Arches National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. With an incredibly unique landscape and some of the best hiking in the US, it’s not surprising it attracts more than two million visitors each year.
Whether it is your first or second visit to this incredible national park, our Arches National Park itinerary is filled with all the can’t-miss locations to help you make the most of your time in the park for a road trip to remember.
Located close to Moab and Canyonlands, Arches NP is famous for its iconic rock formations and offers some of the top rated hikes near Moab.
Two days in Arches will give you enough time to see the highlights in the park, including Delicate Arch, Balanced Rock, and the famous Devil’s Garden. We’ve got a great Utah Mighty 5 road trip itinerary if you want to spend longer in the region.
Tips for Visiting and Hiking in Arches National Park
- Start Early: It is always best to arrive at Arches early. Arches NP doesn’t use a permit system, so it will close when the park is full, which can happen by 9.00 am some mornings.
- You Will Need a Car: Unlike other National Parks, such as Yosemite NP or the Grand Canyon, there is no bus or shuttle system in Arches National Park. If you are not visiting Arches as part of a great US road trip, you can rent a car from the closest airport – These are the three nearest airports to Arches, although Salt Lake City will have the best car rental deals.
- Canyonlands Field (CNY) – 11 miles from the park entrance.
- Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) –109 miles from the park entrance.
- Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) – 230 miles from the park entrance.
You can search for the best car rental deals here for Arches
- Tours of Arches National Park: If you don’t want to visit Arches independently, it is possible to take a guided tour, although most are half or full-day tours leaving from Moab. You can see a selection of Arches tours here.
- Bring Your Own Food: There are no restaurants or lodges within Arches National Park, so make sure you bring a picnic lunch. Also, bring plenty of water with you suitable for the activities you will be undertaking, especially in summer. It’s also advisable to keep extra water in your vehicle.
- Don’t Forget Sun Protection: Even in the cooler months, sun protection – sunscreen, a hat, long sleeves and sunglasses are very important.
- Arches NP is Not Pet Friendly: Dogs are only permitted in the Devil’s Campground area and on paved roads. As they are not permitted on hiking trails, overlooks or anywhere in the backcountry, it’s probably best to leave your dog at home for this one.
Where to Stay Near Arches National Park
Unless you are planning on Camping in the park (we give you details for the only campsite in the park at Devil’s Garden further on), the best place to stay is in the nearby town of Moab. Moab is a great base with incredible hiking nearby – not just Arches National Park. Moab has a great vibe with lots of restaurants, bars and breweries, shops and some great accommodation options.
From glamping in luxury tents like Moab Under Canvas, full-service hotels with pools like the Hyatt Place Moab or My Place Hotel Moab and lux retreats like the Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection By Hilton or the Sunflower Hill Inn.
2 Day Arches National Park Itinerary
Catch Sunrise at Balanced Rock
Start your first day in Arches by waking bright and early for one of the most underrated but very worthwhile spots to see the sunrise.
Plan on getting to the park in the dark. Head straight to the Balanced Rock parking lot about halfway through the park. It is about a 25-minute drive from the Visitor Center.
There are a few options for seeing the sunrise here. You can stay in your car in the parking lot. Or, walk the trail to the other side of Balanced Rock. It is one of the easiest hikes in Arches National Park, so very doable in the dark. Seeing the sunrise from Balanced Rock is a great start to your Arches National Park itinerary.
Windows and Turret Arch Hike
Once the sun rises, it’s time to start your Arches adventure. Make your way to the Windows section of the park, not far from Balanced Rock.
From the parking lot, you will see the Windows trailhead. The hike is only about 1.2 miles. You can see the arches from the parking lot without getting out of the car, but it is worth doing the hike to see the arches up close.
On average, the Windows Trail takes about 45 minutes to an hour to hike. Along the trail, you can see three different arches. Start the trail by heading left, where you’ll see the North and South windows. Then, continue on and head to the left to see Turret Arch before looping back to the parking lot.
Lunch at a Picnic Area
Tip: It’s recommended that you pack a lunch for Arches because there are no restaurants within the park. Also bring plenty of water with you, especially in summer.
Arches NP has a few dedicated picnic areas which are a lovely way to enjoy a packed lunch. Consider stopping at the picnic area across the road from Balanced Rock or heading up to Devils Garden, our next recommended stop.
Other picnic areas include the Delicate Arch Viewpoint and Panorama Point.
Spend the Afternoon in Devil’s Garden
Spend the afternoon in one of the most popular areas of Arches National Park – Devil’s Garden. The sandstone formations in the area are unlike anything you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Devils Garden is located in the northernmost part of the park. It is home to some of the park’s most iconic landmarks, such as Landscape Arch, the largest arch in the park. The trail is not as well marked as some others in the park and gets a little “off-road” in parts. We recommend downloading the Devils Garden trail map so you don’t get lost.
The trail is an 8-mile long loop trail featuring many different arches along the way. Ranked as hard, it’s not the easiest hike, but worth doing even if you only make it to Landscape Arch.
The difficulty of the hike is in the length and elevation gain of 1000 feet. Experienced hikers can finish the trail in about three to four hours which is perfect for an afternoon hike.
Camping at Devil’s Garden
If you want to stay in the park, Devil’s Garden Campground is the only campground in Arches National Park.
There are 51 sites in the Devils Garden Campground, which, during the busy season, are usually full every night. Campsites are typically booked months in advance during peak months. Reservations are possible up to six months in advance for camping between March 1 and October 31.
If you don’t have a reservation during this time, you will have to find a place to stay or a campsite outside the park.
Between November 1 and February 28, campsites are first-come, first-served basis.
Devils Garden Campground has drinking water, grills, picnic tables, pit style, and flush toilets. See NPS for reservation information.
Eat Dinner in Moab
After exploring Devil’s Garden, head back to Moab for dinner at one of the local restaurants. There are tons of great places to eat in Moab. Even if you’re a picky eater, you’ll find somewhere good to eat. Below are a few of the top restaurants.
- Moab Diner is an excellent place to eat downtown that serves burgers, fries, and breakfast all day.
- Sunset Grill, while more expensive than other places to eat in Moab, offers the best views of the surrounding area with classic American cuisine.
- For great vegan and vegetarian-friendly options, head to Twista Sista, which serves excellent sandwiches, soups, and even tapas.
Go Back to Arches and Stargaze in the Park
As a designated International Dark Sky Park, no Arches road trip itinerary is complete without at least one night of stargazing in the park. As with the sunrise, the best spot to stargaze in the park is at Balanced Rock.
One of the most popular things to do in Arches, it can get pretty busy at night, so head back to the park straight after dinner to make sure you get a good spot. The parking lot is very open and right across the street, there is lots of open space where you should be able to find a secluded spot to enjoy the night sky.
Watch the Sunrise From Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is another must-see highlight of Arches National Park. The most famous arch in the park has even made it onto Utah’s license plates. As with day one, be sure to get to Arches right before the sun starts to rise to beat the crowds, especially for this hike.
The 3-mile moderate hike to Delicate Arch starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking lot. You will need to follow the trails across the fence before getting onto the red dirt trail leading up to the arch. The hike is fairly simple until you get closer to the arch where it becomes a bit steeper. You’ll be hiking in the dark, so make sure you bring a flashlight.
Once you get to Delicate Arch, take a seat and relax while watching the sunrise over the arch. Take advantage of any quiet time to get photos of the arch as the sun rises because it will get busy quickly.
Double Arch Hike
After sunrise from Delicate Arch, head back to the Windows section. This time, instead of seeing the Windows and Turret Arch, do the hike to Double Arch, one of the more unique landmarks in Arches NP.
The Double Arch is a natural sandstone feature formed over millions of years. The arch is so unique because of the two arches that were created side by side, one larger than the other. The larger arch is 140 feet tall, with an opening of about 70 feet wide, with a much smaller arch in the same formation.
The hike to Double Arch is only about a half-mile with twenty minutes of hiking. It’s a reasonably flat trail so it’s one of the more family-friendly hikes to do in Arches.
Lunch at the Visitor Center
You can’t miss out on the Visitor Center during your two days in Arches. Getting to the Visitor Center from Double Arch is a bit out of the way, but it’s worth stopping there as it’s back near the park entrance.
There are some great picnic spots right at the Visitor Center where you can eat your packed lunch. After lunch, pop into the center to learn more about the park, chat with park rangers, use the restroom, or even buy some souvenirs to remember your trip.
Sand Dune Arch
With just one afternoon left on your Arches National Park 2 day itinerary, there’s still a lot to do. For the last hike of the itinerary, begin the afternoon doing one of the more underrated but easy hikes in the park, Sand Dune Arch. The trail is only 0.3 miles long and is reasonably flat.
While the trail only takes about twenty minutes to hike, it provides some of the most extraordinary terrains. The Sand Dune Arch actually has sand under it which is a strange contrast to the rest of the park’s terrain. This arch also provides a welcome shady place to chill in hot weather.
Spend the rest of the afternoon taking a scenic drive throughout Arches NP. Driving on the main road will take you all the way through the park and by some of the best viewpoints.
Because of the way Arches National Park is set up, there are some great pull-offs along the way offering great viewpoints and photo opportunities. The best views include the Garden of Eden, La Sal Mountains Viewpoint, and the Fiery Furnace Viewpoint.
Dinner in Moab and Sunset at Broken Arch
Head back to Moab for an early dinner. After dinner, finish off your Arches itinerary with one last sunset in the park.
Do the hike to Broken Arch for a spectacular sunset over the National Park. The hike to Broken Arch takes about 40 minutes over 1.7 miles round trip, so it only takes 20 minutes to get to a viewpoint.
Find a nice spot here to watch the sun go down over the arches Don’t forget to bring a flashlight for the hike back. And don’t forget to get one last glimpse of the incredible night sky.
Arches National Park is an excellent place to visit for a day trip, a weekend getaway in Utah, or even a more extended vacation. It is filled with exceptional geological beauty.
If you are looking for an awe-inspiring experience filled with endless views and breathtaking landscapes, then Arches National Park is an incredible destination. Hopefully, this Arches itinerary has helped you plan the best trip possible.
Krystianna is the head blogger and founder behind Volumes & Voyages, a book and travel blog dedicated to encouraging others to chase their wanderlust, both fictional and real. When she’s not reading or traveling, Krystianna can generally be found designing for clients or finding the best chai latte in her city