Arches National Park is a beautiful park and covers 120 square miles (310 square km). You can easily spend days exploring every inch of this national park but these are the 10 top things to do in Arches National Park for a first-timer.
We visited Arches National Park in December had an amazing experiencing roaming the park with very few others. It can get pretty busy, especially during the summer and over the holidays. So much so that they may be turning people away. Our biggest tip is to get there early to ensure you are able to enter. They are open 24 hours a day so many busy days can fill up quite early (think 7:30 am).
With so much to do at every national park, we want to outline the must-see things to do in Arches National Park for a winter visit. From hiking to spotting wild animals and of course all the arches, there is so much to do in Arches.
We’ll go over the best things to do in Arches National Park, what to do in Arches National Park in one day, the best hikes in Arches National Park, unique things about Arches National Park, and more!
This post is all about the best things to do in Arches National Park for a first-timer.
Things To Do In Arches National Park:
There is no way you will be able to find a list out there that does not include the Delicate Arch as the top things to do in Arches National Park. It is an incredible arch with just large it is and is actually the largest free-standing arch in the park. Plus, where it is situated it provides stunning views over the park. There are a few things to note regarding Delicate Arch.
You can see Delicate Arch from the road but will need to get out of the car to see it. There are also a few hikes to see the arch from Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint and Upper Viewpoint. You can also get right up close to the arch via a 3.2 mile (4.8 km) moderate hike up to it. Be on the look out for the caged rock markers along the way. Also, there is always a steady stream of people so you can’t get lost. Additionally, there is a fairly narrow path at the end of the hike with a sharp drop-off, so if you are scared of heights be ready for that.
If you do want Delicate Arch to yourself, it’s probably not going to happen. We started our hike at 6:30 in the morning (an hour before sunrise) in 19ºF (-7.2ºC) weather and were still not the only ones up there. It was however very peaceful with the few of us that made it up at that time. You can walk around to the Arch or find a place to sit overlooking it.
Lastly, we visited in late December and went up at sunrise. We had a very different experience than most do. It was completely foggy and not the view we were expecting. It was unique and very mystical (especially with how quiet it was). I am sure that burned off shortly after the sun rose but it was too cold for us to find out.
Even though our experience was freezing and less than perfect, we still recommend going at sunrise. You can beat the heat that is common throughout much of the year. And the experience of being up there with fewer people is far better than fighting to get a photo. Plus, we have heard that the actual sunrise looks incredible!
Double Arch is another extremely popular spot in Arches National Park. It is far more frequented than Delicate Arch because of its accessibility. There is a parking lot just across the road and just a short, hard-packed dirt path leading up to it. This is one of the few spots you can see two arches so close together and being inside the arches is an incredibly unique perspective. Since it is at ground level and up against a large rock wall, there aren’t great views from the arches. Meaning, sunrise, and sunset don’t particularly make the experience better or worse except in attempts to avoid crowds.
North & South Window Arch
The North & South Windows also known as the Spectacles are just across from the Double Arch. With such a high concentration of arches, this makes a great stop to get a handful of great arches all at once. They are connected to the parking lot on Windows Road. These also have quite a few people all the time since the walk is only a 1-mile easy hike and gives you views of three different arches, North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. The walk is easy on a fairly flat and well-packed path. The end of the path does have stone steps leading up to each arch.
The views are great but there are definitely going to be a lot of people. The parking lot could be full if you show up later in the morning or in the afternoon. There are a few offshoots of longer paths but most people are here for a shorter amount of time since the path is short. Just a word of reminder, don’t climb on the arches. They are beautiful and I am sure cool to climb on but in an effort to preserve them and ensure everyone’s safety, just follow the rules!
Another easily accessible thing to do in Arches National Park. With a small parking lot with a great view of the Balanced Rock as well as a short .3 loop around the rock, it is perfect for all visitors. As with all the parking lots on a busy day, this one is one of the first coming through the park and most people will stop here. Be sure to get the typical photos of trying to hold it up!
Devil’s Garden is the very end of the drive on the very north end of the park. There is so much to do around this point. This is a larger parking lot here but it does fill up fast. Many of the longer hikes in Arches (like Double O Arch and the Primitive Trail) start with trailheads in Devil’s Garden. If you aren’t up for a 4+ mile strenuous hike, we recommend the 2-mile easy hike to Landscape Arch. You will walk through the incredibly large rocks to an entirely new landscape.
We didn’t make the trek out to Landscape Arch as we had already hit a few other trails that day. However, we were so glad we walked up to Tunnel Arch. It was a really easy path and just a short walk from the car. The landscape at Devil’s Garden shouldn’t be missed. There are also bathrooms and a campground at this site! If you are looking to camp, be sure to check out nps.com for all the details of reservations and different seasons.
While you are in the Devil’s Garden area, you can also check out the Skyline Arch. This trail is less than 0.5 miles roundtrip and gives a great view of one of the more iconic arches in the park. The hike is short and easy and allows you to check off another of the 2,000+ arches in the park.
The first stop for most as they are heading through Arches National Park. And for good reason! The Courthouse Towers quite literally tower over the surrounding landscape. There is a small parking lot with some information on the towers and how the arches in the park are formed (we recommend reading these!). You can also check out the Sheep’s Head Rock from here. This is the perfect introduction to just how impressive Arches National Park is going to be!
Arches Scenic Drive
Honestly, if you simply drive through the entire park and do nothing else, you will be so amazed! The round-trip drive on Arches Scenic Drive is absolutely gorgeous. There are plenty of Arches that you will be able to see without getting out of the car. Of course, you can stop at all the parking lots and turnouts along the way to capture the beautiful scenery. We visited in the winter and seeing the contrast of the white snow on the deep red rocks was incredible. Our favorite part is the very first part of the drive climbing up the initial mountain and then finally turning the corner overlooking the sprawling park.
Arches National Park Visitor Center
We always take our time to visit the National Park Visitor Centers for the parks we visit. They have great insights into the park’s trails and wildlife. The Park Rangers are always willing to chat with you as well if you have any questions! We also get our National Park Passport stamped at each park we visit at the Visitor Center (for free!).