Arches is one of the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah. With over 2,000 natural arches cut into vertical fins of rock, it’s a stunning geological landscape. Here’s how to spend one-day in Arches National Park.

By: Mark | Last Updated: 26 Jan 2024 | Jump to Comments & Questions

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Arches National Park is a geological wonder. Over 2,000 natural sandstone arches stand amongst the desert landscape. Some are giant holes in vertical fins of rock, others are free-standing arches left behind after millennia of erosion.

It’s the largest concentration of natural stone arches in the world.

Beside the arches there are towering pinnacles and spires, strange-shaped boulders balanced on narrow pillars, and wave upon wave of colourful slick rock. The red and orange rock is a visual delight, particularly at sunrise and sunset when the whole park seems to glow.

Arches National Park is not that big, and the highlights can be comfortably explored in one day.

Here’s our one day in Arches National Park itinerary. We cover all the best arches and hike the most interesting trails. There’s a map, details for getting permits, and tips on where to stay.

one day itinerary arches national park
DOUBLE ARCH

MAP – ARCHES ONE-DAY ITINERARY

Arches National Park is relatively small. The main road through the park (imaginatively called Main Park Road) only takes about 30 minutes to drive from one end to the other. But there are several short dead-end offshoots to explore along the way.

The map below shows all the highlights on this 1-day itinerary.

  • Morning (Red) – Devils Garden & Fiery Furnace
  • Afternoon (Purple) – Windows Section & Park Avenue
  • Sunset (Orange) – Delicate Arch

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


HOW LONG TO SPEND AT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK?

One day is the perfect amount of time in Arches National Park. Plan your itinerary well and you can see almost all the best arches and hike to the most interesting parts of the amphitheater. 

Avid hikers may want to spend a second day and explore Tower Arch and the Klondike Bluffs. Alternatively, if you get up at dawn (which we did), you can squeeze them into this one-day itinerary.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK PERMITS

It costs $30 per private vehicle to enter the park (valid for 1 month) or free with an America the Beautiful pass ($80 for all US National Parks for 1 year).

From April 1 through October 31, you also need a timed entry ticket which you should book online in advance.

Ticketed entry runs from 7 am to 4 pm. If you are unable to get a timed entry slot you can still enter the park before 7 am (arrive a good 15 minutes early) or after 4 pm.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY | MORNING

Try and get an early start to beat the crowds, get the best light, and make it easier to park.

Drive all the way to Devil’s Garden Trailhead parking lot at the far end of the park (don’t worry we will come back to the sights we have driven past). Devil’s Garden is the best area to explore in the morning because the sun lights up all the wonderful rock formations.

devils garden arches national park
DEVIL’S GARDEN

DEVIL’S GARDEN HIKES

This hike is one of the best in the park. As an out-and-back walk, you can make it as easy or hard as you like. Here are your options:

OPTION 1: DEVIL’S GARDEN TRAILHEAD TO LANDSCAPE ARCH

1.8-MILE ROUND TRIP | 1 HOUR

This easy hike heads between wonderful sheer-sided fins of rock to Landscape Arch. At 306 feet it is the longest arch in North America and looks extremely fragile being only 6 feet wide at its narrowest.

An optional side trail (add 0.5 miles and 15 minutes) brings you to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.

OPTION 2: DEVIL’S GARDEN TRAILHEAD TO DOUBLE O ARCH

4-MILE ROUND TRIP | 2 HR, 30 MIN

This medium-difficulty hike heads passed Landscape Arch, climbs onto the fins of rock, and makes its way to Double O Arch. The trail is uneven with a couple of narrow ledges and steep drop-offs, but the views are more spectacular. Make sure you stop at Black Arch Overlook.

An optional side trail (add 0.8 miles and 25 minutes) brings you to Navajo & Partition Arches.

SKYLINE ARCHWAY

Hop back in the car and drive to Skyline Archway. This arch is high up on the archway wall and it’s only a 0.4-mile (15-minute) round-trip walk to the arch. Although the photos from the parking lot are pretty good too.

SAND DUNE ARCH

Next, drive to Sand Dune Arch trailhead. There’s no viewpoint from the parking lot and it’s worth the short hike (0.4 miles, 15 minutes) to Sand Dune Arch. Tucked in a cleft between two tall sandstone walls it’s a picturesque, shady spot to sit and have a break. The trail is mostly on sand and has a wonderful desert feel.

FIERY FURNACE

Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons, fins, and towering spires. The maze-like passages through the walls of rock can be narrow and disorientating. It’s an easy place to get lost so you can only enter on a Ranger Guided Tour or with a Self-Guided Exploration Permit.

The tour lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes and must be booked in advance. Demand can be high so it’s very difficult to get tickets. This one-day itinerary assumes you didn’t get tickets for the tour – if you do then you’ll need to adjust the day.

Even if you don’t have tickets, pull off at the Fiery Furnace parking lot and peer over the rocky labyrinth of passages. 

fiery furnace arches national park itinerary
FIERY FURNACE

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY | LUNCH

There are no restaurants or lodges in Arches National Park and it’s a waste of time heading all the way back to Moab, so bring a packed lunch with you.

There are plenty of spots to sit and have a break. We recommend either Panorama Point or just opposite Balanced Rock (blue on map above). Both areas have picnic tables and restrooms making them good lunch stops on this one-day itinerary.

panorama points arches national park
PANORAMA POINT

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY | AFTERNOON

Geographically it makes sense to see Delicate Arch next. But this arch is best seen at sunset so it’s better to explore the rest of the park in the afternoon and come back to Delicate Arch in the evening.

DOUBLE ARCH

Start the afternoon by taking Windows Road to the Windows Section of the Park. First up is the impressive Double Arch, consisting of two arches joined together. One is the tallest arch in the park (112 feet), and the other is the second-longest (144 feet). It’s an easy 0.6-mile (20-minute) round-trip hike from the trailhead.

WINDOWS VIEWPOINT & TURRET ARCH LOOP

Just across the road from the Double Arch parking lot, a very pretty loop takes you passed three more features.

North Window is a massive hole in a fin of rock which has great views stretching across Arches National Park. Stand beneath it and use the shape of the arch to frame a photo of the desert landscape.

Next to it is South Window, another gigantic hole in the same fin of rock. Finally, you reach Turret Arch. Its slender and elegant shape is reminiscent of a castle turret and in the afternoon, it produces a beautiful silhouette.

The loop is 1 mile and takes about 40 minutes.

GARDEN OF EDEN & BALANCED ROCK

Get back in the car and return along Windows Road stopping off at several different viewpoints.

Garden of Eden has some medium and small-sized arches to explore and good views of Balanced Rock and the road leading to the Windows section above.

Turn left on Main Park Road and pull off at Balanced Rock – a giant lump of rock precariously balanced on a thin pedestal. From so close underneath the rock, it’s striking how well-balanced it must be.

COURTHOUSE TOWERS

Continue along Main Park Road (back towards the park entrance) and stop at Courthouse Towers. This section of the park has a cluster of massive sandstone towers, monoliths and pinnacles which loom over the desert valley floor.

Keep an eye out for the Three Gossips (a trio of slender rock towers resembling gossiping figures), Sheep Rock (that from certain squinted angles looks like a sheep) and the imposing Tower of Babel. In the distance, the La Sal mountains can be seen shimmering on the horizon.

court house towers arches
THE ORGAN IN COURT HOUSE TOWERS

PARK AVENUE

The final afternoon stop on this 1-day Arches itinerary is Park Avenue. The walls of this one-mile-long canyon are colossal vertical fins of rock. It gets its name from the skyscrapers that surround Park Avenue in New York and it looks like a scene from Monument Valley.

The best views are from the viewpoint right next to the trailhead, but to get an impression of the sheer scale of the canyon walls, walk down into the canyon and explore.

park avenue arches national park
PARK AVENUE

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY | SUNSET

Sunset in Arches National Park is magical and the best place to be is Delicate Arch.

DELICATE ARCH

Widely recognised as the symbol of the state of Utah, Delicate Arch is the largest free-standing arch in the park. When it’s hit by the last rays of sunlight it glows a wonderful burnt orange.

It is difficult to see Delicate Arch from the road and the best viewpoint involves an out-and-back hike. The walk is 1.5 miles each way (3 miles total) and takes about 50 minutes (100 minutes in total). It has just under 500 feet of ascent and after a long day can be a bit tiring, so make sure you have saved some energy.

There is a large car park at the Delicate Arch trailhead (a 20-minute drive from Park Avenue), but even this can get busy. It’s best to arrive at the arch about 60 minutes before sunset. Leave it too late and the sun will have disappeared behind other rocks.

So, plan on starting the walk about 2 hours before sunset, which also gives you enough time to get back to the car before it’s too dark.

WHEN TO VISIT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

The best time to visit Arches National Park is from April to May and late September to early November. The days are warm and the evenings mild, providing the most comfortable conditions for hiking.

From June to August the daily highs can reach well over 90°F (32°C). With little shade throughout the park, a day in Arches can be long and tiring.

In winter, temperatures can drop below freezing, snow can cover the trails, and some of the unpaved side roads become impassable.

one day in arches national park

WHERE TO STAY NEAR ARCHES

There is no accommodation in Arches National Park. The nearest town is Moab which is only 5 miles away. Often considered the ‘Adventure Capital of the West, it’s a great base for spending a day in Arches and also exploring all the best things to do in Canyonlands.

Here are a few recommendations of where to stay:

OUR PICK

MOAB / VALUE

MAINSTAY SUITES MOAB

An affordable and well-appointed hotel in the center of Moab, MainStay Suites has a pool, 24-hour fitness center, and free parking.


MOAB / RANCH

MOAB SPRINGS RANCH

Wonderful bungalows and cabins just north of Moab. Moab Springs Ranch is well-equipped with a swimming pool, gardens, and an onsite café.


MOAB / BOUTIQUE

RADCLIFFE MOAB

Great boutique hotel in the heart of Moab. The Radcliffe has a smart modern design with great facilities including an outdoor pool. It’s a short walk to the center of Moab.


MOAB / LUXURY

HOODOO MOAB CURIO COLLECTION BY HILTON

Luxury modern hotel with an outdoor pool, full-service spa, and an interior design paying homage to the surrounding Western landscape.


1 day itinerary for arches national park

WHERE NEXT AFTER ARCHES?

Arches National Park is part of an amazing area of landscapes spread across Utah and northern Arizona. They can be explored on a wonderful 2-week US road trip that includes Utah’s Mighty 5, Monument Valley, and Las Vegas. 

Here are our recommendations on how to see it all:

paul mark 1
ANYWHERE WE ROAM IS
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