If you only have one day in Arches National Park, what should you do?
Arches National Park is a relatively small national park with a handful of must-see sights. With one day in Arches, you can visit these top sights and a few off-the-beaten-path places.
After multiple visits to Arches National Park, including two visits in the past two years, we have learned a lot about this park. I wrote this itinerary in such a way that you can maximize your time, avoid the worst of the crowds at some sights, and get to see many of the arches and rock formations at the best time of day for photography.
Quick Facts about Arches National Park
Arches is one of the five national parks that make up Utah’s Mighty 5. This is the third most visited park of the bunch, getting 1.7 million visitors per year (Zion and Bryce Canyon are the busiest).
Scenic Drive is the main road that runs through the heart of the park. The main sights are located right along this road or on short access roads. Scenic Drive is 19 miles long, starting at Highway 191 and ending in the back of the park at the Devils Garden Trailhead.
Many of the arches and rock formations can be seen from your car or with a very short walk. However, you can only see two of the top sights in Arches NP, Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch, from hiking trails.
One Day in Arches: Best Things to Do
With one day in Arches National Park, here are the best things to see and do:
- Hike Delicate Arch (sunset is ideal)
- See Landscape Arch
- Hike the Devils Garden Trail
- See Balanced Rock
- Visit the Windows and Turret Arches
- Visit Double Arch
- Panoramic View from the Garden of Eden
- Hike Park Avenue
- Sand Dune Arch
One Day in Arches National Park Itinerary
With one day in Arches National Park, I recommend getting an early start, ideally around 7 or 8 am. This gives you a few hours to explore the park when it is quiet and relatively crowd free.
With only one day in Arches, you will have to deal with some level of crowds, particularly midday, when the number of visitors reaches its peak. But on this itinerary, you will be at the less popular sights, so crowds should still be manageable. You will have to do a small amount of driving back and forth through the park, but since the park is so small, and so beautiful, I don’t think you will mind.
On this itinerary, you will drive a total of 62 miles (about 2 hours of driving).
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go, where to stay, and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Landscape Arch & the Devils Garden Trail
As you drive along Scenic Drive, you will be tempted to stop at the overlooks. I totally get it and I remember being awestruck by the beauty here on my very first visit. But I recommend getting to the Devils Garden Trail early, before it gets crowded. Plus, the lighting for Balanced Arch, Park Avenue, and the Windows are best in the afternoon, so I recommend saving them for later in the day.
Scenic Drive ends at the trailhead for the Devils Garden Trail. This is a very large parking lot, even larger than that for Delicate Arch, which tells you something about potential crowd levels on this trail.
The Devils Garden Trail is a 7.8-mile loop where you get to see eight arches, including the famous Landscape Arch.
What makes the Devils Garden Trail so great is that you can pick and choose what you want to do. You can simply hike round trip to Landscape Arch (it’s only 1.6 miles round trip). From the main trail there are two spur trails that detour to more arches. Once you get to the end of the main trail, you can hike back the way you came or try out your route finding skills on the Primitive Trail.
If you are visiting Arches as a family or in a group, some people may choose to explore the easier trails at the front of the hike. Those feeling more adventurous can keep going. As you approach Double O Arch, the trail gets more difficult (and more fun) now that you have short sections of rock scrambling. The views from the sandstone fins are unbeatable. And hiking back on the Primitive Trail is a great way to add a little adventure to your day.
The trail takes you up these fins of sandstone rock and then the views get really good.
On the Primitive Trail
If you only hike out-and-back to Landscape Arch, it is a 1.6 mile hike that takes about an hour. Adding on Pinetree and Tunnel Arches is very nice, for an additional 0.8 miles.
For a great experience without doing the entire loop, hike out-and-back to Double O Arch, a 4.2 mile hike that takes about 2.5 hours.
Get all of the info on how to do this hike, with many more photos of the trail, in our post How to Hike the Devils Garden Trail.
Optional: Skyline Arch
Now, start working your way back through Arches National Park. From the Devils Garden parking lot, it is a half-mile drive to the trailhead for Skyline Arch. It’s a five-minute walk to a viewpoint of this arch.
Sand Dune and Broken Arch
Sand Dune Arch is a beautiful arch that is tucked away between fins of sandstone rock. To get here, it is a short, easy walk on a sandy trail. Since is it mostly in the shade, this will be a cooler spot in the hot summer months.
Sand Dune Arch
You have the option to hike out to Broken Arch, which shares the same trailhead. Just keep in mind that you still have a 3-mile hike to Delicate Arch at the end of the day, so you might want to skip this and save your energy. If you are in Arches National Park during the summer months, you might also want to skip Broken Arch, because the entire trail is exposed to the sun and by now it is midday.
It takes 30 minutes to visit Sand Dune Arch. If you visit both Sand Dune Arch and Broken Arch, it takes 1 to 1.5 hours, for a total distance of 1.8 miles.
Garden of Eden
Continue the drive along Scenic Drive towards the front of the park. You will pass Delicate Arch Road, the road that leads to the trailhead for Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is best late in the afternoon and at sunset, when the setting sun casts it in a warm glow. Plus, it can be a hot, hard hike midday in the warmer months, so I don’t advise doing this next.
Turn left onto The Windows Road. The Garden of Eden is worth the quick stop and from here you get a very nice panoramic view over Arches National Park, Turret Arch and the Windows, with the La Sal Mountains as a backdrop.
The Windows & Turret Arch
Continue along The Windows Road until you get to the end and park in the lot for the Windows and Turret Arch. An easy, 0.7 mile walk connects three arches: North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to walk this trail, take your photos, and do a little bit of exploring.
You can hike through Turret Arch to the southside for a unique view of the arch.
From the same parking lot, you will visit Double Arch. If it isn’t crowded, you can drive the very short distance to the trailhead for Double Arch, but in busier days, it might be best to walk down from the Windows.
Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park and a popular thing to do here is to climb up the rocks that sit under the arch.
A visit here typically lasts 20 to 30 minutes.
For more information about Arches National Park, read our Guide to Arches National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
From the Windows Road, turn left onto Scenic Drive and then it is a very quick drive to Balanced Rock. You can walk the 0.3 mile trail around the rock for up-close views.
From Balanced Rock, it takes 15 minutes to drive to the Park Avenue Trailhead. It is a very short walk to this viewpoint.
If you have the time and the energy, you can walk the trail through Park Avenue. It is one mile, one-way and takes about 30 minutes. The best way to do this is as a point-to-point hike. If there is someone in your group who does not mind skipping the walk, they can drop hikers off at the trailhead and pick them up at the end point (near the Courthouse Towers). Otherwise, you will have to do this as a 2 mile round trip hike.
This is the final stop in Arches National Park.
Delicate Arch is the most iconic sight in Arches National Park. It is one of the most photographed spots in the park, so it’s going to be almost impossible to avoid the crowds here. Famous for its ideal lighting at sunset, this is a very popular spot for camera-wielding photographers late in the day.
To get here, you will have to backtrack on Scenic Drive, but it’s worth the extra driving to visit the Delicate Arch at the end of the day, when the lighting is ideal for photography (and temperatures begin to cool off in the hotter months). Having been to Delicate Arch at various times of the day, it is worth saving it for the end of the day, when the lighting is at its best.
From Scenic Drive, turn right onto Delicate Arch Road and turn left into the parking lot. There is also overflow parking on the right hand side of the road if it is very crowded. There are restrooms here if you need one.
To get to Delicate Arch, it is a 3-mile moderately strenuous round-trip hike. This hike, plus time to view the arch, takes most people 2 to 3 hours. It is a mostly uphill walk to get to the arch.
For tips on what to expect on the hike, how to photograph Delicate Arch, and where to take a very unique photo of the arch, read our Guide to Delicate Arch.
Once you are finished at Delicate Arch, return to Moab.
About the Hiking Distances in this Itinerary
In this itinerary, I list several hikes to do in the park. If you choose to do all of them, you will cover a lot of distance. It is possible to hike all of these trails in one day, but if you are here with kids, visiting during the hot summer months, or just not accustomed to hiking, you might want to pick and choose what you do.
Hiking to Delicate Arch is a must-do, since it is the only way to get up close to this arch. It’s a 3 mile hike that is moderately strenuous and takes most people 2 to 3 hours.
If you do the full Devils Garden Trail Loop, it is a 7.8 mile hike that takes 3 to 4 hours. However, you don’t have to do the full loop. If you only hike out-and-back to Landscape Arch, it’s a 1.6 mile hike that takes about one hour. Another great alternative is hiking out and back to Double O Arch, where you get to see the best scenery of Devils Garden. This hike is 4.2 miles that takes 2.5 hours.
In addition to these hikes, you will also have shorter walks around Balanced Rock, the Windows, Double Arch, and Sand Dune Arch. If you hike every trail we list, you will hike 14 miles. That’s a bit much for most people.
Here is how to get in some hikes without piling up a massive amount of mileage. Don’t miss Delicate Arch (3 miles, 2 to 3 hours) or Landscape Arch (1.6 miles, 1 hour). Walk out to the Windows and Turret Arch (0.7 miles, 30 to 45 minutes) and Double Arch (0.5 miles, 20 minutes). See Balanced Rock and Park Avenue from the viewpoint next to the parking lot. This adds up to a total of 6 miles, which is doable for many people, especially since it will be spread out over one day.
But if you can handle the mileage, I definitely recommend the Devils Garden Trail. Once you get beyond Landscape Arch, the crowds fade away and the views get really good.
Things to Know Before You Go
There are no restaurants inside of Arches National Park. I recommend packing a picnic lunch and a lot of snacks, so you don’t have to drive into Moab for lunch.
Toilets are located at the busiest trailheads: Devils Garden, Delicate Arch, and at the Windows and Double Arch.
The only visitor center is located at the entrance into Arches National Park. If you plan to visit the visitor center, you will have to do it when you enter the park. Make sure you know the hours of the visitor center. Hours vary by time of the year, opening at either 8 am or 9 am. If you plan to arrive early, the visitor center may not be open when you enter the park.
When to Go
Arches National Park can be visited all year.
The peak tourist months are July and August. This is also the hottest time to visit Arches National Park, with high temperatures topping out over 100°F.
For the best experience, try avoid the hot, busy summer months. Spring and fall are the best times to visit the park, with mild temperatures and lower crowds.
It can be cold in the winter months, with a chance of snow, but this is a great time to visit if you are looking for solitude.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: The time of year that you are visiting Utah will have a big impact on the amount of daylight you have. In the summer, the days are long. You have enough time that you could exit the park midday, have lunch in town, and return in the afternoon when temperatures begin to cool off, and still get to everything in this itinerary. In the winter, when the days are short, you will have to move faster through this itinerary, when the sun can set as early as 5 pm.
Where to Stay
There is no lodging inside of Arches National Park. The only campground is the Devils Garden Campground but sites tend to be reserved well in advance. Click here to learn more.
The best place to stay is in Moab. This small town has many hotels and restaurants, as well as gas stations and grocery stores.
UPSCALE: Hoodoo Moab. This is one of the newest hotels in Moab and this is where we stayed on our most recent visit. I have mixed reviews about this hotel. The location is great, right in the heart of Moab with a walk or short drive to most restaurants. The hotel is gorgeous. The décor and the layout are impeccable and our room was very comfortable. However, the walls are paper thin. We could clearly hear our neighbor’s conversations and they weren’t being overly loud. If you are a light sleeper, you might want to consider staying in a different hotel. But if a little bit of noise doesn’t bother you, and you want to stay in the nicest hotel in Moab, stay at the Hoodoo.
MID-RANGE: Red Cliffs Lodge. This property gets rave reviews. Every room has a patio with views of the river. Onsite is a restaurant, bar, pool, tennis courts, winery, museum, and horse corral. Red Cliffs Lodge is located outside of Moab, on Highway 128, in a beautiful setting along the Colorado River. It’s just a short drive into town and Arches National Park.
MID-RANGE: Homewood Suites. This is another property that gets excellent reviews. All suites have kitchenettes and some suites can accommodate up to six people. There is a small indoor pool and gym onsite.
MID-RANGE: Hyatt Place Moab. This is a newer hotel in Moab and very highly rated. It is located on the north end of town, so from here, it is a very quick drive to enter Arches National Park.
BUDGET: MainStay Suites Moab. Rooms come equipped with a kitchenette. Some suites can accommodate up to six people so this is a great budget choice for families.
Arches National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
The entrance fee is $30 and is valid for 7 days.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Check for trail closures, road closures, and get important updates before your visit on the official national park website.
Where Are You Going Next?
If your visit to Arches National Park is part of a bigger road trip to Moab, here are more articles to help you plan your trip.
- BEST OF ARCHES: 15 Amazing Things to Do in Arches National Park
- TRAVEL GUIDE: The Complete Guide to Arches National Park
- DEVILS GARDEN TRAIL: The Devils Garden Trail: The Best Hike in Arches National Park
- DELICATE ARCH: Delicate Arch: Best Photo Spots, Hiking Tips, & Interesting Facts
- ROAD TRIP IDEA: Two Week American Southwest Road Trip: Grand Canyon & Utah’s Mighty 5
- ROAD TRIP IDEA: Arches, Canyonlands & Capitol Reef National Parks: 10 Day Road Trip Itinerary
- CANYONLANDS: Best Things to do in Island in the Sky
- CANYONLANDS: One Perfect Day in Canyonlands
- CANYONLANDS: The White Rim Road: The Ultimate Adventure in Canyonlands
- DEAD HORSE POINT: Best Things to Do in Dead Horse Point State Park
If you have any questions about how to spend one day in Arches National Park, let us know in the comment section below.
You Might Also Like:
- NATIONAL PARKS: The Complete Guide to the US National Parks
- NATIONAL PARKS: 20 Epic Day Hikes in the US National Parks
- SLOT CANYON HIKE: How to Hike the Little Wild Horse – Bell Canyon Loop
- CAPITOL REEF: The Complete Guide to the Cathedral Valley Loop
- BRYCE CANYON: One Perfect Day in Bryce Canyon National Park
- ZION: 10 Great Hikes in Zion. Which One Will Be Your Favorite?
- MIGHTY 5: Utah’s Mighty 5: Travel Guide & Road Trip Itinerary
If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.
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