We had two days to explore the wonders of Arches National Park and we soaked in every sunset and sunrise in the orange glow. There are dozens of trails to chose from in the park and most are open year-round. The namesake comes from the canyon holding over 2,000 arches, the most natural arch formations in the world. It seems like every turn leaves you with another arch view. Another fun fact is that the national park and city of Moab spent a decade retrofitting dimmer lights in order to limit light pollution. The park boasts an International Dark Sky Park certification allowing you to see the green and purple Milky Way nearly every night. There are a few short trails that are doable in the dark such as the Skyline Arch and Balanced Rock trail.
Our campsite had plenty of Milky Way views, so we spent our time hiking during sunset and sunrise at Delicate Arch and in the Devil’s Garden. I highly recommend camping near Arches National Park right now because Moab is undergoing major road construction leaving hotel guests in hours of traffic every day. If you are planning this trip for 6 months from now you can make reservations at the campsite in the park, Devil’s Garden Campground. We car camped ten minutes away from the park at Willow Springs Campground, a dispersed campground on public land operated by BLM or Bureau of Land Management. Besides beating hours of traffic every day, the best part of this site was the canyon. I’ll write a blog with car camping tips next week!
I highly recommend purchasing a hiking pack with a water reservoir for Arches National Park. I drank over 4 liters of water a day even when we did short 3-mile hikes. The dry climate and long, hot days can quickly dehydrate you and it’s best to be prepared. Thankfully, the park provides several filtered water stations, so you don’t need to invest in gallons of water for your trip. I say this in every hiking blog, but a friendly reminder to pack layers. It dropped below 40-degrees at night and soared above 80-degrees during the day.
We were going to grab a permit at the Visitor’s Center to hike the slot canyons of the Fiery Furnace, but this trail is closed in 2020 because it typically requires a ranger-led tour. Another pandemic issue we ran into was the park hitting capacity limits in the morning. Nearly every day from 9am to noon the park closed the entrance because Arches is a hot travel destination and there were too many visitors crammed into the park. Like us, more people are getting outside for vacation and the park is experiencing an unprecedented number of guests this year. Anyone else ready for some precedented times?
Delicate Arch was the highlight of the trip. The 3-mile out-and-back trail leads you to the arch proudly displayed on Utah license plates and the Welcome to Utah highway sign. The best tip of the trip was to visit the arch at sunset and despite hundreds of people with the same idea we still had plenty of space to enjoy the views. This hike was moderate with steep drop-offs and some rock scrambles, but families of all ages were hiking alongside us! Start your hike two hours before sunset because it’ll take you an hour to reach the arch. Golden hour at the arch makes the red rocks light up and the canyon silhouette is captivating. Towards the end of the trail along the cliff side you’ll see a small hole in the canyon wall. The steep climb to this cutout is risky, but it’s the perfect spot to watch the arch and canyons settle into dusk away from the crowds. We hiked back to the trailhead before dark and went to sleep early in prep for a sunrise hike in the morning.
Devil’s Garden is a much harder trail than Delicate Arch simply because of the elevation. Over 7 arches are scattered throughout the 8-mile loop trail including a few out-and-back side excursions. The arches are the highlight of this national park, but a close second is the unique red canyon trail of Devil’s Garden. You feel like you’re on Mars when scaling the canyon walls and cliffs. At one point you’ll cross a narrow canyon top and we saw several hikers turn around at this point. This trail is not for the faint of heart, but will give you the best views of Arches National Park and access to the most arches. Every arch was incredibly unique and we had fun crawling through a few cutouts to reach remote arches. The best tip I have for this trail is to arrive as early as possible. The parking lot was halfway full at 7am when we arrived and by the time we finished the trail it was packed with people and the sun washed out the orange glow of the red rocks.
Arches National Park is the perfect three-day getaway because it’s not as expansive as Zion or the Grand Canyon, but has pristine views, mesmerizing red rocks, deep canyons, and unique formations unlike anywhere else in the world. You’ll experience a different landscape around every valley corner and the trails were my favorite hikes this year. If you are ready to find your center among the red rocks grab your flights or hop in your car and explore this national park!