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One Day in Arches National Park

by | Destinations, USA | 28 comments

Arches National Park in Utah is one of my absolute favourite National Parks. It has the most amazing geography and geology and is stunningly beautiful. The other-worldly red rock formations, natural bridges and unique arches make for a wonderfully dramatic landscape which begs to be explored. One day in Arches National Park? It is not enough. Really! However, I have shared here two one-day itineraries for visiting Arches NP. We have undertaken both at different times and they both include some of the best landmarks and must-sees in the park.

Double O Arch on one day in Arches National Park visit

Through Double O Arch

One Day in Arches National Park: itinerary one

We made this visit to Arches in November. It was a cold, crisp, blue sky day and despite the fact that it was below freezing when we arrived, it was still busy. Arches is one of the most popular National Parks and it is easy to see why.

On this occasion we toured the park on our motorbike and on foot, undertaking some of the awesome hikes which are available in the park.

Hike to Delicate Arch

Overlooking Delicate Arch one day in Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is probably the most famous arch in Arches National Park, a true icon. It features on the car number plates for Utah and is instantly recognizable. It is also one of the busiest places in the park, even though the hike to Delicate Arch is reasonably strenuous.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

The trail goes over a hill of slickrock and involves traversing a fairly narrow ridge with a steep drop to the side.

Narrow ridge on the trail to Delicate Arch

The hike is about a mile and a half each way. The round trip takes a couple of hours depending how long you spend at the arch. People were lining up to take photos beneath the arch when we visited. One day, we shall return at sunrise to get “the photo”, but on this occasion, we did not stand in line.

It is also worth noting that there are a couple of designated viewpoints for Delicate Arch and these involve rather less hiking. If time is tight, these would be an option.

 

Hike to Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch and Double O Arch

After hiking to Delicate Arch we rode the bike through the park and stopped to admire Skyline Arch.

Skyline Arch

Skyline Arch

We then parked up at the Devil’s Garden Trailhead for the main hike of the day. This hike takes in several of the most famous arches in the park, Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch and finally, Double O Arch.  Dark Angel Arch can also be accessed on this trail, but with shorter November days, we ran out of time.

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch

The first section to Landscape Arch is relatively easy, but the trail gets progressively more challenging towards Double O. This hike involves some scrambling up rocks and because part of the trail towards Double O is over bare rock, the way ahead is not always obvious. There are trail markers, but you have to look really carefully to see them. We gathered up one lost hiker on the return journey!

Looking through Partition Arch

Partition Arch

Navajo Arch

Navajo Arch

The Trail to Double O

The trail goes over slickrock to Double O

Trail to Double O

And sometimes you need a head for heights!

Double O Arch

Double O Arch

Double O Arch from different perspective

Double O up close and personal

 

The complete out and back hike is a little over 4 miles, but it took us about three hours to complete. We stopped quite a lot to admire the landscape and to take photos.

This hike is reasonably challenging, but it stands out as one of the most memorable hikes ever.

 

One day in Arches National Park: itinerary 2

Me in the snow one day in Arches National Park

Arches in the snow

This visit to Arches was rather different, but no less spectacular. We were there in January and there was snow! Snow on the red rocks added to the beauty of this wonderful landscape. I would definitely recommend a winter visit to Arches NP as it provides a completely different perspective. Also, on this occasion we were in our motorhome rather than on the motorbike. We worried that this might have prohibited access to some areas, but it was absolutely fine and we had no problem parking. It was January after all! Even so, there were still plenty of people visiting the park.

Our visit to Arches NP this time took in different sights and landmarks from those described above.

The Three Gossips

Our first stop after we entered the park was at the Three Gossips. There are no prizes for guessing how this quirky rock formation acquired its name!

The three gossips rock formation on one day in Arches National Park

The Three Gossips

Balanced Rock

Again, the name says it all! There are various “balanced rocks” in parks all across the US, but this is the best one we have encountered by far. Just how does it stay up there? It is possible to walk the whole way round and see it from different angles.

Balanced Rock as seen one day in Arches National Park

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

And from a different perspective

Turret Arch and Windows

Turret Arch on a winter visit to Arches National Park

Turret Arch

A little further on from Balanced Rock is the Windows area of the park. The trail up to North and South Windows and Turret Arch is normally fairly easy. However, when it is icy there is an added challenge. I fell on my butt heading up towards Turret Arch! Hey ho – no harm done except to my pride. Look carefully in the photo above and you will see me there just before I hit the deck.

Windows in Arches National Park

Windows from the Turret Arch side

Turret Arch and Windows (two weather-worn holes through the rock) were especially beautiful with the covering of snow. We walked round the back of the Windows on the “Primitive Trail” to see them from a different perspective and this was well worth doing, although again, a little dicey with the ice. The loop was a little over a mile and took about an hour.

Me in front of Windows on a one day visit to Arches National Park

Windows from the Primitive Trail

Double Arch

Having explored the Windows area, we crossed the road to take the trail to Double Arch, another spectacular feature in Arches NP. This is a short, relatively easy trail and well worth taking.

Double Arch with information board in foreground

Double Arch

Fiery Furnace, Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch

Leaving Double Arch, we drove through the very scenic Fiery Furnace and parked in the Sand Dune Arch carpark. This was the starting point for the longest hike on this one-day visit to Arches NP. This is a great hike and opens up views of three more arches. The trail took us first to Sand Dune Arch and then up to Broken Arch.

Sand Dune Arch on a winter visit to Arches NP

Sand Dune Arch

Me in Sand Dune Arch on a winter visit to Arches NP

And for some perspective, here I am in the arch!

Broken Arch

Broken Arch

View from other side of Broken Arch on winter visit to Arches NP

And here I am again on the other side of Broken Arch

The trail passes through Broken Arch and leads out to Tapestry Arch. The trail is fairly straightforward until it goes off on a spur towards Tapestry Arch where it becomes rather more challenging. Some scrambling is required to get up to Tapestry Arch.

Winter's day in front of Tapestry Arch in Arches NP

Tapestry Arch from a distance on this cold winter’s day

Close up view of Tapestry Arch on one day in Arches NP

And a close up view

Me in Tapestry Arch on a one day visit to Arches National Park

And closer still!

Our return route took us through the park campsite. We would love to stay here, but there have never been spaces when we have been in the park. The trail led us through some rocky terrain and down narrow channels. The icy conditions made it particularly tricky but we arrived back at the motorhome unscathed.

Narrow channels on a winter hike in Arches NP

Rocky fins on one day visit to Arches NP

Rocky “fins” were especially beautiful with the dusting of snow

The views were amazing and this is another challenging but highly recommended hike. It took us around two hours to complete the hike but this included stopping to take in the landscape and photographs – as well as treading very gingerly of course!

Winter scene on one day in Arches National Park visit

Fabulous winter views on this hike

 

One day in Arches National Park? Great, and you can always return for another day!

One day in Arches National Park is certainly not enough to do it full justice, but with careful planning it is possible to see many of the iconic landmarks, as I hope I have illustrated here. Simply driving around the park is a wonderful experience as there is something new and spectacular to see around every bend in the road in this fabulous landscape. Maps and more information can, of course, be found in the National Park Service website for Arches.

Park Entrance Fees

As with almost all the national parks there is an entrance fee. However, we always purchase the Annual Pass which gives access to all the National Parks in the US. It is absolutely worth it and you only need to use it two or three times to recoup the cost.

Where to stay when visiting Arches National Park

We are usually in our motorhome when visiting Utah, but we have not yet been lucky enough to stay in the park itself. Booking well ahead is required and we are simply not that organised. We have stayed on several occasions in the Portal Campground just a couple of miles down the road towards the town of Moab. It is very well appointed with electric hookups and is open year round.

There are several other campsites in the vicinity and of course, other kinds of accommodation in town.

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28 Comments

  1. I wish we’d had time to hike Devil’s Garden during our 1 day visit. The scramble up the sandstone fins to the arches above seems like it would be a grand adventure. The one day we spent was definitely not enough time to see everything in Arches. Guess we will just have to go back a second time like you did 🙂

    Reply
    • I would always make time to visit Arches whenever we are anywhere near. I reckon it would never grow old.

      Reply
  2. The US National Parks always look so amazing and huge compared to our local parks in France!
    I never heard before of Arches but it looks gorgeous, more even with the snow… Would love to bivouac there!

    Please let us enter your country again <3 !

    Reply
    • The parks in the US are phenomenal, Francois. Not my country though! I live in the UK, but cannot wait until we can travel again.

      Reply
  3. Great idea showing both perspectives. As someone who does have live winter, I’ll be taking the more orange option. The park is fascinating and one of those wonders of desert America. Definitely on my list.

    Reply
    • Beautiful at all times of the year, John. Think I would avoid the height of summer though!

      Reply
  4. I haven’t been to arches since I was a teenager! Love this intro post. Would enjoy going back as an adult. 🙂 and those three gossipers hehehe 🙂

    Reply
    • I wonder what they’re talking about!

      Reply
  5. Absolutely gorgeous! Utah keeps calling my name…I need to answer! The Arches National Park is definitely a future destination for me.

    Reply
    • You will love it, Karen. Don’t forget your hiking boots!

      Reply
  6. I missed Arches on my road trip through Utah and Arizona. (Face palm!) Thanks for the inspiration to make another trip!

    Reply
  7. Arches National Park is definitely on my U.S. bucket list! I still haven’t made it to that part of the country but those landscapes and rock formations are calling to me. Love the red sandstone against the snow in your photos.

    Reply
  8. Both itineraries look amazing and think I would have to do them both, although I may skip winter. I love the orange glow of the rocks. Utah is certainly on my US list and I see the Arches NP is a must.

    Reply
  9. That’s some pretty incredible hikes – especially with the snow, it really is spectacular. Can’t wait to go back to the US and start exploring the wonderful nature there!!

    Reply
  10. There are no bad photos of this national park Jane! I’ve never visited, but would love to see these rock formations. Some of the hikes are probably a little too challenging for beginner me, but I noted a few I’m sure I can do 🙂

    Reply
  11. Stunning rock formations. Definitely a must-go when in Utah 😉

    Reply
  12. I love all the rock formations! They are stunning and the snow just adds to this unique landscape 😍

    Reply
  13. Wow! So many cool rocks and arches! I still can’t believe I haven’t been yet. Every arch is amazing but I’d definitely like to see Navajo Arch and Double O. So beautiful to see the red rocks in different seasons too!

    Reply
  14. Wow, I never knew it snowed there, but I guess it makes sense seeing as it’s surrounded by ski areas & mountains! It definitely looks different. I really liked Arches, it’s a very underrated national park. You managed to see so much of it!

    Reply
  15. We visited the Grand Canyon in winter and I loved it. I don’t love crowds, so it definitely helps with that. I also hate the heat of the desert, but find them so beautiful. That hiker was lucky you found them to help them back.

    Reply
  16. Arches is one of our favorites too and it’s an incredible place to watch stars at night. We’re jealous you were able to visit in snow since that’s high on our list.

    Reply
  17. We went to a few National Parks during our road trip through Utah, but didn’t stop in Arches NP. Hopefully we’ll get to explore it on our next trip to the USA. The snow scenery is beautiful, but we prefer sunny and hot weather, because we’re currently a bit fed up with winter over here in Europe!

    Reply
  18. Thanks for taking me back to Arches. It was our first Utah park and certainly left a strong image. But I love seeing it through your eyes in winter. Great to know the park is still open and the smaller crowds make visiting even better. We would certainly like to return and do more hiking. One day is not enough for sure!

    Reply
  19. True, just one day for this National Park would be too small a duration. Whoa the Delicate Arch is standing magnificently and miraculously. The Double Arch and Partition arch are incredible! I hope to see them in real some day. I am equally stunned by the Balanced rocks. Thanks a lot for sharing the wonderful pictures. They make me dream.

    Reply
  20. I have to admit, snow on the ground makes Arches NP looks more beautiful! We’ve been there twice, in the summer. Now you make me want to visit the park in the winter.

    Reply
  21. It’s hard for any European national park to compete with those massive national parks in the U.S., I’m guessing. I can see why they called it Arches. Beautiful pics and lots of useful information. I think I’d prefer to visit in summer, but it looks even more beautiful with the snow.

    Reply
  22. I’d love to visit Arches National Park, it’s on my list for our next trip to Western USA. Great photos and really useful information here.

    Reply
    • Hope you manage to get there, Dylan. Arches is one of my favourites!

      Reply

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Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

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