Arches National Park, Utah, USA

The big Eye, Spectacles, Arches NP, USA

The North Window at sunset in Arches National Park. And these are natural, unsaturated colours, in case you were wondering!

Visiting Arches National Park

On the BugForce’s grand tour of the Grand Circle – SW USA’s best National Parks – we found two outstandingly alien, fabulous and accessible parks, Bryce Canyon and Arches.

Both these parks are busy, primary tourist targets and neither permit mountain biking or off-road driving, so travellers with more time or differing inclinations may prefer other places or to spend more time in fewer places.

the Organ, Arches NP, USA

A general view across Arches National Park. This rock is The Organ.

Arches National Park vs Bryce Canyon

We couldn’t decide our favourite Park, Arches or Bryce Canyon. Arches requires a vehicle and a fair amount of driving from site to site whereas a good pair of legs would suffice in Bryce. Bryce also has a useful shuttle bus in high season and a good number of camping/lodging locations inside the park, near the main feature, the amphitheatre, but Arches only has one campground inside.

Arches National Park, however, has an excellent, young and lively town nearby – Moab – offering good dining and all sorts of wacky experiences in the two other huge, adjacent parks, Canyonlands and Sand Flats Recreation Area, including the USA’s best mountain bike trail – Slickrock – totally mad 4WD and ATV trips, moderate white water rafting and so on.

Double Arches, Arches NP, USA

And finally, some arches. . . Double Arch after . 8 mile (1. 2kms) walk.

Visually the two parks are on a different scale. Bryce goes for the packed and pointy, melting-rock look in spectacular colours from two viewpoints, above and below. Arches offers equally eccentric shapes, but bigger, and in dramatic individual settings with plenty of open space and endless angles. Both have well marked trails lasting from half an hour to several hours, to and around the incredible sights.

How best to see Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches NP, USA

Landscape Arch, the longest in Arches, at about 300ft (100m); visible after a 1. 6 mile (2. 6 km) walk.

This is the only arch visitors are not allowed under as it dropped a 60 ft (20m) slab weighing few hundred tons in 1991 and may completely collapse anytime.

The modest entrance fee is good for multiple days and allows you to drive the in-and-out route which offers a mass of pull-overs for viewing sights briefly or taking photos.
Get the Arches map at the entrance or the visitor center. If you want a hiking permit for Fiery Furnace you’ll need to go there too. Other Arches trails don’t need permits.
There are masses of hikes varying in distance and degrees of physical ability needed but visitors can also find easy places to stop briefly and take photos if they’re in a rush or less-than-adventurous.
Being in the park at sunrise or sunset is a great time as the light exaggerates colours and shadows making for superb shots.
Arches National Park is best explored by a combination of drives and hikes both long and short. Windows Arches and the Double Arch are two of the most spectacular sights and you can climb under/inside both of them. Perhaps the most testing of the popular hikes is to Delicate Arch. Information below.


Balance Rock, Arches, ,Utah, USA

No, not this is not the Egyptian Sphinx but Balance Rock; note the coach parked below left for size comparison.

Arches has a fine, new, informative Visitor Centre featuring orientation programs, natural and cultural history, self guide books and audio tours. Rangers and naturalists offer guided walks.
There are no food supplies or lodges in the park, only the year-round and much desired Devils Garden Campground. Reservations must be made at least four days in advance.

Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day, all year round.

The Great Wall of Utah

The Great Wall, Arches, Utah, USA

Part of the Great Wall of Utah, though it looks more like a monstrous gingerbread house on acid to us.

Delicate Arch Hike

Arches NP, Cowboy Chaps arch, USA

Delicate Arch, also known as Cowboy Chaps, one of the park’s premier sights, especially around sunset time, though it is a bit of a hike at 3 miles (4. 8 kms).

Delicate Arch is the considered by many to be the most iconic and dramatic arch in the park. The trail to it is quite long but not dangerous even with rock ledges to be manoevered around in some places. The first half of the path is paved and graded and even when it merges into slickrock the route is very stable so long as your footwear is too! I don’t like high places but vertigo was hardly a problem. Ledges are occasionally exposed on one side, but the trail slopes towards the rock wall so walkers can feel safe by staying close to the rock.
There is plenty of room for people to pass each other and most visitors are upbeat and helpful.
At the end point people can choose to sit in a protected, vertigo-free place or head over to the actual arch for a stunning panorama.
The hike there gets quite warm so avoid doing it in mid summer if possible and definitely take a good quantity of water along. The walk is fairly strenuous if you are out of shape, so that is an issue, but it’s well worth going for it. But wear good walking shoes/sandals, not flip-flops!

Distances from Arches National Park

Moab city is 5 miles

Grand Junction, Colorado is 110 miles

Salt Lake City is 236 miles

Denver, Colorado is 360 miles

Canyonlands is 26 miles

Capitol Reef is 148 miles

Monument Valley is 150 miles

Bryce Canyon is 270 miles

Zion Canyon is 310 miles

Grand Canyon South Rim is 350 miles