How to Make the Most of One Day in Arches National Park
So you only have one day in Arches National Park and want to do all the things?!? This one day in Arches Itinerary has all the highlights of the park to help you optimize your time.
Are you wondering what to do with 1 day in Arches National Park? Arches is a small but mighty National Park only 6 miles outside of Moab, Utah. This list of Arches National Park Attractions and the Best Things to do in Arches National Park has something for everyone.
Arches National Park is a national park in eastern Utah, United States. More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches are located in the park, including the well-known Delicate Arch, as well as a variety of unique geological resources and formations. The park consists of 76,679 acres of high desert located on the Colorado Plateau. The highest elevation in the park is 5,653 feet at Elephant Butte, and the lowest elevation is 4,085 feet at the visitor center.
I have visited Arches several times and every time I’m in Utah I try to make it to this beautiful park. Amazing scenery, beautiful hikes, its no wonder this is such a popular park. Make sure to arrive early – I like to get there around 7am. Some people even arrive around 5am in the summer.
One Day in Arches: Best Things to do
In a Hurry? Here are the highlights of Arches National Park in One Day
- Hike Delicate Arch at Sunrise
- See Balanced Rock and Explore Garden of Eden
- Visit the Windows section and Double Arch
- Devil’s Garden and Landscape Arch
- Scenic Drive back to the entrance
- Stop at Park Avenue to take in the view or take a short hike
To visit any of the National Parks in the USA, I recommend buying a National Park Pass. The America the Beautiful Pass is valid for one year and costs $80. Plus 10% of sale proceeds go to the National Park Foundation.
Tips for Renting a car for your road trip
It’s awfully hard to get to Arches National Park without a car. The closest airport is Salt Lake City and you can use Discover Cars to rent a car for your travels. You’ll be able to pick up a car at any airport or in your hometown.
Check availability and get a quote for a rental car for your trip here.
Arches New Reservation System for 2022
As you know, Arches is an incredibly popular national park and this leads to the park hitting their maximum number of cars by 9am. To prevent and control overcrowding, Arches are implementing a pilot timed entry system.
If you are planning to visit Arches National Park in 2022, there is a new reservation system. If your visit is between April 3 and October 3, 2022, you must have a reservation. Arches are implementing a pilot timed entry system as part of its measures to control overcrowding.
Reservations are on a first come, first served basis. You can apply at Recreation.gov
You must apply for a reservation 3 months before you plan to visit. Each months’ lottery opens on the 1st of the month at 8am MST. For example, if you plan to visit in June – you need to apply on March 1st.
- If you are visiting between April 3 and April 30 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on January 3 2022.
- If you are visiting between May 1 and May 31 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on February 1 2022.
- If you are visiting between June 1 and June 30 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on March 1 2022.
- If you are visiting between July 1 and July 31 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on April 1 2022.
- If you are visiting between August 1 and August 31 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on May 1 2022.
- If you are visiting between September 1 and September 30 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on June 1 2022.
- If you are visiting between October 1 and October 3 2022: reservations open at 8am MST on June 1 2022.
Once you have a reservation you will be granted a timed entry slot into the park between 6am and 5pm. You can enter the park during your one hour time slot. You can then stay in Arches for as long as you would like.
If you miss out on the early reservation tickets, there are a limited number of tickets released at 6pm MST on the day prior to entry.
One Day in Arches National Park Itinerary
During peak hours at Arches, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., you can expect long lines to join the park. Make preparations ahead of time. Before entering the park, use the toilet and bring snacks, your lunch and drinks. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you arrive, as there are no gas stations inside the park.
Let’s go we have a lot to cover in one day and we need to ensure we enjoy it!
Sunrise Delicate Arch Hike
The Delicate Arch hiking trail is easily accessible from the Arches National Park entrance. Drive about 12 miles from the main road and then look for the Delicate Arch signs.
The Delicate Arch Hike is a 2.9-mile out-and-back hike with a 480-foot elevation rise. It will take around 2-3 hours with plenty of time to take in the beauty of Delicate Arch.
Delicate Arch is the most popular arch in the park. It is also the most popular hike in Arches and a lot of people do this at sunrise or sunset. Sunset is super popular at this spot but it gets really crowded and even hard to find a parking spot. That’s why I recommend doing this at sunrise.
If you don’t want to hike the 2.9-mile Delicate Arch Hike to see it up close, there are shorter/easier routes are available.:
- Delicate Arch Lower Viewpoint – is close to the parking lot, requires no hiking, but you are seeing the arch from a distance
- Delicate Arch Upper Viewpoint – from the parking lot, requires 20 minutes steep hiking, still from afar but you are up higher and get a better view
Morning: Visit Balanced Rock and Garden of Eden
Balanced rock is a famous landmark in Arches and well worth a stop along the scenic drive. Balanced Rock is just that – a rock balanced up high. It may look like this rock is just about to fall off but don’t worry its quite sturdy.
You can stop here and walk along the trail to get a closer view of balanced rock. It is only 0.3 miles to get a closer view of the rock or you can view it from your car.
The Garden of Eden is an underrated part of the park but it also serves as an open trail where visitors can explore the rare sandstone features on the desert slickrock. You can explore this area just before visiting the Windows Section of the park.
Visit the Windows Section and Double Arch
Yay! Now we are moving onto my favorite part of the park. I know there are more exciting parts of the park but Double Arch is a favorite of mine. Its an easy hike, and there is plenty of shade which is something you will appreciate in the middle of summer which seems to be when I always visit.
The ‘hike’ to Double Arch is less than half a mile a relatively flat. The reason I like Double Arch so much is that this is one of the few places to find some shade in the park. Not only that there are so many different beautiful views from this spot. Even climbing around on the rock you will take in different views of the two arches.
From the parking lot you can find the trailhead for the Arches Windows Primitive Loop, where you can see the Windows (both the North Window Arch and the South Window Arch), as well as Turret Arch. This one-mile path is ideal for a relaxing, simple stroll through beautiful natural surroundings.
The Windows Section and Double Arch are located next to each other and share the same parking lot. We spent about two hours parked here which is a fairly long time but we really took it easy and also had lunch here. I recommend either having lunch here in the shade or moving onto Devil’s Garden and finding a picnic table to have your lunch there.
Lunch: Picnic near Devil’s Garden
There are a few places around the park with picnic tables but the one at Devil’s Garden is the largest as it is next to the campground. I highly recommend having your picnic lunch here at one of the many picnic tables. There are also restrooms here you can use.
And a reminder that there are no restaurants or shops in Arches so you will need to bring something from the grocery store in Moab or pick up something from one of the restaurants.
Afternoon Devil’s Garden and Landscape Arch
Devils Garden is a campground as well as a hiking trail. In terms of distance and difficulty, the trail can be adapted to your preferences, and the campground is the only one within Arches National Park.
Most people come to this area to see Landscape Arch. To get there, you can take the Primitive Loop hiking trail. This is the most popular hiking trail in Devil’s Garden at 7.8 miles long, but you can make it shorter or longer depending on your preferences. If you walk the entire loop, you’ll come across seven natural arches:
• Tunnel Arch – 0.4miles
• Pine Tree Arch – 0.5 miles
• Landscape Arch – 1.6 miles
• Partition Arch – 2 miles
• Navajo Arch – 2 miles
• Double O Arch – 2.3 miles
• Dark Angel – 2.5 miles
If you don’t want to do the entire loop, I would recommend hiking to Landscape Arch and back. It is a 1.6 mile loop and you will get to see one of the most iconic arches in the park.
Landscape Arch has one of the longest spans at 306 feet long. Over the ages, fragments of Landscape Arch have broken off, some as large as cars. The last chunk of the arch to fall off was 1991 and now the arch is only 11 feet wide at its narrowest part.
Getting to Landscape Arch on the Primitive Loop is the easiest section of the trail and highly worth the views.
Scenic Drive back to the entrance
The Scenic Drive in Arches is a 19 mile road with overlooks along the way. If you’ve followed this Arches Itinerary you would have driven along it when you entered the park and to get to Devil’s Garden. As we were in a hurry to get to Delicate Arch for sunrise, we didn’t make any stops.
So on the way back out of the park there are several stops to make. Along the ride you’ll come across a series of overlooks with panoramic views of the park’s rock formations. You’ll see huge sandstone fins, and towering rock spires in addition to the arches. You can’t go wrong with any of the overlooks, so stop when the views tempt you.
The best stops along the scenic drive are:
- The Three Penguins
- The Three Gossips
- Balanced Rock
- The Windows
- The Fiery Furnace
- Park Avenue (Mentioned in the next stop)
Park Avenue view or short hike
Don’t miss this stop! I know it is tempting to skip this as it is just 3 miles from the exit but Park Avenue is absolutely stunning. You don’t have to do the hike either as the views are from the overlook.
Park Avenue Trail a one-mile trail that winds its way through a canyon at the base of some of the park’s most popular monoliths. These are the viewpoints that are visible from Park Avenue Trail:
- The Three Gossips
- Courthouse Towers
- Queen Nefertiti and Queen Victoria Rock
- The Organ
- and the Tower of Babel
You can hike this two mile round trip trail or you can just pull over at this stop and take in the views. This was our first stop in Arches National Park and we were treated to a stunning view of the park.
Tips for Visiting Arches National Park
Arches is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. There is a hike for everyone and for different fitness levels. Also, note that it is dry and hot (in the summer) and make sure you know what you are getting into before you start. Here are a few tips for Arches National Park:
- Arrive Early and Buy a National Park Pass. Arches is often full by 9am. Go early and have your National Park Pass ready for a quick entry into the park.
- Bring a reusable water bottle and lots of water! Remember you are in the sun and you will need to drink lots of water. I love my LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle. I can refill this bottle anywhere and it comes with a carabiner to connect it to my daypack.
- Check the Weather – There is not much shade at Arches. Make sure to check the weather before you go and plan accordingly.
- Hiking boots or sandals that will protect your feet! I love good shoes. I need all the support and help I can get. I actually love these sandals for hiking and have a whole post on Merrell vs Keen shoes for hiking. I also love these hiking boots which I used for Hiking in the Grand Canyon.
- Bring hiking poles for balance and to protect your knees. I know many experienced hikers (and even amateur ones) think that hiking poles are for old people who lose their balance. Actually, hiking poles can help when going down steep inclines or when scrambling over rocks. They are great to hike with even for the most experienced hiker.
- Wear a sunhat. I feel like this whole post is about how high you are in the mountains and how much closer you are to the sun but it is so true. At elevation, you are closer to the sun and more likely to burn. Wear sun protection such as a sun hat and sunscreen.
- Be aware of the wildlife. This is the Southwest and you will need to watch out for snakes and other wildlife. Please stay away from wildlife and do not feed them.
- Start Early – If you want to avoid the traffic and the heat you will need to start your hike early. That way it will be nice and cool and the smog will not affect you either.
- Leave no trace. If you are new to the concept of Leave No Trace it is all about preserving the environment to ensure it is in the same or better condition when you leave it. This means that you should stick to the trails and carry out everything that you carried in. This is a great explanation of the Leave No Trace principles!
Where to stay near Arches National Park
Arches National Park makes for a great weekend escape. Fresh air, beautiful scenery and being in nature does a world of good for the soul. I recommend staying as close to the park as possible and even treating yourself with a cabin with a spa pool to relax at night.
- There are lots of fantastic Airbnbs near Moab. There are many beautiful places to stay near the park and this allows you to spend most of your time experiencing the park instead of driving to the park.
- I also have a post on Where to Stay near Arches. This is one of the best Arches Hotels and it has amazing amenities and is close to everything. Plus its reasonably priced.
If you are taking a road trip remember to reserve a car in advance using Discover Cars .
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2015 when I went to Africa and I love them.
Getting coverage is important as you never know what will happen and need assistance when you are more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
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