to awesome trails.
With over 2000 arches, insane-looking rock formations, quirky hoodoos, and humongous mesas, hitting up one of the best hikes in Arches is the ideal way to get close and personal with the scenery this gorgeous slice of Utah has to offer.
Most of the trails are pretty easy-going and they are some of the shortest hikes in Moab, so you can actually pack a fair amount of hikes in your Arches National Park itinerary even if you don’t have a ton of time.
Pro tip: Due to the fact that Delicate Arch is so popular (hell, it’s pictured on Utah’s license plates), it can get pretty darn crowded. If you’d rather avoid the crowds, get up early and visit it for sunrise instead of sunset.
- Distance: 3 miles (round trip)
- Elevation Gain: 610 feet
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate
- Duration: 2-3 hours
Landscape Arch is another of the best things to do in Arches when it comes to hiking. It’s the largest natural arch in the United States and the fifth in the world and yes, it looks even better in person than it does in photographs!
This trail is a section of the Devil’s Garden Trail, which is considered the most challenging hike in Arches. Landscape Arch is one of the first stops on the trail, so if you’re not feeling up for the challenge, you can turn around after seeing the arch.
If you do, however, feel in the mood for a day spent hiking, Devil’s Garden is definitely the way to go!
- Distance: 1.9 miles (round trip)
- Elevation Gain: 259 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: 1 hour
For a serious (and fun) challenge, head to the Fiery Furnace – Arches National Park’s most exciting hike. You’ll need to use your hands for this one as you scramble your way through a sandstone slot canyon labyrinth.
If you’re not familiar with slot canyons, you can opt to go on a ranger-led guided tour ($15). Either way, you’ll need to snag a permit in advance.
- Distance: 1.7 miles (round trip)
- Elevation Gain: 4369 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Duration: 1.5 hours
4. – 6. Tick off the Best Viewpoints
Giant mesas, peculiar-looking rock formations, and hoodoos stretching into the skies are just a few of the features that make Arches such a unique place to visit. Seriously, the views here are insane and you’re very likely to forget you’re even on planet Earth for a sec there.
One of the best ways to experience Arches is to make it a mission to hit up some of the main viewpoints. Even though there are a TON of options to choose from, the ones you absolutely cannot miss are
- La Sal Viewpoint (sunrises are divine here)
- Park Avenue (completely different than the rest of the park with towering sandstone cliffs)
- Balanced Rock (it’s actually on the way to Arches from Moab, so you’ll definitely spot it on the way).
7. Drive Through the Most Epic Desert Views
Given how tremendously beautiful Arches is, cruising around the park is one of the most magical drives you’ll ever experience.
The Arches Scenic Drive is an extremely picturesque road that will give you a pretty unforgettable introduction to some of the most beautiful spots Arches has to offer. In fact, it’s one of Moab’s most scenic drives!
The entrance is located off the US-191 just a few miles north of Moab. As you drive along the road, you’ll get to see some of the most famous sceneries Arches has to offer, including the ever-famous Delicate Arch, the Courthouse Towers, Balanced Point, the Windows District, and the Fiery Furnace Area.
In total, the drive takes around half an hour but make sure to schedule at least a couple of hours for this activity in Arches. Take your time during the drive and pull over whenever a landscape interests you (spoiler alert: you’ll be stopping the car every few minutes!).
8. Witness a Magical Sunset
What’s more magical than visiting a place that looks like Mars? Seeing it light up with a fiery red glow! Experiencing a sunset is one of the best things to do in Arches, so make sure not to leave a second before the sun starts to go down.
My go-to place for the best sunsets is Double Arch and the Windows. Even though it does get crowded (but not as much as Delicate Arch does), you’ll still be able to find a spot to cozy up to while you take in the show of red hues dancing against the mighty La Sal Mountains.
9. Try Your Hand at Astrophotography
One of the most unique things to do in Arches is to go on a stargazing escapade. Arches National Park is internationally praised for being one of the best places in the world to see night skies, which makes it a haven for astrophotography.
Even though the entire park offers beautiful sky-watching, one of the best places for astrophotography is Double Arch.
Tip: Night skies in Moab are epic year-round, but the best time for them is said to be during a new moon.
10. Pack a Picnic
What Arches lacks in restaurants, it makes up for with picture-perfect picnic spots. For a place with proper facilities, Devil’s Garden Campground is a lovely option, but you can really just bring your food along on a hike and set up your own spot whenever you start to feel hungry.
11. Spend a Night Under the Stars
Even though most people who visit Arches opt to stay in nearby Moab, there’s one place inside the park where you can spend the night: Devil’s Garden Campground.
Do note, though, that the fact that it’s the only campsite in the park makes it extremely exclusive, so you absolutely need to reserve your spot several months in advance.
12. Learn About Those Who Have Called Arches Their Home
Here’s a little secret: Arches is rich in history, and if you stray just a little bit away from the Delicate Arch Trail, you’ll discover lots of it.
First, check out Wolfe Ranch, a humble cabin sitting just a spur away from the Delicate Arch trailhead. It was built in the late 1800s by a man who wanted to get away from it all after the Civil War and decided to settle right there. Even though the story behind the decision to move there isn’t all too great, we can only imagine how beautiful (and oftentimes difficult) it was to live there.
Further along, you’ll find the Ute Panel, where you can explore years of American Indian history through rock carvings and art (they were likely created over 2,000 years ago!).
Additional Moab Planning Resources
Planning a trip to Moab? Here’s a look at a few more helpful resources for your big adventure:
- Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands is a Must-See
- The Most Incredible Climbing Areas in Moab for All Abilities
- Arches vs Canyonlands: Which Park is Right for Me?