National Parks/Monuments

Arches National Park

(Last Updated On: August 5, 2017)
Arches

I don’t really care what anyone says about Bryce or Zion, Arches is clearly the best National Park in Utah. (I’m assuming no one is standing up for Capitol Reef or Canyonlands, of course). So when we decided to plan a trip for Spring Break this year, Moab seemed a natural destination.

Arches is very beautiful with deep red rock, clear blue skies, and many kid friendly hikes. The arches themselves are amazing, and it’s astounding to think of them all in one place. We spent parts of three different days in Arches so that we could see the majority of the park. I’ll give some of the highlights to help you plan your trip.

The first evening we stopped at the Windows section of the park. Windows is a very kid friendly area. There are short hikes to 4 very impressive arches. Our almost 2 year-old walked every step of these 2 short hikes. The hike to the North and South Window is short (1 mile loop), and mostly flat– a must do for any visitor, old or young. The first arch you pass is Turret arch, which is tall and narrow. The loop continues on past the north and south windows, which can also be seen from the road. These huge arches are a great introduction to the park. Across the street from the windows is Double Arch. This is a much shorter walk right up into a unique double arch that looks like medieval architecture. We saw a jack rabbit hop by here, which really excited the kids. Between the short walk around Balanced Rock and the Windows section, you can spend a couple of hours. This is a perfect after-dinner plan.

Arches
Turret Arch
Arches
The Windows
Arches
You can climb up into North Window.
Arches
The trails are an easy walk.
Arches

Double Arch

Balanced Rock

The second section of the park to check out is Devil’s Garden. A few short trails and one long one are very popular. The long trail starts at the end of the road and passes 7 major arches if you go all the way to the end. The Devil’s Garden Trailhead begins in the north end of the park. It goes a short way and then a minor trail branches to the right. We really like this branch because it gets you away from the steady stream of people and takes you to 2 nice arches. The first is Tunnel Arch and the second is Pine Tree Arch. Many hikers turn around here and head back to the car, having done a very nice hike. We pressed on toward Landscape Arch. I think this is the most impressive arch in the park. It is also the longest arch in the world, and it appears to defy gravity. When I was a kid, you could walk right up under Landscape Arch, but in 1991 a huge section fell, and now you view it from a distance. There are 2 other arches near here, and short steep trails take you right up to them. First you pass Partition Arch, and then Navajo Arch. If you do all this, you’ll go around 2.5 miles round trip. If you continue on, there is a longer, more strenuous hike to Double O Arch which is beautiful and mostly unvisited. This is as far as we’ve ever been along this trail, and we did it without children. With kids, we feel like turning around after Navajo Arch is wise–particularly if you’re going to stop at a few more arches on the way back.

Tunnel Arch
Pine Tree Arch
Landscape Arch

After leaving Devil’s Garden (which takes 2-3 hours), we started back toward the Visitor’s Center. We like to stop at Skyline Arch. You can see the arch from the road, but we like to hike to the base an scramble around the rocks that fell out of the arch several decades back (check the sign). It takes maybe half an hour to make this short hike.

Skyline Arch
You can hike right up to Skyline Arch.

The final stop in this section of the park is Sand Dune Arch. We save this for last because it is a great place for the kids to play. The walk is only a few minutes, and the arch isn’t all that impressive, but beach-fine sand is deep and cool all around the arch. There are always a lot of kids (and adults playing here); it’s one of the busiest places in the park. If you have shovels and pails, you can bring them along, if not, the kids will have plenty of fun, anyway. We always go here last before returning to the hotel, because kids will be worn out and dirty after an hour at Sand Dune Arch!

The kids just roll in the sand, at least ours did.
Sand Dune Arch
There are some fun climbing places next to Sand Dune Arch.

The third section of the park is the most famous. The Delicate Arch overlook and hike is seen by hundreds of visitors daily. We always start with the lower viewpoint, which gives a nice view of Delicate Arch. Then we take the real hike. It is best to get started early, especially if you are here in the heat of the summer. We were on the trail by about 8 am. The hike is fairly short (3 miles roundtrip) but steep and hot. It ascends straight up the slickrock, so watch for trail markers. Our 4 year-old made this hike without complaining, but we took it fairly slowly and carried the baby on our back. Delicate Arch is spectacular, and the trail has been designed (purposely, I think) so that you walk around the bend and see the arch right in front of you. There is a large bowl, almost like an amphitheater surrounding the arch, and that’s a good thing, since there are often enough people to fill it. We got lucky, and there wasn’t a soul at the arch, but the chances of that are extremely thin. By the time we left 45 minutes later, there were nearly 100 people. In the summer, there are even people at the arch in the middle of the night. On the way back from Delicate Arch, take the tiny offshoot to the petroglyphs. They are worth it, and barely add any steps to your hike.

Delicate Arch from the viewpoint.
You have to climb up slick rock to get to Delicate Arch.
Delicate Arch
You can walk under Delicate Arch.
Wolfe Ranch Petroglpyhs

For the more adventurous among you, we have 2 other suggestions for Arches. First, try the Fiery Furnace hike. Kids must be 5 and must have an adult with each until they are twelve (so if your kids are 6, 8, and 10, you must have 3 adults). We did this hike before we had kids, and it is amazing. It is ranger-led (but I think you can do it yourself with a permit) and goes through one of the really cool sections of the park full of fins and steep red canyons. Space is limited, so get an early reservation and make sure you have good hiking shoes. The second adventurous route you might take is to Tower Arch. A two-wheel drive can often make the 7 mile drive to this arch (ask a ranger) but the road is pretty rough, so make sure you have pretty good clearance. There is a moderate hike to the arch from the end of the road. We haven’t done this, but it is on our list for when the kids are a little bigger.

If you live in Utah and you haven’t been to Arches National Park, you are really cheating yourself out of some great adventures. This is the greatest National Park in Utah. If you’re going to Arches, make sure to check out our Things To Do in Moab and our Kid Hikes in Arches.

3 Comments

  • So happy to stumble upon your blog. I want to go to Moab/Arches and Canyonlands the week of thankgiving with my 13 and 7 year old. Do you think the weather would allow it?? We would be coming from texas….

    • I think you could definitely visit Arches/Canyonlands in November. It would be cold–it says that the average high is mid 50s, but they don’t often get a lot of snow (just rain), so most trails would probably still be open. Just bring the right kind of clothing. We have usually visited in spring or summer, but I know lots of people who prefer to visit in the winter just to avoid the crowds.