The name of Arches National Park is not trying to hide what you’re there to see. You guessed it! This is the place to go to see natural arches. These spectacular structures are flat out amazing and well worth a visit. This Arches National Park 1 Day guide will tackle what active adventurers should do to make the most out of their chance to visit!
Disclaimer: This is not your typical relaxing, I-have-all-the-time-in-the-world travel guide. Ya it would be awesome to spend 2-3 days in each Utah National Park, but let’s be honest, no American traveler has the time to do that and see them all! So this guide and all our National Park Travel Guides are written to the frugal and practical American traveler who has squeezed this adventure into a long weekend or around a holiday. It will be short on park descriptions (you’ll learn all the same fun facts about the park while you’re there) and heavy on the hiking and efficient time planning. Little to no time is set aside for restaurants. It is assumed you’ll make one stop at a grocery store to pick up everything you need to eat on the trail or at your campsite. Our goal is to help you pack as many (usually free) fun-filled things into your cherished vacation time and make the most of potentially a once in a lifetime visit to these spectacular places. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, their are plenty of other awesome travel guides out there for you!
We’re just going to dive right into it. This itinerary assumes you have 1 full day to spend at Arches National Park. It assumes that you’re camping in Moab which is roughly 15 minutes from the park entrance. You’ll get there before the visitor center opens so download on online or, better yet, download GyPSy – a GPS travel guide app! More on GyPSy below.
- Wake up 1.5 hour before sunrise.
- Drive to the Delicate Arch Trailhead (15 minutes to park entrance, 45 minutes to trailhead). Do not go to the Delicate Arch Overlook. Bring your headlamps and plan to get to the parking lot while it’s still dark out. The trail is 3 miles total, out and back to the arch. Delicate Arch is the most popular place in the park so even in the morning it will be crowded.
- When the crowds get a little overwhelming and you’ve got the perfect picture, head over to Devil’s Garden. Devil’s Garden is a 8-9 mile hike to a bunch of cool arches in the middle of the desert! This is another popular area so try not to linger too, too long at Delicate Arch to make it easier to get a parking space. Also, there is not much shade on this trail so the earlier you start it, the better. The trail has a loop section and we recommend going counter-clockwise through the “primitive trail” first. It will all make sense when you get there!
- Relax and have lunch in the shade. Now would be a good time to drive back through the park to the visitor center. There are covered tables outside and AC inside!
- In the afternoon, check out soon of the cool viewpoints in the park such as Park Avenue (optional 2 mile walk) and Balance Rock (1 mile roundtrip).
- In the late afternoon, head over to the Windows section of the park. Hike around the short trails to check out the huge arches in this area. The hiking in this area is relatively flat and you probably won’t do more than 2-3 miles. The Windows section is a great place to be for sunset!
Total Miles: ~16 miles
Try to do most of your hiking in the morning and mid-afternoon. It is super hot and dry here and it is very easy to get dehydrated. On that note, be sure to bring more water than you think. We brought 3 Liters per person just for Devil’s Garden and almost ran out! Also, it’s a good idea to have a back up 5 gallon water cube in your car!
How to Get There
The entrance to Arches National Park is about a 15 minute drive from Moab. Moab is about a 3.5 hour drive from Salt Lake City. You can rent a small, fuel efficient sedan and be just fine. There are no dirt/gravel roads in this itinerary!
Where To Stay
During the busy season, there is no first-come, first-serve campsites at Arches National Park. There is actually only one campground in the park and it’s at Devil’s Garden. Due to the lack off options, you will likely stay at a campsite in or around Moab.
The closest campsites to the park is at/around Dead Horse Point State Park. There is a decent amount of space here so you have a good chance of finding a spot. This is a federal (BLM – Bureau of Land Management) campsite so there will be no running water. You can expect to pay around $20/night. Pros: you’re close to the Canyonland – Island In The Sky entrance. Cons: you’re farther from Moab (where the grocery store is) and not super close to Arches National Park. Plan ahead and grab groceries and bring a full water cube if you want to camp here.
In Moab you have a couple options. You can camp at designated camp sites along the Colorado river off HWY 128 or on top of Slickrock. Both are federal campsites so they will not have running water, both will cost you ~$20/night and they both have their pros and cons.
Camping by the River – HWY 128
Camping by the river is the most convenient location for the national parks and is in a beautiful location. You will make a left just before getting to the town of Moab to get on HWY 128 then there are clearly marked camping areas every 3-5 miles or so. Due to it’s location, it is a very popular spot so if it’s near a weekend and you don’t get there early it can be hard to find a spot. Also, since you are by the river you can expect a lot of gnats as soon as the sun goes down. If you choose to camp by the river, we recommend Grandstaff Campground as it is walking distance to the Grandstaff trailhead, which is a 5 miles roundtrip trail to the incredible Morning Glory bridge!
Camping at Slickrock
Camping on top of Slickrock is a less crowded camping area with an incredible view for sunset since you are up so high. There are also few gnats since you are far from the river. It is around 15 minutes further from the National Park than the campsite off HWY 128 and you will have to drive through Moab to get anywhere. Slickroad is also known as off-road vehicle heaven so there are jeeps, ATVs, and other offroad vehicles rolling around at all times of day. Although, we didn’t have a problem with ATV noise the nights we stayed there, it could be an issue.
Where To Go Next
The Other Utah National Parks
You’re in luck, we’ve also put together adventure-packed 1 Day American Traveler Itineraries for Canyonlands – The Needles, Canyonlands – Island In The Sky, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park.
If you’re looking to plan a week long trip to Utah to see them all, then be sure to check out our epic 10 Day Utah National Park American Traveler Guide!
Wishing this travel guide included a little more information and fun facts about the park? No worries, we left that up to the experts. GyPSy is a location based guide service that will provide you with awesome fun facts and park navigation directions as you drive. It costs a total of $10 to download both Canyonlands – Island In The Sky and Arches National Park guides and it is 100% worth it. We named the guide Roger, he sounds like a Roger. So say hi to him for us!
Probably our favorite travel app ever made. It has all the hiking trails and walking paths clearly marked and has easy to download offline maps. Whether we are in Colombia or Glacier National park, we know we’ll never be lost with Maps.me. Plus, it’s completely free!
Be sure to open the app and download the map when you have WiFi. You download regional maps by zooming in on a certain area. There’s nothing worse than opening up Maps.Me once you’re on trail and realizing you forgot to download your map!
An app that gives you trail distances and recent reviews for hiking trails. It’s worth checking AllTrails a day or two before you do a longer hike as it is updated frequently for hikers. It’s basically Yelp for hiking. Plus, it’s free too!
You’re good to go for Arches National Park. You’ve got an itinerary broken down into a power-packed yet manageable day. Plus you’ve got all our lessons learned!
So there you have it, our Arches National Park 1 Day travel guide! From us to you, happy adventuring!
All prices and information are current as of September 2020.