I love BIG National Parks. The kind that you know you could go back to ten times and still not hike every trail. But I also love the cozy, compact National Parks– the ones that you know your way around within a day, and get to see all the things on your list in two. Arches National Park is just that– perfect for a weekend.
It is one of Utah’s Big Five (Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches) and it is about a 6 hour drive from Vegas. Vegas is where I flew into, but I also was doing four national parks and the road trip was part of the fun. For other options, you can fly into Salt Lake City, UT (about a 4 hour drive), Grand Junction, CO (about a 90 minute drive), or Moab itself. Check all flight options and find which one works best for your budget and time frame!
Arches was actually the first park I ever “hiked” intensely. That means more than just a leisurely walk along the Grand Canyon rim. And it was the perfect introduction. It made me realize preparation is KEY, water is more important than anything else, and you can’t always look pretty when you are hiking no matter what the pictures on Instagram tell you!
Here are my favorite trails in Arches, with a little anecdote to go along with some:
Delicate Arch– if you only do one hike in Arches, this is the must-do. It is the most iconic arch in the world, and it will leave you breathless when you turn the corner and see it in all its majesty. A 3-mile hike in and out, and it takes you through some different scenes. All of which, I personally feel, remind me very much of Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine. One of my favorite visuals from this hike is right at the beginning, when you can see many little dots of people making their way up the enormous slick rock this trail starts with. It looks like they are all on a pilgrimage, and gets you pumped to join them! This hike can be a little strenuous, but not overwhelming. I cannot recommend it enough!
Park Avenue- The was my first hike in the park, and it is usually recommended as the introductory hike. You go downhill into the canyon, with large rock features on both sides of you. It takes you through a lot of general desert hiking features– sandy washes, slick rock, and sandstone cliffs. It’s a 2-mile out and back, or 1-mile point-to-point with the shuttle. It also was a very intense reminder to me of how important water is in desert hiking (ALL HIKING really) and that you really can never have too much. I realized in a small panic how quickly water goes in the heat, and how devastating it can feel when you don’t have enough! Legit thought I was going to pass out from dehydration, not my finest moment. Look for the Three Gossips, one of my favorite rock features on this hike.
Windows Loop– This is 1 mile hike has a lot of sights packed into it! You get to see three of the park’s most photogenic arches without having to hike very far! The North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch are some of of the most impressive the park has to offer, and they provide a lot of fun getting to them along the way. This hike pairs perfectly with the Double Arch hike, since they both share the same parking lot!
Double Arch– Another short hike, only a 0.6-mile out-and-back. This is the second largest arch in the world, and it is a part of a geologic puzzle that I still cannot fully explain. All I know is it is breathtaking, it is huge, and it is yours to explore! You can check out Utah;s state flower along this path, the sego lily, a large three-petaled white flower. You might also recognize this arch from the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!
I hope this gives you some clue where to start when you head to Arches! It really is a great park to explore, and the town of Moab has a very unique vibe that you have to check out. And remember, when the trail gets tough, you just gotta leannnnn into it, arch with it!