Hi friends! I’m super excited to finally share with you my journey through Moab and the awe-inspiring Arches National Park. To be honest, this park wasn’t initially at the top of my bucket list — I had so many other parks that came to mind first. But it absolutely blew me away and quickly skyrocketed to one of my all-time favourites. This visit was part of an epic road trip through Utah’s Big 5 national parks, and I’m super glad we included it.
The park is located right near the vibrant town of Moab, which we found to be the perfect base to explore not only the park but also the exciting activities and attractions in the area.
About Arches National Park
Arches National Park, nestled in the stunning landscapes of southeastern Utah, is an absolute marvel of nature. Spanning over 76,000 acres, this place is like stepping into a whole new world. With more than 2,000 sandstone arches scattered throughout the park, it’s the largest concentration of natural arches in the world! It is a totally unique landscape that’s truly fascinating to learn about and a treat to take in. Arches officially became a national monument in 1929 before being upgraded to a national park in 1971, ensuring its preservation for all the nature-loving folks out there! I think what I loved most about Arches was that it is relatively small in size, so it feels like it’s possible to “see it all”, while offering an abundance of completely unique natural wonders.
For us, Arches was the final stop on our epic road trip through Utah’s Big 5 national parks. We kicked off our journey from Las Vegas and made our way through Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands before reaching Arches. Trust me when I say, the road trip itself was an unforgettable experience that I can’t wait to share in a separate blog post, where I’ll share our driving route and all the hidden gems we discovered along the way. BUT, if you don’t plan to tackle to whole road trip and want to just pop in to Arches, you can definitely do that too; the park is accessible from various nearby cities. You can fly in to Salt Lake City, and from there it’s about a 4-hour drive. From Denver, Colorado, it’s approximately a 6-hour drive. A rental car is pretty much an essential for this one.
When To Go
When it comes to the best time to visit Arches National Park, it largely depends on your preferences and what you’re looking to experience. The park is open year-round, but the weather can vary significantly throughout the seasons. For us, November was the chosen time to explore Arches. “Chosen”, meaning it lined up timing-wise with another trip we had scheduled to St. George for the 70.3 World Championships. Despite the cooler temperatures and the fact that some facilities and services were limited, we were thrilled with our decision. The park was blissfully serene, with far fewer crowds compared to the peak tourist season. We were never battling crowds or having to jostle for parking spots. So, if you’re considering a visit in the fall, don’t let the colder weather deter you. Embrace the quieter ambiance and enjoy the beauty of this remarkable park without the crowds.
What To Pack
When preparing for your adventure in Arches National Park, it’s important to pack accordingly based on the season you plan to visit. If you’re exploring during the summer months, from June to August, be prepared for scorching temperatures. Make sure to pack lightweight, breathable clothing such as shorts, t-shirts, and light hiking pants. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the intense desert sun. It’s also essential to bring plenty of water for every hike.
If you’re visiting during the colder months, such as November or the winter season, temperatures can drop significantly, especially during the evenings. We went out for a lot of sunrises and sunsets and it got COLD. Layering is key to staying comfortable. Pack warm clothing like long-sleeved shirts, sweaters or fleeces, pants, and a good quality jacket or coat. Don’t forget to bring hats, gloves, scarves, and even thermal socks to keep yourself cozy. It’s also a good idea to have sturdy hiking boots that provide both traction and insulation – some of the trails were snowy/icy!
Regardless of the season, be sure to have a reliable and comfortable backpack to carry your essentials such as water, snacks, a map or guidebook, and a camera. It’s always a good idea to bring a small emergency first aid kit too!
Where To Stay
When it comes to finding a place to stay in Moab, there are several options available to suit different preferences and price points, from budget-friendly hotels to fancy resorts. You’ll also find vacation rentals, a hostel, campgrounds and RV parks in town. During our visit, we stayed at Hotel Moab Downtown, which had a fantastically convenient location and comfortable amenities. While it may not be luxury, it served as a great base for our adventures in the area. Depending on your needs, you can find something with scenic views, proximity to downtown, or amenities such as pools and spas. I’d recommend booking in advance, especially during peak seasons, as Moab is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and there always seems to be something going on, whether it’s a festival or a race or a show…. it’s a small town that can fill up pretty quick.
Being a hub for tourism and a bunch of outdoor activities, Moab has a variety of dining options that cater to different tastes and preferences. During our stay, we enjoyed some fantastic food experiences! Here’s a list of my fav finds:
- DoughBird Donuts: One morning, we grabbed delicious donuts to go, which made for a delightful treat during our hike.
- Antica Forma Pizza: For a satisfying meal, we highly recommend trying the mouthwatering pizzas at Antica Forma.
- Garage Co.: We went here more than once for great healthy food and refreshing drinks.
More detail on the restaurants in the area here: Where to Eat in Moab.
Events in Moab
Moab is not just a gateway to Arches National Park; it’s also a vibrant town with a plethora of activities to enjoy. I’d recommend checking the local calendar to see what’s happening during your visit. You may be like us, and just happen to stumble upon the perfect event! Or you can be smart and plan ahead, to time your visit with an exciting event (there’s always festivals, outdoor concerts, art shows, adventure races, and more). We were thrilled to learn about a trail half marathon taking place over the weekend we were visiting. Without hesitation, we signed up the day before and had an incredible time. It was gruellingly difficult, but also showcased the natural beauty of the area and allowed us to experience the trails from a unique perspective. So, keep an eye out for any exciting happenings in Moab during your trip and seize the opportunity – don’t overthink it, just go for it!
Activities in Moab
Moab is an adventure enthusiast’s dream come true. I couldn’t believe how many options there were for extreme sports! They have world-class mountain biking trails that range from beginner-friendly to expert-level challenges, off-road tours, horse-riding trails, rock climbing, canyoneering, paragliding, rafting down the Colorado River… And more!! Yes, somehow, even more! Whether it’s peddling, climbing, driving, or paddling, Moab’s got the adventure sports to match your adrenaline levels.
Arches National Park Hiking Trails
Before we dive into the hikes, I want to note that I didn’t personally do every single hike in Arches National Park – though we did bang out a LOT of them! Regardless, I’ve made a list of all of the trails, and will share more information on the ones I was able to see for myself.
- Delicate Arch Trail
- Devil’s Garden Trail (including Primitive Trail)
- Landscape Arch Trail
- Double O Arch Trail
- Sand Dune Arch Trail
- Broken Arch Trail
- Windows Loop Trail (including Turret Arch, North Window, South Window, and Double Arch)
- Fiery Furnace (requires a permit or ranger-led tour)
- Park Avenue Trail
- Balanced Rock Viewpoint and Trail
- Skyline Arch Trail
- Tower Arch Trail
- Klondike Bluffs Trail
- Courthouse Towers Viewpoint and Trail
- The Windows to Double Arch Trail
- Panorama Point and Window Arch Trail
- Delicate Arch Viewpoint
- Devil’s Garden Viewpoint
- Sand Dune Arch Viewpoint
- Landscape Arch Viewpoint
Each trail offers unique features and stunning views of the park’s incredible rock formations. Since I didn’t do some of the hikes, my recommendation is that you pop in to the visitor’s centre to get more information if you’re interested in a trail that’s not on my list here. You should also check the park’s website or visitor centre for up-to-date trail conditions and any additional safety information. For more detail on the hikes that we were able to do (all of which I would highly recommend!), check out this post: The Best Hiking Trails in Arches National Park.
Arches National Park Tips
When exploring Arches National Park, there are a few tips to keep in mind to make the most of your visit. First and foremost, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center upon arrival. It’s a great starting point to gather information, pick up maps, and learn about the geological wonders that make Arches so unique. The Visitor Centre provides fascinating exhibits and knowledgeable rangers who can answer any questions you may have about the park’s formation and history. Understanding how the iconic rock formations were shaped over time added an extra layer of appreciation to our experience.
I can’t stress this enough – be prepared with essentials for your visit. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, as many trails involve uneven terrain. Pack sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water, especially during the warmer months. Consider carrying a backpack with snacks, a camera, and a guidebook.
To maximize your time in the park, I’d recommend coming early in the morning (particularly during peak seasons). This allows you to not only secure parking and enjoy the trails with fewer crowds, but also catch some of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Double Arch are among the most popular attractions in the park, so plan your visit accordingly. We hit Delicate Arch first thing in the morning so it would be a little less busy.
Take advantage of the scenic viewpoints throughout the park. Not everything has to be a hike! There are some great photo opps that don’t require much walking at all, like Balanced Rock and Park Avenue.
Lastly, please always remember to stay on designated trails and respect the natural environment.
Mesa Arch: Canyonlands National Park
While Mesa Arch is not located within Arches National Park, it is a captivating natural wonder that makes for an excellent addition to your itinerary while visiting Moab. Situated in the nearby Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park, Mesa Arch offers a mesmerizing experience that has become super popular, for good reason. It’s a bit of a drive (64km/40 miles) from Moab, but it is well worth the trip. The drive to Mesa Arch itself is a pretty one, as it takes you through scenic landscapes. Witnessing the sunrise at Mesa Arch is a particularly enchanting experience, as the first light of the day illuminates the surrounding canyons and creates a picturesque setting. Because of this, it’s wildly busy at sunrise, so be prepared to have to hold your ground to watch the light shine through!
Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park is just a short drive from Moab, and it’s known for its stunning overlooks, offering panoramic views of the Colorado River winding through deep canyons. Hiking, mountain biking, and scenic drives are popular activities in the park. We stopped by for sunset one evening and checked out some of the look-outs, where you can read about the history of the park while taking in jaw-dropping views. This was one of my fav side-quests. It’s SO STUNNING!
I’m going to share our itinerary, which may not have been the most efficient but I was really happy with it. Feel free to edit and snip out bits and pieces, or add in bits and pieces.
Day 1: Arrive and Settle
- Arrive in Moab and hit up the short hike to Corona Arch.
- Explore the food truck park and enjoy dinner.
- Check-in to hotel and settle in for the night.
Day 2: All about Arches
- Start the morning at DoughBird Donuts for a tasty breakfast (pro tip: grab ’em to go and enjoy your donuts in the park!).
- Head to the Window Arch area to catch the beautiful sunrise, and hike the Double Arch trail while there as well.
- Visit Delicate Arch before it gets too crowded and enjoy the breathtaking views. Enjoy a packed lunch at the top of this trail, so you can spend more time soaking up the most iconic arch in the park.
- Hike out to the Landscape Arch.
*We only went as far as Landscape Arch on this day, but you could also do the whole Primitive Trail at this point.
- Hit up Sand Dune Arch as a last easy walk.
- Visit the Visitor Center to learn more about the park’s geological wonders. I always recommend a Visitor’s Center stop – probably makes sense to do it as a first stop, to get info on the hikes and trails. However, we did it later in the day since we came into the park for sunrise and it wasn’t open yet.
- Head back to Moab for dinner – we had amazing pizzas at Antica Forma Pizza.
- Go back into the park to witness the stunning sunset at Balanced Rock. Never miss a sunset!!
Day 3: Adventure Day
- This was the day of our trail half marathon! If not racing, check out some of the other adventure activities available in the area.
- Relax and unwind at the hotel pool after the race. If feeling up for it, walk around downtown Moab and check out the shops.
- Head to Dead Horse State Park to witness a stunning sunset.
Day 4: Last Chance Sights
- Wake up nice and early to catch the sunrise at Mesa Arch. This one gets BUSY so you want to be early!
- Check out the rest of the key sights in Canyonlands National Park.
- Return to Arches National Park to tackle the Primitive Trail (if not done on Day 2). We skipped this longer hike on day 2 because I was worried about resting my legs for the half marathon the next day. I regretted that, so we came back to squeeze it in before we left, and I’m so glad!
Day 5: Heading Out
- Check out of hotel and say goodbye 🙁 We left first thing in the morning because we had a long drive ahead!
Remember, this itinerary can be adjusted based on your preferences and the availability of activities during your visit. It provides a summary of what we did, and all of the activities we wanted to do.
Moab is a fantastic central location for picking off some major bucket-list hikes and sights. Don’t overlook Arches National Park – it ended up making it’s way onto my top 3 all-time fav parks!!