(Photo by Elizabeth Iris)
A few hours south of Salt Lake City is one of five of Utah’s National Parks: Arches.
Replete with the largest concentration of natural arches in the world, there are 2,000 such features in this park.
With so many awe-inspiring sights to see, surely it must take ages to take it all in. False! It’s possible to see all that Arches has to offer in a matter of days.
How many days do you need at Arches National Park?
If we’re talking shortest time possible to take in the best sights in the park, you can see Arches National Park in a matter of hours.
Unlike other National Parks, Arches is easily accessible by car. And we don’t just mean driving up to the visitor’s center.
From there, there’s over 30 miles of road to drive through park lands, allowing for terrific viewpoints of all the unbelievable rock formations.
It takes only an hour and a half to drive to the end and back. How long you spend at all the sites can rack up your hours there.
If you’re in a rush and just want a quick snapshot at the sweet spots, it’s possible to do the park in two hours.
It’s easy (if not a better experience) to spend longer in Arches. One day is a great amount of time to get the most out of Arches, but it’s possible to spend a few days there!
We’ve outlined the ideal one-, two-, and three-day trip to Arches National Park.
One day in Arches won’t limit your experience. It’d be Arches Lite, but you could still drive out of the park that evening and feel fulfilled – as long as you drive.
While it’s possible to enter the park as a pedestrian or with a bicycle, it’d be difficult to get the most out of Arches in one day without a car.
The National Parks website itself outlines their recommendation for 1.5 hour, 4 hour, and 4.5 hour trips. If you want to spend the full day there, though, you wouldn’t run out of things to see.
First, we’d recommend stopping at Park Avenue Viewpoint where there’s a short 10 minute walk through skyscrapers of red rock.
Next, get back in the car and follow the road up to Courthouse Towers and then Petrified Dunes, both of which offer a beautiful roadside view.
Just over half way into the park is Balanced Rock, where a quarter mile walk brings you around all sides of this natural conundrum.
What’s next depends on how long you want your day to be.
You can choose between going down The Windows District or up the road to Delicate Arch and Wolfe Ranch.
The former offers views of at least six major arches with close to two miles of trails bringing you to them.
The latter has four arches and a 19th century Civil War veteran’s homestead. If you’re happy to see Arches from dawn to dusk, do both!
Next you have Sand Dune, Skyline, and Broken Arches which could each be separate, quick stops.
Or you can do a short hike from Sand Dune to Broken Arch and back, with a glimpse of Skyline Arch.
Lastly, at the end of the of the road in Arches is the Devil’s Garden.
Four miles of trail lead to the Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch, Wall Arch, Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, Double O Arch, the Devil’s Garden, Private Arch, Fin Canyon, Black Cave Arch, and Crystal Arch. Suffice to say it’s the grande finale.
This may seem like a lot, but it’s only because there’s so much to see in such a small amount of space. O
ne day in Arches could last anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on how long you spend at each stop.
If you do spend the entire day, remember to pack lunch as there are no restaurants or cafés in the Park.
(Courthouse Towers by Paul Fundenburg)
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed about all the things to see at Arches, perhaps spreading your visit over two days would be easier.
It will certainly give you more time to appreciate everything you see and walk all the trails.
You can do the whole one day experience but at a more relaxed pace.
Plus, you definitely wouldn’t have to choose between The Window Districts or Delicate Arch and Wolfe Ranch. There would be plenty of time to do both.
What’s more, a two day trip wouldn’t technically necessitate a car.
If you’re able to arrive at the park’s Visitor Center as a pedestrian or with a bicycle, you could still see all the sights.
Walking, it’s about six hours to the end of the trail at the Devil’s Garden, not including the extra four miles worth of trails there.
You’d be quicker on a bike with plenty of time to enjoy each stop, though walking the whole thing wouldn’t be impossible.
We would recommend camping out that night for the full Arches effect.
There are only 51 sites at the Devil’s Garden Campground, though, so it’s important to plan ahead and book.
If you’re unable to secure a spot, there are campgrounds outside of the park, but they wouldn’t be too convenient if you’re a pedestrian.
We’d recommend these alternative options if you’re driving.
You still won’t run out of things to see and do at Arches National Park after two days.
Although it can be a quick trip, there’s still more to explore.
Branching off from the main drive through the park is the unpaved Salt Valley Road.
Depending on your car, it may be inaccessible on four wheels which is why we didn’t mention it until now.
If you want to go to Arches for three days and have a car with high clearance and two-wheel drive, you’re in luck.
There’s another seven miles of road taking you to the Tower Arch Trailhead, from which you can hike a 5.7 mile loop and see Tower Arch, Parallel Arch, Marching Men, and the Klondike Bluffs.
The off-roading gets even more intense as other trails and backwoods roads disappeared into the red rock wonder of Arches National Park.
Adding the sites off Salt Valley Road could maybe be possible on a two day trip, but given its rocky state that prevents you from flying to the next viewpoint, timing would be tight.
We rather think it’d be the perfect end to a three days’ journey through Arches National Park.
(Tower Arch by lukas schlagenhauf)
All three options sound appealing to us.
Obviously, the biggest factor influencing your vacation is time.
If you have time to do three days in Arches, fantastic.
Take it slow, camp out and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Utah.
Two days is also a great amount of time to get the full outdoors experience.
If you’ve only got one day, though, there’s nothing wrong with that!
The ease of jetting around Arches in your car and still being able to admire all corners of the National Park is unbeatable.