Arches National Park in Utah

In a region of 73,000 acres, resides the red desert land of Arches National Park in Utah, home of over 2,000 natural stone arches. Arches, fins, balanced rocks, pinnacles and spires made of sandstone and in some areas, millions of years old, wait to greet you.

The number one destination in Arches National Park is Delicate Arch and is a terrific family hiking experience that can be done practically year round. Spring and fall are the best times for hiking but mild winter days and early mornings or evenings of summer are also pleasant. The trail takes you past Wolfe Ranch, across the bridge over Salt Wash and by the Frame Arch, as well as by the slickrock for which the Moab area is well known. The difficulty level is “moderate” with rugged, steep sections and is a 3 mile round trip. Delicate Arch is located over 480 feet above the trailhead, in a bowl at the top of one of the park’s most famous sandstone fins.

The northern area of the park contains the second most popular destination called the Devil’s Garden. A developed campground can be found in this area and a wide trail leads from here to Landscape Arch. From there a spur trail can take you past the route traveled by casual tourists to Dark Angel. This trail, referred to as the primitive loop, is the longest maintained trail in the park and a complete round trip of it is 7.2 miles. There is an elevation gain of 400 feet on this trail and it is marked as “easy” to Landscape Arch but “moderate” for completion of the loop. Landscapes here are steep in places and follow along short cliff edges in other spots. You will climb a series of fins, drop down into narrow chasms and cross areas of sand. Pit toilets are available at the trailhead while water can be obtained from the adjacent campground. Water should always be brought with you even during winter and the trail system here is not recommended when ice and snow are present. The hiking conditions are good during spring, summer, fall and the milder portions of winter.

In the eastern/central location of the park resides an area called the Windows Section which showcases some of the main arches including, Turret and Double Arch, the Windows and the Parade of Elephants. In this section of the park there are short trails that lead up to and loop around the arches, never going far from the parking area. There is no significant elevation change and these trails are open all year. There are pit toilets available in the parking area but no other services or water sources. All trails here are labeled as an “easy stroll”.

Also in the central section of the park is the Fiery Furnace, known for its narrow maze of passages created by sandstone fins. Guided hikes, conducted twice daily are strongly recommended, as even the most experienced of hikers tend to wander aimlessly. A permit can be obtained for hiking on your own but you should be aware that there are no marked trails here. Although the area is open year round, spring and fall seem to be the ideal times to hike here, however there is partial shade during the summer afternoons making the heat bearable. Water should be carried with you, pit toilets are available at the viewpoint parking area and the trails here are marked as “moderate”.

Temperatures fluctuate greatly due to the park being a “high desert” region. Spring (April through May) and fall (mid-September through October) have highs of 60-80°F with lows of 30-50°F. Summer brings temperatures exceeding 100°F with monsoons sometimes causing flash flooding, while winter may not bring in large amounts of snow, any snow and ice at all can make trails impassable and temperatures are usually around 30-50°F for highs with 0-20°F for lows.