Iconic Delicate Arch is the most popular hike in Arches National Park. This hike is fairly moderate because it is steep and hikes across the slickrock. Know before you go about this hike by reading and following our tips below.
- Rating: Moderate
- Distance: 3.0 RT
- Elevation Gain: 480 feet
- Fees: Arches National Park Fee
The hike to Delicate Arch comes in three parts, and they are pretty equal thirds by distance. The first third of the hike is mostly flat with some gentle up and down climbing across the low sagebrush covered swales. This section covers about a half mile. The trail is well-marked and wide with high traffic, particularly in the busy season.
The trail has a very abrupt change as it reaches a steep slickrock. The trail, which is marked by cairns and ubiquitous hikers is easy to follow and not dangerous. In rain or other adverse weather, it may be slick. This is by far the most difficult part of the trail. We’ve seen more than a few people turn around halfway up the hill. Like the first section, it’s pretty close to a half mile up the slickrock.
At the top of this section, the trail turns north and winds through some narrow cuts in the rock. There is nothing technical, but the trail is neither flat, nor smooth. Eventually, it winds around to another section that has been cut out of the rock. There is a short, but dangerous drop (25 feet) on the left and a wall on the right. When we did this trail in the winter, it was quite slick because it is on the shaded side of the wall.
After a little less than a half mile, an arch appears in front of you across the small arroyo. There is a small arch like a window in the wall on your right, too. When you see these, you are just yards from the sweeping panorama of Delicate Arch.
The Arch itself is breathtaking. It sits on the edge of a large bowl, and our 5 year-old wanted to hold hands because he was so worried about slipping, though it is not terribly dangerous. There are plenty of open places to sit and enjoy the arch, but there are plenty of people, too.
There are plenty of spots to sit and take in the breathtaking arch after that long hike. We love this amazing arch! Going back down is a lot easier!
Now that you’ve read about the hike, which totals three miles roundtrip, know that there is also a Delicate Arch Viewpoint. This walk is only 100 yards and allows you to see the back of the arch from about a half mile away. So if the full hike seems too much for your family, you can still see the famous Delicate Arch.
Tips for Families
- Hike in the morning or evening. There is no shade along this trail, and in the hot summer that can be a bad situation, so if you are there in warmer months, definitely hike at cooler times.
- Wear sunscreen. Once again, there is no shade, so you will need protection from the sun.
- Carry plenty of water. Especially on those hot days!
- Take a snack to eat once you’ve reached the arch. We always sit and eat a small snack/treat and enjoy the amazing view. Make sure to clean up all your trash.
- Wear good shoes. Flip flops are not really going to cut it on this hike. The slick rock is slick, so make sure to have sturdy shoes that will help you climb up rocks.
- Respect the arch. Please take pictures and make memories. Do not carve into the arch, or make any other markings that might damage this beautiful part of Utah.