Favorite things to do in Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a breathtaking marvel that is hard to put into words! The park is famous for its impressive natural arches, carved into its red sandstone. Though the park is small, it is worth spending a night or two in the vicinity to truly appreciate it. Don't forget to browse our inventory for camping gear rentals for Arches.
Below is a list of our favorite things to do and see in Arches National Park. For more detail, download our free DetourOn Roadbook.
Wondering where to stay? Skip to the last section below for places to camp in or near Arches National Park.
Things to know before visiting Arches National Park
Arches National Park is very popular! Expect long lines during holidays and summer weekends. If summer is the only time you can visit the park, you can avoid both the crowds and the summer heat by limiting activity for sunsets and sunrises.
Entry permit required April 1-October 31, 2023, 7 AM - 4 PM. In order to reduce congestion in Arches National Park during peak season, April 1-October 31, you'll need to purchase an entrance ticket prior to visiting the park. YOU CANNOT PURCHASE A PERMIT AT THE ENTRANCE STATION! You will be turned away if you arrive at the park gate without a permit between 7 AM - 4 PM. Click here to purchase your ticket in advance. If you have an annual parks pass, make sure to check the box that says you have it and it will automatically reduce your entrance fee.
Entering Arches National Park without a permit. You can enter Arches National Park without a permit before 7 AM or after 4 PM daily, perfect for sunrise and sunset hikes. The park gates are open 24/7. You also do not need a permit if you stay in the campground or have Fiery Furnace reservations.
Shade and heat. There's no shade in this park. Compared to most of the surrounding attractions, Arches is at lower elevation and is therefore hotter in summer than the vicinity. It's also a desert with low shrubbery so you'll only find slivers of shade under its majestic arches.
Water. There are only two potable water filling stations in the entire park. The first is at the visitor center at the entrance to the park. The second is at the end of the road, at the Landscape Arch trailhead.
Hiking with trekking poles. Many of the trails in Arches National Park traverse sandstone slabs. If you're using trekking poles, please protect your poles and the sandstone from scratches by putting rubber tips on your poles.
Moab. The Arches National Park entrance is located just a few minutes away from the town of Moab, which has all the amenities one could dream of.
Best day hikes in Arches National Park
This is my favorite way see Arches National park. If you're fast and energetic, you can do all of the below in one day!
Lots of people stop here because it makes for good pictures. There's a path that circles the feature, but there's no need to follow it. Best pictures are from the parking lot. I'm only mentioning this stop here because it is directly on your way to other hikes, so you might as well take two minutes to see it.
They tell you there are over 2000 arches in the entire area of Arches National Park, but you won't see any of them on this 1-mile hike. I recommend doing this as a one-way downhill hike. Make friends with someone at the trailhead parking lot and offer to shuttle a car to the lower endpoint of the hike. That way you don't need to turn around and walk back uphill.
The Windows Primitive Loop
The Windows are cool, but the trail to approach them is littered with people. To get away from the crowds, walk around them to other side.
You'll recognize Delicate Arch from Utah car license plates. This difficult yet extremely popular trail leads to a natural amphitheater, with the infamous Delicate Arch in the spotlight. It's only 3 miles roundtrip, but climbs nearly 500 ft in one mile. When the grade finally levels off, you have to practice your trail finding skills to stay on course to the arch.
I recommend hiking here at sunrise. It's the least popular time to hike this trail, so you'll have the arch to yourself! It's so popular at sunset, you won't find a parking spot, so don't even bother. And during the day there's no shade anywhere on this trail, making it very grueling in summer.
Devil's Garden Primitive Loop
This 8-mile strenuous loop shows you everything you need to know about Arches National Park. You'll pass Landscape Arch, Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, Double 0 Arch, walk over sandstone fins that will one day become arches, and next to arches that used to be and are now reduced to rubble. I highly recommend this trail for experienced hikers!
PERMIT NEEDED to visit this area. You can get a permit here 7 days prior to your visit for a self-guided hike (year-round) or ranger-led tour (available in summer only). Admittedly, you won't have time to fit this in the same day as the rest of the hikes. You need time to get your permit, drive here, and hike here, which will take the better part of the day. So if you have two days to explore Arches National Park, the Fiery Furnace is the area to visit on your second day! You won't find any arches in this section, but try not to get lost in the maze of sandstone walls all around you.
Things to do near Arches National Park
There are SO MANY outdoor things to do in the vicinity of Arches National Park. From mountain biking and rock climbing to rafting, canyoneering, jeep tours, and even visiting a vineyard. The Moab area will keep you entertained for weeks, if not months!
Canyonlands National Park
Stay tuned for our post about things to do in Canyonlands National Park. Island in the Sky District is about 15 minutes from Arches National Park. The Needles District is about an hour away.
Dead Horse Point State Park
I'm only including this here because it's an obvious quick stop on your way to Canyonlands (Island in the Sky). It's just another beautiful viewpoint over the Colorado River. If you don't have much time to spare, you won't miss much by skipping this since you've already seen so many other gorgeous viewpoints on your trip!
Hikes near Moab, Utah
Stay tuned for our post about things do to in the Moab area. A few of my favorite hikes are Fisher Towers, Morning Glory Arch, and Corona Arch.
Guided adventure tours
Rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, jeep tours, hot air balloon rides, skydiving, should I go on? Tons of companies in Moab offer these adventure tours. They are all great! An easy one to go with is the Moab Adventure Center since they practically do it all.
Camping in or around Arches National Park
There is only one campground inside of Arches National Park, and tons of other options all around the nearby town of Moab. The majority of campgrounds in this area only have vault toilets and no running water. Bring a water jug with you that you can fill at the visitor center at Arches National Park before going to your campsite. We suggest having a high-clearance vehicle if the campground you're aiming for requires driving for over a mile on a dirt road.
Devils Garden Campground
This is the only campground in the park. It's beautiful, but it's at the end of the road, away from just about anything. This campground has flush toilets and dishwashing sinks, but no showers and no cell phone reception. For drinking water, you'd have to fill up at the visitor center or at Devil's Garden trailhead.
Our thoughts about this campground: Moab has so much around it, that I think it's better to find a campsite in a more central location. However, if you're looking for solitude and want to explore Arches National Park to the max, then this is a great place!
Reservations: Required March-October. Book here
BLM Campgrounds around Moab
The Bureau of Land Management maintains 26 beautiful campgrounds in the Moab area. These campgrounds are fantastic! The only problem: They are very popular and you cannot reserve them in advance. These campgrounds all have vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables, but no running water and no cell service. My favorites, based solely on location, are along Scenic Byway 128, as close to the intersection with Hwy 191 as possible. This is the place you want to go in summer to get some shade from cottonwood trees and pick up some fresh air from the cool river.
Our thoughts about these campgrounds: LOVE THEM ALL! But you have to be lucky to get a spot.
Reservations: First come first served. Try to arrive in the morning, about an hour before checkout time, and drive around looking for anyone who might be vacating their site. Bring exact change in cash to pay for your campsite at the self-pay station. Check nightly rate here. See map below to decide where to look first.
Dispersed Camping near Moab
Dispersed camping is a term used to describe free roadside camping. These are unofficial yet legal camping spots with no amenities whatsoever. Practice Leave-No-Trace principles and keep our public lands wild and clean.
If you'd like to practice dispersed camping near Moab, you'd have to drive at least 20 miles away from town. Within 20 miles, you can only legally stay overnight in designated sites, even if it is technically still dispersed camping. Scroll to the bottom of this page for a great map of places to camp for free.
RV Parks and Campgrounds in Moab
There is only one RV park, Sun Outdoors, near the center of town, making it a great choice for those who just want to park the car and walk to civilization. If you're in a tent, but want to stay in town, check out Up the Creek Campground. Finally, there are a handful of campgrounds on the outskirts of Moab with RV hookups, showers, swimming pool, and other amenities. They may be nice, but I don't see the point of staying here unless you absolutely need RV hookup.
Arches National Park is a year-round destination with breathtaking rock formations and panoramic views. Don't forget to reserve your camping gear rental with us.
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