Arches National Park was one of the US National Parks I’d actually heard of before our three month road trip across the USA. I’d seen the incredibly arches in this part of Utah in photos before and knew we’d have to visit Arches National Park. I was planning things to do in Arches National Park before we were anywhere near.In fact, it was because we wanted to visit Arches that we actually left the coast line. We’d been following the US coastline all the way down the east coast, then across the south heading north around El Paso.
We ended up spending about one and a half days in Arches National Park because we did a couple of hikes. However, if you’re not too keen on doing the longer Devil’s Garden trail in Arches National Park you could easily spend one day in Arches National Park. Here are a few things to do in Arches National Park in one day plus a few additional things if you have more time.
About Arches National Park
There’s pretty much no way you could see them all; especially as many of them aren’t documented on the park’s map but you can have fun trying to do as many as possible!
Things you should NEVER do at Arches National Park
- NEVER mark the arches. It’s not cool to scratch your name into the rock, or put your names in a love heart. This is vandalism and there are big penalties for it.
- NEVER climb the arches. The arches aren’t there to be climbed, they’re there to appreciate with your eyes. You climbing on them leads to other people climbing on them, leads to people getting injured and these Utah arches getting damaged. Just don’t.
And one thing you should ALWAYS do? Practice Leave No Trace principles. No idea what I’m talking about? Read up on it here, it’s the only way to protect these beautiful areas.
Arches National Park map
Here is a map from the Arches National Park newsletter than shows the trails in Arches NP as well as the overlooks and main arches. As you can see, it’s not a huge National Park and so you can easily visit most of Arches National Park in one day.
What to do in one day at Arches National Park, Utah
Unless you want to explore the backcountry of Arches National Park or see the sunset and sunrise from several different points in the park, you can easily see all of top sights in Arches National Park in one day.
This is in part thanks to how easy it is to drive around the park. There’s basically just one road that goes from the Arches National Park entrance to the northern end and the trailhead for the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail.
Below is everything we managed to do in one day at Arches National Park. We entered relatively early but a long way after sunset and left as the park was closing (it closed in 2017 due to construction work) around 5pm. It might not look like much, but you’ll see a lot along the scenic drive and so that alone will take you a wile especially if you want to get out and hike.
Treat this list as a good starting point for your one day itinerary for Arches National Park.
Hike the Devil’s Garden Trail
This was the one thing I knew I really wanted to do when we got to Arches National Park. If you’re a keen hiker then I’d highly recommend this moderate hike as a top thing to do in Arches National Park.
This hike is around 8 miles long and takes between 3-5 hours depending on how many times you want to take in the awesome views!
The best part about this trail is that you’ll see some arches that many people miss out on by not hiking. On this trail you’ll see: Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, Double O Arch, Private Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Tunnel Arch and a cool rock formation known as Dark Angel.
Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch can be done as there only little loop if you still want to add some more arches to your list but don’t want to do the full hike.
Hike to Delicate Arch
If you’ve seen a photo of Arches National Park before then the chances are that it was this arch. Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in all of Arches National Park. Because of that it gets busy and if you want that photo under the arch (which is actually pretty scary) then you’ll have to queue a little bit, probably a lot if you go in the busiest months.
Delicate Arch is very delicate looking so you can see where it gets its name. The Delicate Arch hike is another easy-moderate hike. It’s about 3miles/5km until you get to the arch at the end.
We did this hike after we’d done the Devil’s Garden loop and then visited the viewpoint for Delicate Arch. The Arch looked super impressive from the view point so we decided to have a snack and do a second hike to go see it properly. I’m glad we did!
If you’re super keen and plan on spending the whole day in Arches National Park, then you could hike to Delicate Arch for sunrise or sunset. This way you’ll probably share the experience with much fewer people too. Just remember to take a headlamp with you! I love this one.
Drive the scenic road
Driving the scenic road in Arches National Park is something everyone must do. It’s kinda hard to avoid doing it to since it’s the only road really.
The scenic road is 18 miles of paved road with plenty of pull outs and car parks from which you can walk to more arches and beautiful sites.
You can’t drive through Arches National Park in the sense that you come out the other side and head off somewhere else (you have to go back the way you came), but you can drive through it in that you don’t have to get a shuttle bus (yet) or walk everywhere.
I personally think it’s best to start and the top and work your way down. Yes that means that you’ll be spending the whole drive out there wanting to stop, but most people will stop and then on the way back you’ll be doing it in reverse and have more luck with parking.
See the Fiery Furnace
This overlook isn’t all about the arches. No, it’s more about the red rock colour and the scenery in the distance.
It’s well worth stopping here when you drive the scenic drive in Arches National Park.
If you’re staying longer you can also arrange a ranger-led hike into the Fiery Furnace.
Find your favourite arch
With over 2,000 natural stone arches finding your favourite arch is going to be quite the challenge. You can’t access all 2,000 arches but there are still many you can see from your car, or on foot.
My favourites are Partition Arch, Landscape Arch and, of course, Delicate Arch.
Things to do if you’re staying in Arches National Park for more than one day
Camp under the stars
Arches National Park camping is extremely limited. In Arches National Park there are 51 campsite spots. It’s hard to get one but if you manage to then you’re in for a treat!
The Arches National park campground can be reserved online between March 1 and October 1 and are first-come, first serve November 1 to February 28.
Go into the backcountry
If you know what you’re doing and want to escape the crowds of Arches National Park then check out the backcountry. This way you’ll also get to see some of the park’s lesser known arches and rock formations too.
You will need a permit for going into the backcountry at Arches National Park.
Try rock climbing
You can’t rock climb on the arches but there are some rock climbing routes you can try out at Arches National Park.
You can see the rules surrounding this and the routes here.
Arches National Park also has some great canyoneering spots. You can enjoy rappelling down the rocks and into narrow passageways in certain areas throughout the park. When the park developed it’s rock climbing routes, it was easy to also put together canyoneering spots. See their rules and how to register.
Top tips for visiting Arches National Park
- If you’re visiting more than one National Park in a year, it’s worth getting the Annual Parks Pass here.
- The park can get really crowded in summer. Before 8am and after 3pm are the best times to visit Arches National Park to avoid line ups at the gate. There are also some helpful webcams to help you plan your visit.
- Take a lot of water! It gets hot and most hikes are exposed. It’s recommended you take 4L/1 gallon per person per day. You can refill at the Visitor Center and Devils Garden Trailhead. I like these.
- Wear sturdy shoes (no Converse or Nike!). The ground is uneven and rocks can be more slippery than you expect.
- Lightning and flash flooding can happen. Keep track of the weather and if you see lighting, head back to your car (avoid lone trees, cliff edges, and high ridges).
- Pets are allowed in Arches National Park on on roads and parking lots as well as at the campground but nowhere else.
Where to stay near Arches National Park
You’re most likely to be either camping near Arches or staying in a hotel in Moab. Take a look at my guide to Moab if that’s where you’re basing yourself while visiting Arches National Park. Here’s a few suggestions of top hotels near Arches National Park.
Campgrounds near Arches National Park
If you’re camping in an RV or didn’t manage to get a camping spot at Arches National Park then take a look at Up the Creek campground. It’s a campground in Moab which is within walking distance of the best restaurants and shops in the town. Here you’ll get hot showers, proper toilets and more – luxury camping!
Want more Utah travel ideas?
- The ultimate adventurer’s Guide to Moab, Utah
- Top half day hikes in Arches National Park
- The arches you need to see in Arches National Park
- Hiking the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail in Arches National Park, Utah
- What to see and do in Canyonlands National Park
- The best hikes to do in Canyonlands National Park
- 16 of the best things to do in Zion National Park (Including a SECRET hike!)
- Hiking the Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park
- The best things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
- The best National Park I’d never heard of in Utah