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Arches National Park: Where Beauty Meets Heat | Tips & Trails

Red sandstone formations so large and grand, it looks like you could be standing on Park Avenue in New York City looking up at large buildings.

Is it the rugged terrain or the brilliant contrast of red sandstone against a sun-soaked sky that makes Arches National Park’s landscape so cinematic? The more than 2,000 cataloged arches within its boundaries, along with spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins and eroded monoliths, make it well worth the visit to answer that question for yourself. IMDB lists 49 movies or television shows that’ve had scenes filmed in Arches National Park, including Indiana Jones, City Slickers 2, Thelma and Louise, and all sorts of old Westerns. The place is pretty Instagrammable, too, if that’s your thing.  

Visiting During High Season? Make Your Reservations!

You can’t be fair weather or last minute when making plans to visit a National Park in the United States. Not when it comes to the reservation system currently in place during high season. Planning is required, and even then, it’s a bit of a gamble. Arches National Park is no exception. Click here for details on how to make your Arches National Park reservation. 

Back on March 7th, we sorted out our route from Phoenix, Arizona, where we’d be visiting friends in mid-August, to Pocahontas, Iowa, where we’d be celebrating an aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. We knew we wanted to go to Arches National Park, which meant staying in Moab, Utah. So, on March 7th, we made our hotel reservations for Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton

Then, I set a calendar reminder for May 1st to book our Arches National Park reservations the minute they became available for August 17th. I kept my fingers crossed. My promptness and superstitious finger-crossing worked. I was able to get us in between 9 and 10 a.m. for our chosen date. 

A road bending through red sandstone formations in Arches National Park.

Assess Your Skills & Manage Your Expectations

A couple of weeks before we arrived, seven heat-related deaths in Southwest State and National Parks made the news. What were we to do? Be prepared and know our limits. Chris and I have tackled a number of intermediate trails over the past few years, but we are not expert-level hikers. We do not camp. Our knowledge of plant species and animal behaviors is limited. One thing we have going for us is the benefit of being old and wise enough to know that hubris is the most unwelcome thing on any outdoor adventure.

A Few Things To Take on Your Arches National Park Adventure

Leave the hubris at home, and don’t let the breathtaking beauty of the red rock formations in Arches National Park distract you from its harsh summertime conditions.

Do bring along:

An Itinerary for Your Day at Arches National Park

Trails for all levels are available at Arches National PArk, including two that are wheelchair accessible. Consider yourself forewarned – there are so many incredible views that chances are you’ll find yourself pulling into one of the many viewpoints to admire the stunning sights.

Delicate Arch, a popular red sandstone formation in Arches National Park in the distance along with other formations.

Delicate Arch or Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trails

We recommend starting the day at either Delicate Arch or Delicate Arch Viewpoint because these spots are bound to get the busiest throughout the day. Parking for the viewpoint paths is about a mile beyond the main Delicate Arch Trail lot. The key difference between the options is that Delicate Arch Trail has a Difficult rating with an elevation gain of 480 feet. The trailhead sign says it takes about 3 hours and warns that people have died on the trail. Dehydration is the biggest danger. At least a quart of water per person is recommended. Delicate Arch Viewpoints (Lower and Upper) are each less than a mile long. Lower Viewpoint is wheelchair accessible.

Landscape Arch, green shrubs, a hiking trail, and sandstone formations.

Devils Garden Trails

It seems that the second most popular location in the park is Devil’s Garden. Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America, is in Devil’s Garden along with seven other significant arches (Dark Angel, Private, Pine Tree, Tunnel, Partition, Navajo, and Double O). Some are more difficult to get to than others. We found the two-mile hike to Landscape Arch pretty easy, even though it was 92 degrees out as we set out on the trail. 

Another reason to make it your second major stop is that it’s at the end of the park road, about 18 miles north of the Visitor Center.

Red Sandstone Rock Formation of one rock appearing to balance on top of others in Arches National Park.

Windows Trail, Balanced Rock, and Park Avenue

Time and the scorching sun kept us from hiking as close to these sights as we might have liked. We did hike a bit of Windows Trail. Balanced Rock we admired from within our rental car. I think it was the formation that most captivated Chris’s imagination. For me, Park Avenue’s vast beauty was well worth saving for last. 

As we bid farewell to the red rock wonders, we leave with a vow to return, perhaps under cooler skies. Perhaps in early November. As we publish this, reservations are not required after November 1st.

Where to Stay

We loved the amenities and service at Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton. Our upgraded (for free) room was more like a townhouse. Its details will be included in an upcoming video on the 28 places we stayed in just 56 days. 

During our time in Moab, we paid the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage at Red Cliffs Lodge a visit. The landscape around it is stunning and it seems like a wonderful place to stay as well. Perhaps when we return to Moab, we’ll check it out.  

There are several hotels in the area with good ratings that may be worth a look. 

Is Summertime the Best Time to Visit Arches National Park?

Check out our video and see if you think it’s the best time for you to visit the park. 

Other (US) National Parks We’ve Been To:

As much as we love a great hike and spending time in nature, there are only a few other National Parks that we’ve explored in the United States. They include:

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