Julie United States 6 Comments

Delicate Arch is one of the main attractions in Arches National Park. Most likely, this arch is high on your list of places to visit in the park. In order to have the best experience, there are a few things to know before you go. Here are our tips for visiting Delicate Arch, including what to expect on the hike and several unique photo spots of the arch.

Note: We have visited Delicate Arch on multiple occasions. The photos in this post are from our two most recent visits. We were here at sunrise in December 2018 and on a late afternoon in November 2020. The photos of the arch are labeled with the times of our visit, because the time of day and lighting conditions dramatically change the appearance of Delicate Arch.

A Few Quick Facts About Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is one of the most famous geologic structures in the world. It is so iconic that you will see it thousands of times as you road trip through Utah…on local license plates.

It may not look like it in photos, but Delicate Arch is massive. The opening below the arch is 46 feet high, making this the largest free-standing arch in Arches National Park. It’s not until you see a photo of someone standing under the arch (or you stand under it yourself) that you get an idea of just how big it is.

Tim and Kara Delicate Arch

Tim and Kara, sunrise in December.

The Olympic torch was carried under Delicate Arch for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Tips for Visiting Delicate Arch

#1 The Only Way to Get to Delicate Arch is by Hiking

To get a close up view of Delicate Arch you need to do some hiking. Unlike Balanced Rock and several of the arches that you can see from the road, Delicate Arch is located in the “backcountry.”

To get to Delicate Arch, it is a 3-mile round trip hike with 480 feet of elevation gain. This hike, plus time to view the arch, takes most people 2 to 3 hours. The National Park Service describes this hike as difficult. I think “difficult” is a bit of a stretch, unless you happen to be hiking midday during the summer months.

Delicate Arch Elevation Profile

Delicate Arch Trail Elevation Profile

The hike starts at the Wolfe Ranch Cabin. Park in the large parking lot next to the cabin and look for the sign that marks the trailhead.

Delicate Arch Trailhead

 

The first section of the trail is an easy walk on a graded gravel path. There are some short climbs here but nothing too strenuous.

Trail to Delicate Arch

Trail to Delicate Arch

The hardest part of the hike is the middle third. This is where you will walk up a steep section of slickrock. Along the way, follow the rock cairns or the people in front of you. Hiking to Delicate Rock is a very popular thing to do so most likely you will share the trail with other hikers. The higher you climb, the better the view gets over the park.

Delicate Arch Hike

 

Overlooking Arches National Park

The view from the hiking trail, looking back towards the parking lot.

Once past the slickrock, the trail levels out. Now you are hiking among giant domes of sandstone rock. Continue to follow the cairns. The last section of trail is along a ledge that hugs a rock wall. There is a drop-off here on one side so be careful.

Hiking in Arches

Hiking to Delicate Arch

As you walk up this trail, keep an eye out for an opening in the rock wall to your right. There is an arch here, called the Twisted Doughnut, that offers a very unique view of Delicate Arch (keep reading to see photos). If you get to the trail shown in the photo below, you went too far. 

The last short section of trail has a drop-off on one side, so be careful here. Kara is standing on one of the narrowest sections, to give you an idea of just how wide (or narrow 😊) this trail is. 

Hike to Delicate Arch

 

Once you round the final turn, you get your first up-close view of Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch Utah

First view of Delicate Arch (photo taken in the afternoon in November).

#2 Best Time to Photograph Delicate Arch

The best time to photograph the arch is at sunset. At the end of the day, the warm light from the setting sun illuminates Delicate Arch, casting it in a warm glow. This makes the arch look fiery red during sunset.

Sunset is a popular time to visit Delicate Arch so it can be crowded, especially during the summer months.

Sunrise is another popular time to photograph the arch. However, the sun rises behind the arch, creating a much different effect than seeing Delicate Arch at sunset.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch just past sunrise (in December)

 

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch in the late afternoon in November

If you plan to visit Delicate Arch at sunrise or sunset, make sure you pack a headlamp, warm clothing (it can get chilly once the sun sets), plenty of water, and snacks. If you have a wide-angle lens, pack that in your bag, too.

#3 Best Time to Avoid the Crowds

The best time to see Delicate Arch without the crowds is early in the morning, just past sunrise. If you want the chance to have Delicate Arch to yourself (or just share the experience with a handful of people) it’s worth rolling out of bed early and heading right to Delicate Arch.

We visited Delicate Arch just past sunrise on a cloudy December morning. In this case, the clouds worked in our favor. They obstructed the harsh sunlight so I could take photos of the arch without it being too back lit. There were about 10 to 15 people here, which wasn’t too bad, considering it was a holiday week. By the time we started the hike back to the parking lot, more and more people began to roll in.

Delicate Arch was more crowded when we were here in the afternoon in November, but it really wasn’t too bad. There is a lot of room to spread out, but if you want a photo under the arch, you will have to wait in line for a little bit (it was about a five minute wait when we were here). 

#4 Don’t Miss the View from the Twisted Doughnut

Tyler gets the credit for “discovering” this spectacular viewpoint. Just before you round the bend to get your first view of Delicate Arch, there is a small opening in the giant rock wall to your right. This arch, called Twisted Doughnut Arch, is one of the most unique spots to take a photo of Delicate Arch.

Twisted Doughnut Arch

Twisted Doughnut Arch (photo taken in the afternoon in November)

 

Twisted Doughnut View Arches

The view from the opening (photo taken in the afternoon in November)

It wasn’t until after our visit that I learned that this little arch has a name (and maybe the best name of all the arches in the park). So no, we didn’t discover it, although I never read anything about Twisted Doughnut Arch before our visit to Arches. Tyler just happened to spot it during our hike.

#5 There’s More than Just the “Iconic Shot”

Rather than just taking a few photos from the first viewpoint, take some extra time to view Delicate Arch from numerous other viewpoints.

Side View

Photo taken at sunrise in December.

The arch sits next to a large “bowl.” You can walk out to the far end of the bowl for another unique photo of Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch View

Photo taken at sunrise in December.

 

Delicate Arch Photo

Photo taken in the afternoon in November.

#6 Expect Scorching Hot Conditions in the Summer

During the summer months, Arches National Park can feel like a furnace. In July, average daytime highs hover just below 100°F. On many days, midday temperatures can creep up over the 100° mark. There is zero shade on the trail and the sandstone rock absorbs the heat from the sun, which makes conditions feel even hotter.

If you are visiting from June through August, consider skipping this hike midday. Temperatures begin to cool off around sunset. Or, get here early to avoid the heat (and the crowds).

Bring sunscreen and carry at least 2 liters of water per person.

Read more about Arches National Park in our article 15 Amazing Things to do in Arches National Park.


Are you planning a visit to Arches National Park? If you have questions or want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Utah:

Read all of our articles about Utah in our Utah Destination Guide.

You Might Also Like:

 

Delicate Arch Hike and Photo Spots

Delicate Arch Hiking Tips

 

 

All rights reserved © Earth Trekkers. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Comments 6

    1. Post
      Author

      If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you can use it to enter Arches National Park. The Southeast Utah Parks Pass will also give you admission into the park.

    2. Yes, we were there the 1st week in Sept. .2020. We bought the senior lifetime pass and got into all 5 parks in Utah, , Grand Canyon, Saquaro Natl. Park. This makes it so convenient .Just show the pass and zip on through. Utah is awesome. Also try Byways 24, 12 & 9 to Zion. Very scenic, but it does take a little longer.

    1. Post
      Author

      I can’t recall if there were toilets at the start of the hike. And there is not much in the way of trees or shrubs to hide behind. You might have to go off-trail and go behind a rock, that would be your best option if you really had to go. It is a popular trail so there will be many people.

  1. Thanks for your article. We love hiking with my friends and we always talk about what’s our next hiking destination. I will suggest Delicate Arch as our next hiking place this coming months. I am going to take note of all the information you share here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *