One Day in Arches National Park: All the Amazing Sights + Planning Guide

When you’re looking for an unforgettable Utah experience, Arches National Park is one of the best places to explore. The unparalleled landscapes filled with natural arches and stunning views almost guarantee you’ll be in awe no matter what is on your Arches National Park itinerary.

Short on time? There is plenty to see and do at Arches National Park in one day. From the iconic Delicate Arch to the awe-inspiring Window Section, these are the absolute must-see sights when you have just one day in Arches National Park.

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delicate arch in arches national park
Delicate Arch is a can’t-miss sight on your Arches National Park itinerary.

About Arches National Park

Many think of Mesa Arch when they think of this Utah national park, but this famous arch is found across the way, in Canyonlands National Park. Here are a few more facts about the arch-filled park.

  • Where is Arches National Park? Arches NP is in eastern Utah, one of two national parks near Moab.
  • The desert climate gets only about 10 inches of precipitation a year, which is just enough for 6 species of amphibians to thrive.
  • There are more than 2,000 arches in the park and has the densest concentration of arches in the world.
  • Landscape Arch is the longest arch, more than 300 feet; Double Arch South is the tallest at over 100 feet.
  • The park was a national monument until 1971 when its status was upgraded to a national park. 

Things to Do at Arches National Park in One Day

Unless you plan to do long hikes during your visit, Arches NP is readily done in one day.

Main Park Road is Arches scenic drive stretches through the park, conveniently directing visitors to all the best spots. Your day in the park will be spent mainly on the roughly 20-mile scenic road. The drive from the Visitor Center to Devils Garden has 2 off-shoot roads with even more to explore. One will bring you to the Delicate Arch, probably the most famous of all the arches (featured on most Utah license plates), and the other to The Windows Section. Drive time is about 45 minutes to an hour, but the stops will take up most of your time when covering Arches National Park in one day. 

Tip: The best way to start your day is to head straight to North Window Arch for the breathtaking sunrise. Heading to the park early, perhaps even before dawn, is also a way to get around the timed entry if you cannot secure a ticket. But if you’re not a morning person, start off at the first stop in the park: the visitor center.

Visitor Center

a girl exploring a rock exhibit at arches np visitor center at
Whether you have one day in Arches National Park or have an extended visit, we highly recommend stopping at the Visitor Center.

Start your day at the visitor center. Get an overview of the park and talk with rangers about what you would like to see during your visit. Let the kids pick up a junior ranger booklet to earn their Arches NP badge.

We always recommend having the short film about the park on your Arches National Park itinerary. Before seeing the arches and landscapes up close, learn how these magnificent features were formed.

Courthouse Towers

a boy pointing at rocks showing where an arch used to be
The gap between the two pillars of red rock remains from a fallen arch.

Park Avenue, La Sal Mountains, and Courthouse Towers Viewpoints

These three viewpoints can be done as two or three stops, depending on how much driving vs. walking you’d like to do. Or, on a busy day, it might depend on where you can find a parking spot.

There is a 1.6-mile trail (one-way) to the Courthouse Towers from the Park Avenue parking area, where you can also see Three Gossips and Sheep Rock on the left and The Organ on the right. From the La Sal Mountains, you can also walk towards Courthouse Towers for a good view.

The La Sal Mountain viewpoint has an excellent view of the mountain range, with Balanced Rock and The Windows Section in the distance. This is also a fantastic spot to catch a sunrise or sunset.

Balanced Rock

balanced rock in arches np, showing one of the  sights to see at arches national park in one day
The park is more than just arches. Walk the path around Balanced Rock to see how the formation changes from different angles.

Before heading to The Windows Section, make a stop at Balanced Rock.

It is not an arch, but the giant rock perched upon a narrow spire is an impressive sight nonetheless. This towering rock stands about 130 feet tall. While the boulder is securely attached to the pedestal, it won’t be that way forever. The erosion that created the park will eventually cause the giant boulder propped up in the sky to topple over. 

Park in the lot at Balanced Rock and walk the 0.3-mile loop around the rock formation to see how the shape of the rock changes at nearly every angle.

If it’s lunchtime, stop at the picnic area across the street from the Balanced Rock parking area.

The Windows Section

the south window arch at arches national park in utah
The South Window is reached from the short hike along the Windows Trail.

Continue along the scenic route to the Windows Section, one of the larger concentrations of arches in the park. Walk the short trails to view the gorgeous arches up close.

Make a right onto Windows Road to reach three more amazing arches in the park. Continue to the end of the road to park your car and explore.

North Window Arch, South Window Arch, and Turret Arch

turret arch, a must see on an arches national park itinerary
Climb the steps to see Turret Arch up close.

To the southeast of the parking area is a short trail that guides visitors to view three arches: North and South Window Arches and Turret Arch.

The one-mile trail has a gentle climb, with a short section accessible to wheelchairs. Plan to spend about 45 minutes to an hour on the path and viewing these arches.

Walk the paved path out to 3 different points to get close to the arches. The area closer to these arches is steps and gravel, with a bit of a climb into the arches. There is little competition to get photos during peak hours without any other visitors in them. For those perfect shots, visit earlier or later in the day.

Walking clockwise, you’ll first reach the North Window, one of few arches that you can climb in (but not on – climbing is not permitted on top of any arches). The next arch along the path is the South Window. Either stop at the viewing area that is a short distance from the arch or hike to the arch, where you’ll stop just before actually reaching the arch. The third arch is Turret Arch. With high winds and lots of people, I snapped a quick (and somewhat awkward) pic of the kids in the arch, and we headed on our way.

Double Arch

The trailhead to Double Arch is on the northwest side of the parking area from the same parking area. Double Arch is aptly named for two arches connected at one end.

The easy 1/2-mile trail is wheelchair accessible with assistance. Make sure to catch the Parade of Elephants on your left on your way to Double Arch.

Panorama Point Overlook

Heading out of The Windows Section, turn right back onto Main Park Road. Make a brief stop at Panorama Point before making your way to the most famous arch: Delicate Arch.

If your one day in Arches National Park goes into nighttime, this is a fantastic spot for viewing the night skies.

This short stop does have a picnic area, so if Balanced Rock was too early, you have another chance for a picnic here.

Delicate Arch 

After Panorama Point, make your next right onto Delicate Arch Road. 

To hike right to the Delicate Arch, start at the trailhead at Wolfe Ranch. Keep in mind that this is one of the park’s more challenging hikes. It’s only 3 miles (round trip), but there is no escape from the sun along the way. There is a steady uphill climb, and the trail ends with a narrow rock ledge. If you choose to see the arch up close, make sure you are prepared to take it on. NPS recommends at least 2 quarts (2 liters) of water per person for this hike.

We opted to head further down the road to the Delicate Arch viewpoints in the interest of time.  

Wolfe Ranch

Even if you’re not taking the route to Delicate Arch, make a stop at Wolfe Ranch to see remnants of those who lived in the area long ago. In the early 1900s, Wolfe Ranch was once home to John Wesley Wolfe.

Delicate Arch Viewpoints

the short trail to delicate arch viewpoint in arches national park
The Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint starts out as an easy trail, but the climb gets a little more challenging.

Many choose to see Utah’s signature Delicate Arch from the viewpoint further down the road. There are two viewing areas for beautiful views of this famous arch. The Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint is close to the parking lot, and the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint is reached via a 0.5-mile trail.

The gravel path to the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint trail is short, wide, and flat. The arch looks so tiny, perched upon the distant mountain of slickrock. The Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint is a ½ mile (roundtrip) moderate hike, mostly uphill. We made the ascent in search of a better view of the arch but were disappointed with the view that was not much better than the lower viewing area. If you really want to experience this arch and are up for the challenge, the Delicate Arch hike is the way to go.

delicate arch from the upper delicate arch viewpoint in utah
The formation on the far left is Delicate Arch. The Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint doesn’t get very close to the arch at all.

Fiery Furnace

salt valley overlook in arches national park
The view from Salt Valley Overlook, where the landscape changes from the arches.

There are two viewpoints in this area: Salt Valley Overlook and Fiery Furnace Viewpoint. Both will be brief stops at the overlooks.

If you do any hiking in Arches National Park, this is the one to do. Go beyond the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint and explore these trails – if you can get a permit. Both self-guided and ranger-guided permits are available, but first-timers should take this trail with a ranger (or someone who has done the hike before). It’s a challenging trail to navigate, making it easy to lose your way.

Note: Ranger-guided hikes are currently paused. Check the NPS website for updates on hiking Fiery Furnace.

Devils Garden

This area is the spot for camping and hiking and features the Devil’s Garden Campground and hiking trails that lead to more than 7 more arches in a single stop.

Devils Garden Campground

Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, Tapestry Arch, and Skyline Arch are all viewable near the Devils Garden Campground. Hike the short trails to see these arches up close. 

Devils Garden

From the Devils Garden Trailhead, take the trail to Landscape Arch, passing by more amazing arches, like Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches along the way. If you’re up for a more challenging hike, continue on this trail past the arch for a path that turns rocky and has a climb up along narrow ledges.

Planning Your Arches National Park Itinerary

Tips for Visiting Arches NP

If traveling with your dog, plan for more viewpoints and fewer hikes since dogs are not allowed on any trails in Arches National Park. Because cars heat up quickly in the sun, do not leave your pet in the car even in the winter months.

No matter what time of the year, make sure to arrive early. Traffic quickly builds up on the roads throughout the park, and parking lots fill up quickly.

There are no restaurants or food service in the park, so pack a lunch and snacks.

Prepare for the heat in the summer with plenty of sun protection and water. And changing weather in the spring, fall, and winter with layers. We had unexpected snow falling while on a hike when visiting in late April!

Best Time to Visit Arches National Park

There is no bad time to visit Arches NP; however, there are pros and cons to choosing the time of year for your trip. Whether you’re here to experience Arches National Park in one day or longer, consider the temperatures and crowds.

Arches NP experiences peak season crowds in March through October. In the summer months, the desert reaches temperatures well over 100° F, with little shade to be found. However, the nighttime temperatures are comfortably cool in the summer, which is excellent for camping.

Spring and fall days are a happy medium between day and night temperatures, but that means you’ll be facing peak season crowds throughout the parks and downtown Moab. The busiest times at the park are Memorial and Labor Day weekends and around Easter.

What to Pack for Arches National Park

Be prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and scheduled breaks indoors or in the car. The cool desert nights make this a great time for camping, though!

  • a pair of hiking shoes
  •  lots of water
  • sunscreen
  • sun protection like brimmed hats, UV clothing
  • food and snacks

Arches National Park Entrance Fee

The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days. Consider purchasing an annual pass for $80 to access all 63 US national parks.

There is also an option to get an annual pass to just Arches and Canyonlands National Parks (the Southeast Utah Parks Pass) for $55. This also includes access to the Natural Bridges National Monument.

New at Arches for 2022: Pilot Timed Entry System

Like many of the busiest national parks, Arches NP has implemented a timed entry system to reduce the crowds. Find information on securing a Timed Entry ticket on the NPS website.

You have the option of entering the park very early in the morning or in the evening. This is a good backup plan if you cannot get a Timed Entry Reservation for your visit. Tickets are only required from 6 am to 5 pm. If you can plan your visit for the winter months (October through March), you won’t need a reservation at all.

Where to Stay When Visiting Arches NP

It’s easy to explore Arches National Park in one day, but you’ll likely need to find a place to stay to make the most of your day, even if you are passing through Moab. There are a lot of options for both camping and hotels.

Camping at Arches NP

There is one campground in the park. Devils Garden Campground has 51 sites that are reservable from March to October. The rest of the year, the campsites are all first-come, first-served. 

There are no hookups at the sites, but campers and RVs are permitted.

Camping Outside of the Park

There are seemingly countless campgrounds near the national parks, though many are first-come, first-served. Find developed campgrounds along Hwy 128. There are also plenty of campsites found on BLM land. 

Hotels in Moab

outside at ACT campground in Moab UT
Tents, RVs, yurts, and cabins are lodging options at ACT Campground in Moab.

There are plenty of hotels throughout Moab, from Marriot to Best Western. There are also several locally-owned lodging options.

Our favorite stay was at ACT Campground (1536 S Mill Creek Dr), south of town. It has the space you get with camping (complete with a fire pit for all to use) and the comfort of a hotel. The large community kitchen is fully stocked to make your meals. There are also tent and RV sites for those who prefer to camp with the luxury of the amenities not commonly found in Moab campgrounds.

Things to Do If You Have More Time 

  • Explore Canyonlands National Park. Plan to spend a day in the Island of the Sky or The Needles district.
  • Head over to Dead Horse Point State Park for hiking and incredible canyon views.
  • Get out on some of the hiking trails around Moab that are not in the parks, like Corona Arch Trail. 
  • Spend time in downtown Moab. The desert town is filled with excellent restaurants and shops.

When you are short on time, you can still see all the best sights in Arches National Park in one day. You’ll get to experience some of the park’s most iconic sceneries, like Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, and Landscape Arch. To make sure you make the most of your Arches National Park itinerary, these tips for planning your trip will ensure the most unforgettable visit.

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