The 5 Best Hikes in Arches National Park

There’s something special about every trail in Arches which makes it difficult to call any five “the best”. However, based on popularity, here are the five best hikes in Arches.

With more than 2,000 sandstone arches, plus hundreds of looming rock pillars, funky buttes, and striking cliffs, Utah’s Arches National Park offers a different remarkable view around every corner. Hiking trails in Arches vary from short and easy (and wheelchair accessible) to longer and more strenuous. No matter your ability and fitness level, you can find a trail or two that allows you to marvel at geological wonders in an otherworldly red-rock setting. 

The scenic drive through the park is stunning but why just drive through it when you can get up close and personal with some of the magnificent sandstone fins, famous arches, and steep canyons. Trails provide access to outstanding viewpoints and arches not visible from the road. In some cases, trails travel under arches affording a unique perspective on the park’s namesake features.

Here are five hikes of varied length that represent the best that Arches has to offer. That said, there are no bad hikes in the park. Any trail that gets you out enjoying nature and breathing the clean, arid air is a great one!

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delicate Arch Trail

Delicate Arch is a spectacle that many visitors want to see when coming to Arches National Park. It’s Utah’s most famous arch and for good reason. Because of that, the trail up to Delicate Arch is usually really busy. To avoid the crowds, get started before 6:30 am. The trail to see Delicate Arch up close and personal is 3 miles roundtrip and climbs 480 feet. The trail has no shade, some steep climbing, and exposure to drop-offs. On your way down it is worth checking out the wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs.

Carefully consider weather conditions (summer heat or winter ice) and your own health and fitness before beginning this hike. Take at least 2 quarts of water per person for this hike and sun protection.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parking is available at the Wolf Ranch Parking Lot, but be aware it fills up quickly.

The path leading to the Lower Delicate Arch viewpoint is wide and is hard-packed making it perfect for those in wheelchairs. From this viewpoint, you’ll be able to see Delicate Arch as well.

This trail is front and center on my bucket list for our next visit to Arches—hopefully very soon.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail length: 3 miles

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 480 feet

Required Time: 45-60 minutes

Required Time: 2-3 hours depending on fitness level

Parking: Wolfe Ranch Parking Lot

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail, but service animals are welcome

Landscape Arch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Landscape Arch Trail

Landscape Arch, one of the world’s longest stone spans, stretches 306 feet yet is only about 11 feet thick at its center. You may wonder how such a narrow span of rock can stay in place. In fact, arches are constantly changing. In 1991 a 60-foot-long slab of rock fell from the bottom of the arch. You can see remnants of this rockfall beneath the arch today.

This is probably one of the easiest hikes you’ll do when you visit Arches National Park. Start your hike at the Devils Garden trailhead. The trail is hard-packed to Landscape Arch. The total distance to the arch and back is 1.9 miles. The trail is relatively flat with some rolling ups and downs but no real elevation gain, only moderate hills. The trail meanders through tall fins to a spectacular view of Landscape Arch. Along the way, you’ll see side trails to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.

Many people combine this hike with the Devil’s Garden Trail or the Double O Arch trail for a longer hike. The trail path changes to a sandy surface after the Landscape Arch viewpoint.

Landscape Arch is part of the Devils Garden section of Arches National Park. The trail to Landscape Arch passes through tall sandstone fins, a narrow rock wall that eventually forms the Signature Arches before opening up to reveal Landscape Arch. It’s the perfect trail for families and adventures looking for a relatively easy hike with a spectacular view at the end of it.

Landscape Arch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail Length: 1.9 miles

Difficulty Level: Easy

Elevation Gain: 250 feet

Required Time: 45-60 minutes

Parking: Devils Garden Parking Area

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail, but service animals are welcome

Park Avenue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park Avenue Trail

After passing the visitor center and climbing steeply along switchback roads, the first major area of the park you’ll see is Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers area. You can walk among massive monoliths and towering walls and see views of the La Sal Mountains.

The massive sandstone towers that make up the western background of Park Avenue are called the Courthouse Towers. Like the prows of enormous ships, these landmarks jut out into the desert below, some of them over 600 feet tall.

The Park Avenue trailhead is located on the Arches Entrance Road, 2.5 miles north of the visitor center on the north side of the road. The parking lot has a paved walkway that heads for 320 feet to a Viewpoint. From there, a well-worn trail leads down the Avenue and towards the Courthouse Towers Parking Lot. Along this trail, you will get a 360-degree view of the La Sal Mountains in the east and distinctive formations like Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, and The Organ. Either arrange a pickup at the northern parking lot or simply do an out-and-back. Either way, this trail is sure to captivate the entire family.

Park Avenue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail Length: 2 miles round-trip

Difficulty Level: Easy

Elevation Gain: 320 feet

Required Time: 30-60 minutes

Parking: Park Avenue Parking Area

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail, but service animals are welcome

Balanced Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Balanced Rock Loop Trail

Balanced Rock, one of the most iconic features in the park, stands a staggering 128 feet tall. While this formation may appear to be an epic balancing act, it’s actually not balanced at all. The slick rock boulder of Entrada Sandstone sits attached to its eroding pedestal of Dewey Bridge mudstone. The exposure of these two rock strata layers is ideal for the formation of arches and balanced rocks.

Balanced Rock defies gravity but this won’t always be the case. Eventually, the 3,600-ton boulder will tumble down erosion continues to shape the landscape. In the winter of 1975-76, Balanced Rock’s smaller sibling “Chip-Off-the-Old-Block” collapsed proving that there is no better time than the present to see this awe-inspiring giant.

Unlike many of the other named features in the park, Balanced Rock can be seen from the park road. It is located 9.2 miles from the Arches Visitor Center. Although parking is limited, many visitors stop to complete the short hike (0.3-mile roundtrip) around the rock’s base for unusual and up-close perspectives.

At sunset, Balanced Rock becomes saturated in a deep red-orange making it a great place to end a fun-filled day in the park. This is also an ideal place for stargazing and night photography. Its location is just far enough from the city lights of Moab and provides whimsical rocky spires in the foreground.

Balanced Rock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail Length: 0.3 miles

Difficulty Level: Easy

Elevation Gain: 55 feet

Required Time: 15-30 minutes

Parking: Balanced Rock Parking Area

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail, but service animals are welcome

Fiery Furnace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fiery Furnace and Surprise Arch Trail

The only way to enter the Fiery Furnace is with a ranger or with an individual permit. Rangers offer Fiery Furnace hikes spring through fall. Tickets for these hikes are in high demand and reservations are required. At the time of writing, ranger-led hikes in the Fiery Furnace were yet scheduled for 2021 due to the pandemic.

The Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons that requires agility to explore. Everyone hiking the Fiery Furnace should be aware of the challenging nature of the terrain and properly equipped for current conditions including temperature extremes. A physically demanding hike, you will walk and climb on irregular and broken sandstone along narrow ledges above drop-offs and in loose sand. There are gaps you must jump across and narrow places that you must squeeze into and pull yourself up and through. In some places, you must hold yourself off the ground by pushing against the sandstone walls with your hands and feet.

Be prepared for extreme temperatures.  Due to the maze-like nature of the terrain, all participants must complete the hike once they enter the Fiery Furnace. You must wear good hiking shoes or boots with gripping soles. No sandals or high heeled shoes are allowed. Each person must carry at least one quart of water. You should stow water and other gear in a backpack so that your hands are free to help navigate the terrain. Tripods are not recommended. No children under the age of 5 are allowed on the hike.

Fiery Furnace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail Length: 1.6 miles loop

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 385 feet

Required Time: 2-3 hours

Parking: Fiery Furnace Parking Area

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail

Windows Section © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Windows Section

The Windows Section is considered by some to be the beating heart of Arches National Park. The area contains a large concentration of arches and is one of the most scenic locations in the park. North Window, Turret Arch, and Double Arch are just a few of the awe-inspiring expanses you’ll find in just over two square miles. Other named features in this area include Garden of Eden, Elephant Butte, and Parade of Elephants.

In the words of Frank Bethwick, leader of a 1933-34 scientific expedition, “These arches are of thrilling beauty. Caused by the cutting action of wind-blown sand (not stream erosion), one marvels at the intricacies of nature.” This section of the park offers both beauty and variety—hiking, sightseeing, stargazing, photography, and enjoyment for the whole family.

Double Arch is an easy, relatively flat walk to two massive, soaring arches that are joined at one end. Double Arch is the tallest and second-longest arch in the park. You can view the arch from the parking lot or take a short walk to its base.

The Windows Section contains a large concentration of arches and is one of the most scenic locations in the park. Take an easy trail to view North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch.

From the visitor center, drive 9.5 miles up Park Avenue (0.3 miles past Balanced Rock) and turn right toward the Windows Section. Drive an additional 2.5 miles to the loop at the end of the road where the parking area for the trailhead is located.

Double Arch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trail Length: 1-mile loop

Difficulty Level: Easy

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Required Time: 30-60 minutes

Parking: Windows Section Parking Area

Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail, but service animals are welcome

Worth Pondering…

A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us—like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness—that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship.

—Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire