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After Zion, Arches is the most popular national park in Utah. It’s not the second most visited, that’s Bryce Canyon, but I think it’s the one that people most want to visit after Zion.
I feel like Bryce gets more visitors than Arches because of it’s convenient proximity to Zion. But I still think Arches is more popular. I could be wrong on all this, it’s just my theory. Anyway.
Today I’ll be sharing four different ways to spend one day in Arches National Park! Arches isn’t my favorite national park but I do have a soft spot for it because it was the first national park I ever visited. It should be on your national park bucket list and it definitely part of your Utah road trip.
It’s why I started seasonal work and over this last winter my appreciation of the park grew even more. It’s an easy park to visit with limited time but it’s also great for hiking and no matter what kind of visit you want, I’ve got you covered for one day in Arches.
These can be used for one full day in Arches, for a day trip to Arches, mixed and matched, or just totally ignored, up to you. Whatever you decide to do, it will be a great day.
If you are planning to visit in the summer, know that you need a timed entry permit (more info below) and I would highly recommend doing your hiking early in the day and drinking a lot of water. I would not hike mid-day because it will be offensively hot.
For all of these, I’ll assume you are starting your day around 8 when the visitor center opens. I would also suggest stopping at all the overlooks along the scenic drive, I just didn’t list all of them here. I’ve also listed everything in order from entrance to Devils Garden but things can obviously be moved around.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! Buy a national park journal here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
Arches National Park reservations
As of April 1, 2022, you now need a timed entry permit reservation from April 3 to October 3. You need this to enter the park between 6AM and 6PM. Your reservation allows entry in a two hour window. You can go in and out before and after that as the park is open 24/7.
Arches was facing serious overcrowding in the summer and were having to close the entrance by 10AM pretty frequently because parking would fill up. This new system is to help combat that.
The permit is $2 and you will also need to pay the park entrance fee when you get to the park. You can pay the fee or get the national park pass which covers all NPS site entry fees (but not camping, tours, parking, etc.)
If you can’t get a permit in advance, some are set aside for the next day (so April 2 entry permits would be available the evening of April 1). If you can’t get that either, your options are to skip it or enter the park before 6AM or after 6PM.
If you have a camping reservation, a Fiery Furnace permit, or a backcountry permit you do not need a timed entry permit. You also do not need the permit from October 4-April 2. You can find all the details here.
Is one day in Arches enough?
Yes and no. You can see the highlights and do the main hikes but even just with two days you will be able to do quite a bit in the park. Two days is almost always better but don’t fret if you just have one. You can still experience a lot!
The Tried and True
If you have a full day in Arches National Park and want to see the best the park has to offer and don’t mind staying on the beaten path, then this may be the one day itinerary for Arches for you.
While I do list a lot of places, I would try to make a stop at the visitor center sometime throughout the day. For this itinerary, starting first thing in the morning isn’t entirely necessary, unless you’re there in the summer and want to hike before the mid-day heat.
After you pop into the visitor center, the first big stop is Park Avenue. This stop will pull you right into an old western movie. Most people just stop for the view, but there is a 1.8 mile round-trip hike here that will take you down into the valley (is this a valley?) below.
Between here and Park Avenue, be sure to stop at the La Sal viewpoint. It’s a great view of the mountains and the lower end of Park Avenue. There is a short 0.3 mile walk around Balanced Rock you can do as you admire this geological oddity.
The Windows and Double Arch
The Windows area and Double Arch are on a side road from the main drive and this side road is beautiful. You’ll pass Garden of Eden on your way in as well as some other cool rock formations.
At the end you’ll find The Windows and Double Arch. The Windows hike takes you to viewpoints of the North and South Windows and Turret Arch on a mile-ish long hike.
Double Arch is across from The Windows area on the other side of the parking lot and that is a 0.6 mile round-trip hike, more of a walk, to one of the most unique arches in the park. This whole area is great for enjoying sunset.
Next up is the hike to the most iconic arch in Utah, maybe the world, I can’t really say for sure. It is a moderately-difficult three-mile round-trip hike and it’s worth all the effort required.
The most difficult part of the trail is a big slickrock area. It’s steep but once you’re up that it gets better. There is also one section that is exposed on one side that some people with a strong fear of heights don’t like (or may even not walk on, I saw someone deciding at the beginning of it last time.)
This is a popular hike for both sunrise and sunset but I’ve enjoyed it three times in the middle of the day. It’s very busy and you’ll probably have to wait in line for a picture under it and you’ll have to be patient and quick to get a picture of it without people in it.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
On the Tired and True you won’t be hiking Fiery Furnace (unless you want to) but you will get to enjoy the view from the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint! This is another great spot to watch the sunset.
There is a sign as you pull in that a permit is required but that is only if you are doing the Fiery Furnace hike, not just to see the viewpoint. From here you can see the La Sal Mountains and the fins of the Fiery Furnace.
Next up is Skyline Arch, an arch you can see from the road with a short trail you can hike to get close to it. It’s an easy 0.2 mile walk to the base of the arch.
This is a nice quick stop with a short walk before a little more hiking on the next two stops. This isn’t my favorite arch in the park but I do like it a lot!
Sand Dune and Broken Arches
Sand Dune Arch is a popular stop and just a 0.3-mile round-trip hike to see and most people just see this one but you can also hike over to Broken Arch!
This second Arch is nearby and if you hike to both it is just a 1.4-mile round-trip hike. And, if you want to hike to another arch here, you can continue from Broken Arch to Tapestry Arch.
These could also be reached by hiking from the Devils Garden Campground. The loop from the campground to Tapestry and Broken Arches is 1.7 miles round-trip, but you could easily add Sand Dune Arch to that, too.
Landscape, Pine Tree, and Tunnel Arches
The last hike is a an enjoyable one that isn’t too long and is fairly easy. You’ll be parking at the Devils Garden area for this one but only hiking a small portion of the primitive loop.
On your way there or back make the side trip down to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches. These are on a short spur trail off the main trail and definitely worth the climb back up that hill.
If you’re camping in the park or staying in Moab, consider coming back after dark to enjoy some of the best stargazing in Utah! Arches was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2019 thanks to its lack of light pollution.
Even after spending the majority of six years in the southeast Utah desert, I was always still impressed by the number of stars I could see, even just standing directly under a light. It’s incredible and you need to do this at least once on your Utah road trip.
Next up is The Adventurer and this itinerary for one day in Arches is the shortest but the hikes are longer and take a lot more effort. They are all strenuous trails but still are different levels of strenuous.
I’ve done two of these and the beginning part of the other (devils Garden) but that one is literally the top of my list for the next time I’m in Arches.
First up is probably the coolest hike ever: Fiery Furnace. I had wanted to do this hike for so long and our last visit was the time to finally do it and I’m so glad we did!
This is a 2.9 mile hike (we hiked somewhere between 6-9 miles) that doesn’t really have a trail. There are arrows that guide you through this but you can explore as you please if you do the self-guided hike.
If you don’t feel comfortable hiking this on your own (it can be confusing) you can join one of the ranger-guided hikes. I’m glad we did this on our own because we were able to take our time. The guided hikes take about 2.5 hours but we were in there for almost twice that.
If you decide to do a couple of these hikes in this list, I would start your day super early because it’s a lot of hiking but it’s very fun and adventurous hiking. I would not do this if it is icy, snowy, or rainy.
Devils Garden Primitive Loop
Next up is the Devils Garden Primitive Loop. This is a 7.9-mile loop trail and it is very strenuous, much harder than Fiery Furnace. I would also not do this if it’s icy, snowy, or rainy.
If you want and adventurous hike in Arches that lets you see a lot of arches, this is the one for you. It’s a long hike but you can basically see one arch for every mile of hiking, though some are concentrated closer together.
The trail picks up in difficulty just after Landscape Arch and you can always turn back if it gets too hard. No shame in turning back, we did in Fiery Furnace because we couldn’t find the way but found people to point us in the right direction.
Finally, this is an optional trail, I don’t think you could do all three in one day. If you can’t get a Fiery Furnace permit, the Tower Arch Trail is a great alternative off-the-beaten-path. It’s also a great option if you only hike part of the Devils Garden Loop.
It’s a 2.4-3 mile loop, depending on where you look. I think we hiked closer to three miles. To get to Tower Arch, you have to drive down a dirt road but any car can make it as long as it’s dry.
This is the easiest of these three hikes but it does require some minimal rock scrambling at the beginning. It’s a very up and down trail (up then down the up again and up again then the same in reverse.)
This is a beautiful hike with a lot fewer people than the shorter hikes on the main scenic drive. I loved this hike and between this and Fiery Furnace, my appreciation of Arches grew a lot.
The Casual Sightseer
The Casual Sightseer is the one day Arches itinerary for anyone that is limited on time, can’t hike, or doesn’t want to hike. This is a good option for those really hot summer days, bad weather days, and short visits.
There is minimal hiking on this itinerary but all the overlooks and viewpoints. I didn’t list every specific overlook, but you should stop at all of them anyway.
Moab Fault Overlook
This is the first overlook that you will come to after you leave the visitor center and drive up the switchbacks. It’s an awesome view of the Moab Fault and probably really great if you like geology and know anything about it.
Next up is Park Avenue but for this day in Arches, you’re just enjoying the view from the top of the trail (or hiking it if you want, of course) pretending like you’re in an old western movie.
La Sal Mountain Overlook
I love this stop and it’s just shortly after the Park Avenue parking area. It has a great view of the La Sal Mountains and rock formations further down the Park Avenue Trail. It’s a great place to enjoy the sunset and, I would imagine, to do some stargazing.
Balanced Rock is shortly after this and the 0.3 mile walk will take you around this unique rock formation. There is no lack of balanced rocks in southern Utah but this one is easy to get to and it’s low so you can get nice and close to it.
The Windows and Double Arch
The Windows Area and Double Arch is great for a casual walk to multiple arches. You can walk as much or as little as you like but it’s easy hiking and it’s a fairly short trail. This is a great spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset because you can easily get to so many great views.
Sand Dune Arch
The Sand Dune and Broken Arch trail is one of the best short hikes in southern Utah because you can see two arches and it’s easy, flat hiking. Broken Arch is, of course, optional here but without it, the hike is even shorter, just 0.3 miles.
It’s a sand walk to an arch tucked away in a slot canyon. You can walk under and behind the arch for a new perspective of it, which I really like.
Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Can’t/don’t want to/don’t have time to hike but still want to see Delicate Arch? Good news! You can! All you have to do is make the short drive to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint.
You can’t hike close to the arch from here or see it up close, but you can see it way above you. There is a short trail to a slightly better view but even from the parking area you can enjoy the massive freestanding arch.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
The Fiery Furnace Viewpoint is a great stop and you don’t need to let the “permit required” sign scare you away from this. That’s just for the hike but anyone can enjoy this incredible overlook. It’s probably my favorite, maybe second favorite after Park Avenue, overlook in Arches.
You may not have to/want to hike to Delicate Arch on this trip, but you can do the short hike to Wolfe Ranch from the Delicate Arch Trailhead.
This is a short, flat walk to an old ranch site. You can see some old equipment and a building before walking a bit further to see some petroglyphs! It’s not the coolest rock art in Moab but its still worth seeing, especially since you’re already here.
Landscape Arch and/or Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches
Finally, if you do want to do a hike, you could do the relatively flat, but slightly longer, hike to Landscape Arch or if you want a short hike but don’t mind a steep hill, you could just go to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches.
Or, you could go to all three for a hike a little over two miles total. Whichever you decide to do, they’re all great and this is a wonderful way to end your day.
The Everything Bagel
Finally, The Everything Bagel which is a lot of hiking and alllll the views. This is a little bit of everything. You get the best and most popular hikes but also a little off-the-beaten-path.
You’ll want to get started nice and early with this itinerary for Arches as well because there is a lot going on but it’s all so worth it. Thankfully it isn’t a terribly huge park so you’re able to see and do a lot there with just one day in Arches.
Start your day with the two-mile Park Avenue hike, a good introduction to the park. While there aren’t any arches here, you do get to see some pretty cool rock formations along the way. Be sure to stop at the La Sal Mountain viewpoint after this.
This is a nice quick stop with a short trail around the strange rock formation. The balanced rock is a different type of sandstone than the sandstone that it is balanced on. Eventually it will collapse, so see it while you can!
The Windows and Double Arch
Take a casual stroll through The Windows area to see both the North and South Window Arches and Turret Arch before walking over to the impressive Double Arch. There is also a great view of the La Sal Mountains from this area.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
Pop in to the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint and admire the strange geologic formations and the beautiful La Sal Mountains. The fins in front of you here are home to the maze-like Fiery Furnace hike, one of the most fun hikes I’ve ever done.
Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Before, or after, you hike to Delicate Arch, check it out from the viewpoint below! There is no way to get to the arch from here but it’s cool to see from a totally different angle.
There is a short hike up to a slightly better view of it and if for some reason you can’t/don’t want to hike the whole trail right to the arch, at least this way you can still see it. It’s a little far of a view but it’s a nice quick stop.
Hit the trail to Delicate Arch and take the short side loop to Wolfe Ranch and the petroglyphs. This is a somewhat difficult three-mile hike but it is definitely worth the effort and the crowds.
If you want to do things out of order on this list (everything is in order from the park entrance) this is a good place to start or end your day enjoying either sunrise or sunset.
Next, take the short walk up to Skyline Arch. As far as I know, you can’t go up to the arch, but you can walk to the base of the wall the arch is in. This is a cool arch right on the side of the road.
You can see this from the road, so hiking to it isn’t entirely necessary but it’s a nice, short walk. I would still recommend doing it.
Sand Dune and Broken Arches
Sand Dune and Broken Arches are two arches you can see with little effort on a great easy hiking trail. There are reached from the same trailhead and are both beautiful.
Sand Dune Arch is in a little slot canyon with towering walls on both sides of it while Broken Arch is out in the open and offers great views of the area you just walked through. You can walk under it and continue on to Tapestry Arch or the Devils Garden campground if you want.
For this one, you’ll be driving down a dirt road. It isn’t super rough but it’s not something to do if it’s rainy. This three-ish mile hike is great for getting away from the crowds on the main few trails on the scenic drive.
Including the drive, I would say you need 2-3 hours for this so you don’t have to rush on the road or the trail. This is my second favorite hike in Arches, after Fiery Furnace.
The last hike of the day will be to Landscape Arch. It’s a nice, easy 1.9 miles and its worth every step to see the arch from the park map with your own eyes. You can’t walk under the arch because of the danger of the arch collapsing or rock breaking off from it.
It’s also worth the short side trail to Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches on your way in or out. The side trail is well marked and very easy to see.
Finally, finish up your one day in Arches with some incredible stargazing. Really, anywhere around Moab will be great for stargazing but if you’re camping in the park, be sure to spend some time outside your tent at night.
2 days in Arches
With two days in Arches, you could honestly do almost all of this as long as you are ok with having two really long days with a ton of hiking. Arches is a fairly small park and you can see the highlights in one day and do extra hikes in another.
You may have to pick and choose one or two to cut out, either a long hike or a couple of short ones but I think you could definitely see and do a lot with two days in Arches.
Arches National Park photo gallery
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Have you been to Arches? Is one day enough there for you? What did you do there? What do you think of it?