Arches is the second most popular US National Park in Utah and it is home to the iconic Delicate Arch, which you may recognize from the Utah license plates. Whether you are hiking or just driving through, Arches is incredible to visit and this Arches National Park itinerary will help you find the best things to do.
You can experience Arches National Park in one day for the most part but if you have another day to enjoy the park, you will be able to do a lot more. This itinerary for 2 days in Arches National Park will help you make the most of your time in the park and allow you to see the best sights and do the best hikes.
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What Makes Arches Special?
Arches National Park is home to more than 2,000 arches. That’s right, more than 2,000 arches of varying sizes can be found within the park boundaries. Some are much easier to see and access than others, but they are all spectacular in their own way. They were all formed as the soft sandstone eroded from wind and water.
Starting 65 million years ago, the landscape began to form into what it is today, but very, very slowly. First, the buried sandstone was wrinkled and folded, warped fractures tore through the ground forming rocky lumps called anticlines. Then the whole region began to rise above sea level and erosion began to carve away layers of rock. Once sandstone was exposed, the layers rebounded and expanded creating even more fractures which became pathways for water to seep into the rock and break it down even more.
Now, the main force that shapes the landscape is water that cascades over cliffs, collects in pools, and carries sediment through washes to the Colorado River. The landscape will continue to change as new arches are formed and current ones widen and collapse.
Is 2 Days Enough for Arches National Park?
Yes! With two days in Arches National Park, you will be able to stop at all of the roadside arches and do multiple hikes. You will not have to rush through the park either so you will be able to take your time on hikes to enjoy the scenery, solitude, and natural beauty.
Directions to Arches National Park
Arches National Park is located just outside of Moab in southeast Utah, along with nearby Canyonlands National Park. It does have a small airport, but it is easier to fly into a bigger city and rent a car to drive to Moab. Salt Lake City is the best option if you are only visiting Moab, but Denver and Las Vegas are both great if you want to see other national parks on your trip.
Salt Lake City to Arches National Park
The closest large airport to Moab is in Salt Lake City, Utah. From Salt Lake City International Airport, the drive to Moab is three hours and forty-five minutes. It is 237 miles (381 km) along Interstate and state highways. It is a beautiful drive through mountains and varying desert landscapes. There are plenty of rental car options to choose from in Salt Lake City. Check out RentalCars.com for a comparison of all the top brands to find the best price for your trip to Arches!
Denver to Arches National Park
The drive to Moab from Denver International Airport is a little longer at six hours but it’s a great choice if you want to visit Colorado National Parks as part of the same trip. It is 378 miles (608 km) through the Rocky Mountains and desert. If you are coming from Denver, keep an eye on the weather because it can be nerve-wracking driving through the Rocky Mountains in bad weather. You can use RentalCars.com as a great site to compare prices amongst the top rental car brands in Denver.
Las Vegas to Arches National Park
Finally, the drive from Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas to Moab is the longest. It is a seven hour drive, covering 464 miles (746 km) almost entirely on Interstate 15 and Interstate 70. This is the best place to fly into if you are visiting Arches on a Utah Might Five road trip, covering all of the big Utah parks. Check out RentalCars.com for a comparison of all the top rental car brands to find the best price from Las Vegas for your trip!
Arches National Park Timed Entry Permits
Arches National Park now requires a timed entry permit for anyone entering the park between 6:00 AM and 5:00 PM from April 3rd to October 3rd to help cut down on crowds. They can be reserved in advance on recreation.gov but sell out fast so be on there and ready when they become available for your travel dates. Some permits are reserved for the day before at 6:00 PM so if you cannot get one online, you can try for one then. A permit is not needed if you enter before 6:00 AM, after 5:00 PM, if you have a camping reservation, or a Fiery Furnace permit.
A timed entry permit is needed in addition to either paying the park entrance fee or your annual national park pass. If you are just visiting Arches, it is $30 USD per vehicle but if you plan to visit 3 or more national parks in the next year, the $80 USD America the Beautiful Annual National Park will pay for itself and save you money if you visit three or more national park sites. It only covers entrance fees and not camping, tours, or other permits.
Ultimate 2 Days in Arches National Park Itinerary
This Arches National Park itinerary is the perfect balance of casual sightseeing and hiking. Since you will have two days in the park, you will not be rushed in your activities and will be able to enjoy everything to the fullest.
Day 1 of 2 Days in Arches National Park Itinerary
Arches is an extremely popular national park, so a large part of the itinerary will involve beating the main crowds to enjoy each location with as few other people as possible. The entry permit system helps cut back on the crowds but it is still a very busy park. Plan to get up early so you can enjoy some peace and quiet at popular spots before they get really busy.
Stop by the Visitor Center
There may be a line to enter the park, but hopefully the timed entry is helping with that in the busy season. Holidays from October to April will probably still have a line though. The best way to start any national park trip is to stop in to the visitor center to ask rangers any questions you may have about hikes, as well as other events.
The National Park gift shops are also great to pick up some souvenirs to remember your trip by! It is also your last chance to use a proper toilet and to fill up on water until you get to Devils Garden. Most people drive right by, but it is worth even a short stop.
Location on Google Maps: Arches National Park Visitor Center
Facilities: Bathrooms, gift shop, potable water
Enjoy the Early Morning Air
After the visitor center, head up to the Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue hike. This is an easy-moderate hike that is 1.8 miles (3.2 km) round-trip. This stop will make you feel like you were transported into an old western movie. There are no arches on this trail but it is a beautiful first look at the park and a great way to start your 2 days in Arches National Park. Some rock formations you can see along the way are Queen Nefertiti Rock, Sausage Rock, Queen Victoria Rock, Courthouse Towers, and Three Gossips.
Location on Google Maps: Park Avenue Trailhead
What to Bring: Plenty of water
Helpful Tips: Most people that stop at the viewpoint do not hike the trail so this could be a good way to hike without as many people around. It is an out-and-back trail so you will get to enjoy the scenery from both directions. There is no shade on the trail so doing this early will help avoid the heat.
Stop by Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock is one of the most iconic features of the park and it is right along the side of a scenic drive. The balanced part of the rock is made of Estrada Sandstone and it is balanced on top of an eroding Dewey Bridge mudstone. Together, the rock stands at 128 feet (39m) tall. Someday, as erosion continues, the Balanced Rock will come tumbling down, meaning there is no better time to see this beauty than now!
Location on Google Maps: Balanced Rock
Explore the Double Arch Area
The Windows Area is a must-see on your Arches National Park itinerary. It is beautiful and has a large concentration of arches. The hiking here is easy, just 1 mile (1.6 km) to see North and South Window Arch and Turret Arch, then an additional 0.6 miles (1 km) to see Double Arch up close. Double Arch is one of the coolest arches in the park and is super easy to get to.
Location on Google Maps: Double Arch Trailhead
What to Bring: Nothing special is needed here. You will always be quite close to the parking area and your car should you need to go back to get anything.
Helpful Tips: This is a busy area so you may have to wait to get pictures of the arches here without other people in them. Patience is key, but it is just more time to enjoy your beautiful surroundings. This area is great for sunset and stargazing.
Sunset at Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in the park, maybe even the state, and is a great place to enjoy the sunset. This is a difficult 3 mile (4.8 km) round-trip hike with no shade so doing this early or late in the day, especially in the summer, is key to being more enjoyable. Hiking to Delicate Arch for sunset is magical and worth any crowds you may have to face while there.
Hiking to Delicate Arch cannot be missed during your 2 days in Arches National Park. On your hike up, be sure to take the short spur trail to see Wolfe Ranch and the petroglyphs nearby.
Location on Google Maps: Delicate Arch Trailhead
What to Bring: Water, patience for photos without people, and a headlamp for hiking back in the dark
Helpful Tips: There is a section with a drop-off on one side that may be difficult if you have a strong fear of heights. This is a somewhat steep trail so bring plenty of water and take your time and rest if you need to. Delicate Arch is the most popular hike in the park and you may have to wait in line to get you picture taken with it. You will definitely need patience to get pictures of it without other people in it and will need to be quick as people switch spots from underneath it. If you are hiking here for sunset, you will want to bring a headlamp in case you are hiking back in the dark.
Day 2 of 2 Days in Arches National Park Itinerary
Day 2 in Arches will have you up nice and early. It is a good mix of easy walks, viewpoints, and longer hiking. It will be a great end to your 2 days in Arches National Park and make for an amazing memorable trip.
Return to Arches for Sunrise
Start your day off by taking in another spectacular sunrise in Arches National Park. The Windows area is a great place to enjoy sunrise because you can see the La Sal Mountains and can easily walk between four arches to enjoy the sunrise from a variety of viewpoints. If you start here, you won’t have to hike too far for a great view so early in the morning and it can be a more laid-back sunrise spot. It will not be as busy at sunrise as Delicate Arch so you can likely find a spot to enjoy it in solitude.
Location on Google Maps: The Windows Area
What to Bring: Headlamp if you are hiking in the dark
Helpful Tips: The Windows Trail is a good trail to hike at sunrise because it is short and it is easy to walk between arches to get varying viewpoints of the arches and mountains at sunrise.
Visit the Salt Valley Overlook and Fiery Furnace Viewpoint
These two overlooks offer great views along the scenic drive that are super easy to visit and do not take too long to enjoy. The Salt Valley Overlook offers a great sprawling view of rock formations and the Salt Valley in Arches National Park. The Fiery Furnace Viewpoint is at the trailhead for the Fiery Furnace hike. There is a sign that a permit is need beyond the main road as you pull in, but that is only for the hike itself. The Fiery Furnace Viewpoint does not require a permit and it is definitely worth the stop. You can admire the fins that make up the Fiery Furnace area and the La Sal Mountains from here.
Hike the Sand Dune Arch Trail
Sand Dune Arch is just an easy 0.3 mile (0.4 km) from the trailhead and Broken Arch can be reached from the same trailhead. If you want to see both, it is just a 1.4 mile (2.2 km) hike. Sand Dune Arch is tucked away in a wide slot canyon and you can walk under and behind it, making it a great photo spot. The trails to both arches are sandy but are not too deep. There is also a trail that connects Broken Arch to the Devils Garden Campground so you can hike from there if you are camping in the park.
Location on Google Maps: Sand Dune Arch Trailhead
What to Bring: Nothing particular here
Helpful Tips: If you are camping in the park, you could easily hike to both of these from the campground if you have some spare time you want to fill up. From the campground it is about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) round-trip.
Hike the Devils Garden
The Devils Garden Primitive Trail is one of the most adventurous trails in Arches National Park and you can see eight arches if you hike the entire difficult 7.9 miles (12.6 km) loop. If you want to hike to more than the 1.9 miles (3.1 km) to Landscape Arch, you can continue on to Double O Arch and Partition Arch.
The round-trip hike to Double O Arch is 4.0 miles (6.4 km) with Partition Arch and Navajo Arch reached by a short spur trail. Dark Angel is 0.5 miles (0.8 km) beyond Double O Arch. If you are adventurous and don’t mind a bit of rock scrambling and steep drop-offs, this is a wonderful hike all the way out to Dark Angel.
Most people turn back at Landscape Arch so this would be a good area to hike with fewer people around. On your way in or out, you can also do the short side hike (before Landscape Arch) to Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. Plan to spend a few hours hiking here, even if you are not doing the full strenuous loop.
Location on Google Maps: Devils Garden Trailhead
Facilities: Bathrooms, picnic area, potable water, camping
What to Bring: Lots of water and sturdy shoes
Helpful Tips: The AllTrails app is very useful on the Devils Garden Primitive Trail so you don’t get lost. It will help keep you on track. This is a strenuous hike beyond Landscape Arch so be prepared for rock scrambling and adventure on this trail.
Optional: See Delicate Arch at Night
Arches was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2019, making it one of the best places to go stargazing in Utah thanks to a lack of light pollution. Depending on your level of adventure and interest in night photography, a night hike to Delicate Arch can be a great way to end 2 days in Arches National Park.
It involves hiking during the night which can be difficult on this trail but it is magical to see Delicate Arch with the Milky Way and the millions of stars glittering behind it. People come from around the world to see and photograph Delicate Arch at night.
Location on Google Maps: Delicate Arch Trailhead
What to Bring: Headlamp, flashlight, warm clothes
Helpful Tips: If you plan to hike to Delicate Arch at night, track your hike on the AllTrails app because it is very easy to lose the trail and get lost in the dark. If you want to do some stargazing in the park but do not want to hike in the dark, The Windows, Park Avenue, and Garden of Eden are three great places to do that.
If you are hiking to Delicate Arch for night photography, just know it is prohibited to light up the arch with artificial light sources. They are permitted for route-finding but not to light up rock formations or landscapes.
Detailed Utah National Park Itineraries:
Best Time to Visit Arches National Park
Arches National Park is much more enjoyable at certain times of the year than others, like fall and winter over spring and summer, but as long as you know what to expect in summer and spring, your trip can still be just as enjoyable.
Winter in Arches National Park
Winters in Moab are fairly mild making them great for hiking. Arches does not get much snow, though it does happen. Winter is a great time to visit and escape the summer heat and crowds. Trails can be snowy and icy which can make hiking a little tricky, so consider bringing microspikes if snow is in the forecast during your trip. Avoid traveling over holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s because the area will be extremely busy. Hiking is very enjoyable in the winter but be sure to dress in layers as it can be quite chilly.
Spring in Arches National Park
Spring is a great time to visit Moab as long as you avoid Spring Break and Easter, which is Jeep Week. In spring you will need an entry permit from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The biggest downside of spring is that you may experience high winds which can make hiking pretty miserable. Temperatures start to rise but are still very comfortable and days are a little longer so you have more daylight for hiking and other activities.
Summer in Arches National Park
The least enjoyable time to visit Moab is definitely summer. Prices, temperatures, and crowds are all very high. Hiking will not be very pleasant unless you only hike first thing in the morning. If it is the only time you can go, it is still worth it, just be prepared for extreme heat, crowds, and high prices. Drink plenty of water and consider spending mid-day just enjoying Arches closer to the parking areas. Avoid holidays like Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, and Labor Day weekend.
Fall in Arches National Park
Fall is the best time to visit Moab. Temperatures are perfect, crowds are lower, and there is not wind like in the spring. It is still more expensive than winter, but outdoor activities are all much more enjoyable this time of year. You may even be able to see cottonwood trees changing color if you are here at the right time. After October 3rd, you will no longer need an entry permit.
Best Place to Stay Near Arches National Park
The main entrance of Arches National Park is just a short drive from Moab, making early morning and late-night hikes even more possible as it is just a short drive. There are tons of hotels to choose from but travelers on a more limited budget will not have as many choices.
Hotels in Moab near Arches National Park
It is hard to find a true budget hotel in Moab in the summer (winter is much easier since it is off season) but The Bowen Motel is right downtown and within walking distance of great shops and plenty of restaurants. Mid-range hotels are much easier to come by in Moab in the summer, especially with popular chains. The Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn is a great choice and it is also conveniently located right downtown and has breakfast included.
Arches National Park Camping
The Devils Garden Campground is the only one in Arches National Park, and it is usually full every night in peak season. It can be reserved from March 1st to October 31st but the rest of the year the sites are first-come, first-served. Firewood and toilets are available here, but there are no showers or drinking water, so bring plenty for your stay or plan to go into town to get more.
This is a great way to experience Arches without crowds since you can start your day even earlier, hitting the trails before everyone else. There is no phone or Internet service here so plan to be off-the-grid for your stay here. If you have a campground reservation you do not need a timed entry permit for Arches.
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a 2 Days in Arches National Park Itinerary
Planning a trip to Arches can be overwhelming but these tips will ensure you have an enjoyable trip and can see as much as possible. Your 2 days in Arches National Park will be one (or two) to remember forever.
Arches is the second busiest national park in Utah and much busier than nearby Canyonlands. The timed entry permits have helped cut back on long lines but getting to the park early (before 6:00 AM) does not require a permit and will let you see some of the park without the crowds found later in the day. You will definitely want to get to the park early if you are visiting over a holiday weekend.
Drive the Willow Springs Trail if You Have a High Clearance 4×4
If you have a High-clearance 4×4 vehicle, consider entering or exiting the park on this little-known backcountry route. It takes you through some beautiful scenery and by some dinosaur tracks that you can easily stop to see. Do not attempt this with a regular car or if it is rainy out.
Bring Sturdy Hiking Shoes
Part of the beauty of Arches is the ability to easily explore hiking trails and beyond on the slickrock and sturdy hiking shoes will make hiking on any rocky surfaces much more comfortable.
Bring All Food and Water With You
There are no facilities in the park and although Moab is close-by, you will want to bring all your snacks and water with you into the park, especially if you are visiting in the peak season when the entry permits are required. Bringing everything in with you that you will need will allow you to fully enjoy your Arches experience.
Plan to Watch at Least 1 Sunrise and 1 Sunset
Golden hour at Arches is magical and enjoying one sunrise and one sunset is a must-have on your 2 day Arches National Park itinerary. It is hard to find a bad place to enjoy either of them, but Delicate Arch and The Windows area are two great choices.
The Ultimate 2 Days in Arches National Park Summary
This itinerary for 2 days in Arches National Park is the perfect guide to help you experience all that Arches has to offer with hiking, viewpoints, and geology. It may be one of the busiest national parks but it is incredibly beautiful and worth the effort to visit. By getting up early and following an itinerary you can be sure to make the most of this park without being overwhelmed by the crowds.
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