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How to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in one day

How to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in one day

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If you’re visiting Utah and are short on time but want to visit both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park don’t worry, you can visit both Arches and Canyonlands in one day and here’s how!

Whilst I’d suggest you try and spend longer in this part of southeastern Utah near Moab, it’s totally possible to spend half a day in Arches and half a day in Canyonlands National Parks. I’ve picked out the top things you should do in each National Park in Utah for this Canyonlands and Arches in one-day trip itinerary.

How to see both Arches and Canyonlands in one day

how to visit Arches & Canyonlands National park in one day, utah, usa

Can you do Arches and Canyonlands in one day? Yes, definitely! But in order to see both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in one day, you’re going to need to get up pretty early.

This post could easily also be a “what to see in Moab in on day” post since both national parks are super close to the town of Moab.

I’d also recommend picking up lunch in Moab beforehand. There isn’t anywhere to buy a good lunch in either Arches or Canyonlands and getting food before you head out will save you having to go back into Moab.

Then, for dinner, treat yourself to a meal at the Moab diner – you’ll be hungry after this adventure-packed one-day itinerary for Arches and Canyonlands!

Begin the day in Arches National Park

I’d start with Arches since it’s closer to Moab and it tends to be the busiest of the two. Getting there early (around 7 am ideally, but definitely be there before 8 am when it really gets busy) means you’ll enjoy the park while it’s quieter. You could go even earlier if you wanted since Arches National Park is open 24/7.

Devil’s Garden Trail

devil's garden trail arches national park

Once you’ve passed through the entrance for Arches National Park, drive the scenic road all the way to the northern end of the park to the Devil’s Garden area. Although it’s tempting to stop off at all the pullouts, it’s nice to work from the back to the front and it’s a good way to pass the crowds.

From here you can either do the whole Devil’s Garden Loop trail, or you can do a shorter hike to Landscape Arch, Navajo and Partition Arch. These were some of my favourite arches in Arches National Park so it’s worth hiking out to them (about 1-2 hours). Plus, I think this is the best of the Arches National Park hikes!

Delicate Arch hike

best half day hikes in arches national park delicate arch

After you’ve ticked off some of these arches, head back to your car and drive back down the scenic road stopping off at the Fiery Furnace Overlook as it’s a pretty impressive area.

Then, it’s time to take the road to the Delicate Arch trailhead. Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in Arches National Park and this is one of the busiest Arches hikes.

It doesn’t take too long to hike out to it and back (1-2 hours) as it’s only around a 3-mile hike and not too strenuous.

It’s definitely a must-do but if you really don’t want to hike then you can head out to the viewpoint where you get a pretty good look at the arch from a distance.

When we visited Arches National Park we went to the viewpoint first thinking we didn’t want to hike again after competing the full Devil’s Garden Loop trail. Then we saw how impressive the arch was and went and hiked out to Delicate Arch.

The rest of the Arches Scenic Drive

When you return from Arches National Park you can then carry back down on the scenic road towards the park entrance/exit.

I’d recommend stopping at the Windows Arches, from which you can also see Turret Arch and Double Arch.

There’s a small trail you can do that takes you around the back of the Windows arches. It’s quite a nice trail but it’s not a must-do!

Go from Arches National Park to Canyonlands

Enjoy lunch with a view at Arches, or save it for an arguably even more impressive view in Canyonlands!

Getting from Arches to Canyonlands takes about 30 minutes. Canyonlands is just under 30 miles away.

From Arches National Park you turn on to the US-191 N for 6.5 miles until you reach the junction for the UT-313 W. Continue on this road for just over 14 miles and you’ll see signs to the Island of the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.

What to do in an afternoon in Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park is huge, way bigger than Arches. It’s also not as easy to access all areas of the park because they’re separated by canyons and river. Because of this, and because you’ve only got one day to spend in Arches and Canyonlands, this half-day itinerary for Canyonlands focuses only on the Island in the Sky district.

If you have more than one day in Canyonlands National Park then take a look at this guide to each of the Canyonlands districts.

Hike to Mesa Arch

how to visit arches and canyonlands on one day

By this point in the day, you will have seen a lot of arches but I promise Mesa Arch is still worth seeing.

It’s a super short hike from where you can park your car (more of a walk really) and the view through the arch is beautiful.

Drive down to Grand View Point Overlook

Grand View Point Overlook certainly lives up to its name. From up here, you can see some of the White Rim road (a 4×4 trail that runs along the canyon floor and takes several days to complete).

Drive over to Green River Overlook

best hikes canyonlands national park

Green River Overlook is one of the most beautiful spots in Canyonlands National Park. From here you can see down into the canyon and watch as Green River winds down below. It’s amazing to think the huge canyons you see here are formed by (what look like from this point) rather small rivers.

Have more than one day to spend in Arches and Canyonlands? Take a look at these longer guides for Utah’s National Parks.

Arches National Park guide | Canyonlands National Park guide

Which is better, Arches or Canyonlands National Park?

Arches National Park is the busier of the two but both parks are so different that you can’t really compare the two and say which is better.

Arches National Park is all about the arches and rock formations whereas Canyonlands is all about the canyon and the Green and Colorado Rivers.

I loved both National Parks but If I really had to pick then I think I preferred Canyonlands over Arches. This is partly because I knew a little what to expect for Arches and had read about it before. However, Canyonlands was a complete surprise and so had no expectations to live up to.

Where to stay near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

guide to arches national park moab utah 2

As there is only one campground in Arches National Park and this district of Canyonlands, it’s unlikely you’ll be staying the National Parks themselves. Instead, you’re more likely to be based in Moab which is just a 10-minute drive from Arches and a little over 30 minutes from Canyonlands.

Whatever type of Arches National Park accommodation you decide to go for, make sure you book in advance. Moab gets busy and it’s still a small town so you don’t want to be left having to book the super expensive, or worryingly cheap motels near Arches National Park.

Hotels near Arches & Canyonlands National Parks

These options are good choices for budget-friendly hotels in Moab. These are some of the top-rated cheap hotels near Arches National Park & Canyonlands.

Cabins near Arches and Canyonlands

For something fancier, try a cabin near Arches National Park and Canyonlands. It’d make the perfect base for exploring Arches, Canyonlands and some of the areas nearby on a Moab scenic drive.

Camping near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

If you’re planning on camping during your trip but didn’t get reservations for the Devil’s Garden campground or Willow Flats in Canyonlands then you could try and book yourself into one of the campgrounds nearby.

There’s a mix of RV camping resorts as well as places you can tent camp. Or, if you want to do glamping these luxury tents with showers, private patio, spa products and a real bed look lovely!

However, I would seriously advise booking a spot as, like the park campgrounds, they get full especially in the spring/summer months. We visited at the end of April and pretty much everything was full.

Here’s a full list of tent & RV campgrounds near Arches National Park & Canyonlands.

BLM Land

If your heart was set on doing some camping then take a look at the BLM land near the parks. There are lots of BLM campgrounds in and around Moab but you will have to pay for most of them. Those closest to Arches National Park cost upwards of $20 whereas those a little bit further are $15.

These are getting full earlier and earlier each day as the season goes on. Most of those closest to the National Parks were full by 4pm. If you have your heart set on staying in one it’s probably best to arrive early, find something to leave in your spot, then head off out adventuring.

These campgrounds have compost type toilets but no water or showers. Bring everything you need with you and take everything back out too.

Here is a map of BLM campgrounds near Arches National Park.

Want more Arches & Moab travel ideas?

If you’re visiting Arches National Park and Canyonlands in one day you might not have time for these below but if you’ve got longer then check out these travel ideas below.