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1 Day in Arches National Park: The Perfect Itinerary

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(Last Updated On: July 3, 2022)

Arches National Park is an awe-inspiring location, filled with endless natural beauty. Those who visit the park will see the most dramatic natural scenery that this country has to offer, from stunning rock formations to epic scenic drives. Even if you’re visiting for a short time, it’s possible to see the top landmarks with 1 day in Arches National Park!

As one of the Utah national parks that make up the Mighty 5 alongside other locations like Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion, Arches is one of the top-visited places in the state. It’s known for its incredible arches (as the name suggests) and great arch hikes that will take your breath away.

This post is all about how to spend 1 day in Arches National Park!

landscape in arches national park

Where is Arches National Park?

Arches National Park is a 62,000-acre natural reserve near the Colorado border in eastern Utah. It’s right near Moab, making it a lot less remote than other parks in the country. It’s totally worth adding Moab to your road trip itinerary, mainly because it’s also a great home base for Canyonlands.

The park protects an incredible array of geological wonders, including over 2,000 natural stone arches, most notably the Delicate Arch hike, which appears on the Utah state license plate. Its other famous features include Balanced Rock and the Windows Section!

How to Get to Arches National Park

Arches National Park is one of the most iconic parks in the United States, and there are many ways to get to it.

A drive from Salt Lake City takes about 2 hours, but if you can’t spare that much time, you can also fly into Denver International Airport and rent a car to take the 4-hour drive.

Another way to get to Arches is from Grand Junction, Colorado. You can take the amtrak or get a bus from Grand Junction to Moab!

trees at arches national park

Best Time to Visit Arches

Arches National Park is a beautiful place to visit year-round, so you’re in luck! However, plan wisely if you want to visit with fewer people, which will ultimately make your trip there a lot more enjoyable.

Arches is a perfect spot for a winter getaway with a mild climate. In the summer, temperatures reach an average of 98°F, and during the winter months, it will be about 43°F. One of the best times to visit is during the spring and autumn seasons.

If you plan on adding Arches to a national park itinerary, I personally recommend visiting in the fall. I visited in October, and while there were still many people there, I heard from many locals that it’s nowhere near as bad as it is in the summer. Plus, the weather was great, and accommodation prices were lower than during peak season!

How to Get Around Arches National Park

Covering 832 square miles, Arches is one of the largest parks in the United States, so it’s essential to know how to get around!

There are various ways to explore the park, but the easiest way to get around is by car. You can drive the main road throughout the park, which will bring you to all of the parking lots near the trailheads. Unlike other Utah parks, there is no public transportation or shuttles within the park.

Tips for Spending 1 Day in Arches National Park

turret arch

Wake Up Early

The best tip for visiting Arches National Park in one day is to wake up early and get there right before sunrise. Unlike other parks, Arches actually closes the second the park gets full. There’s no way to know when this could be either! One day I was there, it closed at 10 a.m., and the next day it didn’t close until around noon.

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When this happens, they just put a sign out that says “come back in five hours,” and you have to loop around and leave. This happened to me, so I spent the day exploring Canyonlands National Park instead only to come back the next day at 6 a.m. to explore Arches, which helped!

The park is open 24 hours, so you can still enter in the morning. Plus, by getting there early, you’ll not only beat the crowds, but you’ll also beat the heat and catch the sunrise.

Bring Lots of Water

When I say bring lots of water, I mean it. Arches is not shaded at all unless you’re standing directly under an arch. The trails are very open, and you’ll be baking in the sun, so you have to make sure you bring lots of water. Even with just 1 day in Arches National Park, you’ll be thirsty!

I recommend bringing at least two full water bottles per person, if not more, and keep some extra water in a cooler in your car just in case.

Our personal favorite water bottle is a 32 oz Hydroflask. It holds a lot of water and stays cool throughout the day. Click here to learn more about it!

Consider Leaving the Park During Peak Warmth

trail leading up to the windows in arches

This is one of the best Arches National Park tips if you’re visiting in the summer or if it just gets too hot out during your visit there. Even though you’re spending just one day in Arches National Park, it’s okay to take a break and cool off in the early afternoon by heading back to your hotel and exploring Moab!

This is the busiest time in the park, so plan wisely for 1 day in Arches National Park. So, by taking a break and going home for an hour or two, there are usually fewer people by the time you get back to Arches.

Of course, take this with a grain of salt, as it’s possible that you may not be let back into the park if the park suddenly fills up or stays super busy while you’re out!

Pack Lots of Snacks

There’s not a restaurant or anything in Arches, so pack your own food, including lunch and other snacks to munch on throughout the day! Be sure to plan your food based on the fact that it will get hot during your 1 day in Arches National Park, and be sure to bring a cooler too to be safe.

There is a City Market right in Moab where you can grab some excellent deli meat or peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches while in Arches, which is what I did during my trip! We bought just enough for two people, and it was perfect.

Things to do with One Day at Arches National Park

With 1 day in Arches National Park, you have to be picky about what you choose to do. Below are some of the top activities and landmarks to fill your day with to make sure you cover some of the highlights!

Snap a Photo at Delicate Arch

delicate arch from a distance

Delicate Arch is one of the top attractions in Arches National Park! It is a dramatic arch structure that can be seen from various points along the hiking trail to the arch. It’s a popular destination for those looking for a day trip and can also be seen from much further away, from the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, which is one of the easy hikes in Arches.

Trust me, the view from the viewpoint is just as incredible and is a great way to save time with 1 day in Arches National Park!

Do you recognize the arch? That’s because it’s also featured on all of Utah’s license plates!

If you plan to hike Delicate Arch, know that some parts of it can get a bit difficult, especially if you don’t like heights. There is a steep sandy descent and ascent to the arch, with a total climb of 550 feet. It can be slippery when wet or icy making it hazardous, so check the weather!

The hike starts on a flat, sandy, and relatively easy section with views of towering fins. Once you start gaining altitude towards the arch, it gets steeper and more difficult; at times, you’ll be climbing up slick rock. For a real treat, consider doing the Delicate Arch sunset hike, because most people opt to hike at sunrise.

Don’t forget to take a photo at the arch and post a picture with a great nature caption for Instagram!

Visit Sand Dune Arch

The Sand Dune Arch Trail is a relatively easy hike located in Arches National Park. The trail varies from sandy to rocky as you progress, and it offers spectacular views of the surrounding canyons and cliffs. It’s relatively short at just a 0.3-mile round trip and usually doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to complete.

A truly unique feature on this particular trail is the sand dunes, which provide an opportunity for some stunning photo ops! This is also a family-friendly hike, so it will be a great one to do if you’re spending a day in Arches with children.

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Along the way, there are plenty of cairns and trails that help guide you on the path.

Explore Devil’s Garden

Devils Garden Trail in Arches National Park is an 8-mile loop that offers hikers various terrain and scenery. This trail often takes up to a day to complete depending on how often you stop, so just know if you opt to do Devil’s Garden, it may be one of the only things you get to do in the park.

The hike is strenuous, and a lot of the trail has a high elevation change, climbing over 1000 feet. However, the views are incredibly worth it, and it’s a great way to get off the beaten path during your trip.

Walk the Park Avenue Trail

Park Avenue Trail is a 1.8-mile trail in Arches accessible from the Sand Dune Arch parking lot and offers an incredible view of the rock formations. The trail consists of steep inclines and declines. Eventually, it leads to a flat area near a natural spring, which provides hikers with an opportunity to rest and recharge before heading back!

It is one of the easier hikes in Arches and is often overlooked since it’s near the entrance. It’s somewhat of a hidden gem compared to spots like Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch! The hike will take around an hour to complete.

See Windows and Turret Arch

windows in arches

The Windows and Turret Arch Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Arches National Park because it’s not a lot of work to get incredible views!

This trail is a moderate to easy hike with a distance of 1.2 miles round trip. The ledges along this trail provide scenic views that cannot be seen anywhere else in Arches National Park, and it’s relatively kid-friendly as one of Arches’ easier hikes.

Along the way, you’ll get to witness North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch, all within an hour. Plus, the trail is very well marked, so it’s hard to get lost on this one.

Hike Landscape Arch Trail

The Landscape Arch Trail is a 1.9-mile round trip moderate hike that leads hikers to the tallest freestanding arch in North America! The best time to visit the area is at sunrise or sunset, when the views are most spectacular, and when the crowds are smaller.

This is definitely one of the more unique arches to visit with just 1 day in Arches National Park, which is why it’s worth seeing. The arch is also thinning over the years, so it’s great to see it while it’s still here!

Stargaze in the Park

sun setting over balanced rock

Believe it or not, but one of the most popular stargazing spots in Utah is Arches National Park! With over 2,000 square miles of protected landscape, the park offers vast expanses to view the night sky.

Easily the best way to find a spot for viewing the stars is to head to sites along the scenic drive with little to no crowds. Obviously, places like Delicate Arch will be busier, so head to Balanced Rock for a great experience.

Backcountry explorers can venture off-trail to remote areas for a more secluded experience!

Learn at the Visitor Center

Located right near the park entrance, the visitor center provides an introduction to the geology of the park, along with a museum exhibit featuring a timeline of geologic events in this region. Guests can also stop at the cashier’s desk for a tour guide map or head over to the bookstore to pick up some souvenirs!

It’s a great idea to visit the visitor center during your day just so you can learn more about the park. However, it’s better to visit later in the day after you’ve explored the park!

Enjoy Balanced Rock Trail

balanced rock in the morning

The Balanced Rock Trail is an easy and popular hike that takes visitors on a 0.3-mile round-trip journey to the Balanced Rock itself. This trail is super short and easy, especially if you can get a spot right at the Balanced Rock parking lot.

In fact, you can see the Balanced Rock right from the parking lot without even getting out of the car. However, it’s worth walking the trail, which just brings you in a loop around the rock to see it up close. It’s quite a marvel in person!

Explore the Park via the Scenic Drive

With just 1 day in Arches National Park, one of the best things to do is explore the scenic drive so that you can witness all of the beauty of the park.

You’ll be able to see everything from natural stone arches and bridges that span deep canyons along the way. Plus, there are many pull-offs and viewpoints along the drive, so you can stop and witness some of the most photogenic spots in Arches, like the Delicate Arch from the Delicate Arch Viewpoint!

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Watch the Sunrise

Arches is home to some of the most amazing sunrises in the world!

The park has many different locations for visitors to watch the sunrise. These locations include Sand Dune Arch, Turret Arch, Double Arch, Landscape Arch, and Delicate Arch. However, the most underrated spot to catch the sunrise in Arches is at Balanced Rock!

Have Fun at Double Arch

view inside double arch

The Double Arch Trail is one of the most popular trails in Arches National Park. It is a 0.6-mile round trip trail with an elevation gain of 95 feet that winds through the park’s most spectacular scenery to the Double Arch Alcove! This is one of my favorite arches in the park because it’s so unique, and the trail is relatively easy.

If you plan to do the Double Arch trail, be sure to do Windows and Turret Arch because it’s right across the parking lot.

Consider Going on a Tour

If you’re really visiting Arches National Park with a limited amount of time, you can consider going on a tour. There are so many tours of Arches National Park offered in the area, including helicopter adventures, guided hikes, and even jeep tours.

Click here to learn about some of the fun Arches tours!

Suggested One Day in Arches Itinerary

  • Start the morning early and get to Balanced Rock to catch the sunrise.
  • Hike the Delicate Arch trail or visit Delicate Arch Viewpoint.
  • Head over to Double Arch, the Windows, and Turret Arch, and hike those trails as well.
  • Find a nice picnic area in the park to eat lunch!
  • Do the scenic drive throughout the park and pull off along the way for great photo opportunities.
  • Head back to Moab to grab dinner, and stop at the visitor center on your way out.
  • After dinner, get dressed for cool weather and head back to Arches. Park at Balanced Rock or another viewpoint to stargaze!

Best Places to Stay Near Arches

There are plenty of places to stay near Arches National Park, no matter your budget. Below are some of the best hotels in Moab, which is where you’ll want to stay to get to Arches bright and early! Plus, the drive from Moab to Arches National Park is really short. If you’d rather stay in cabins while traveling, click here!

Best Western Inn Canyonlands Plus – $

Located right in downtown Moab, the Best Western Inn Canyonlands Plus is an excellent option for Moab hotels. With modern rooms and great amenities like coffee makers, mini-fridges, and more, this can be a great place to stay. There are also rooms with suites!

Click here to check out the latest availability and pricing!

Hoodoo Moab – $$

For mid-range accommodation, consider staying at Hoodoo Moab. It’s located near downtown, and there’s 24/7 room service. Plus, it’s only a short drive from the entrance of Arches! Amenities include a spa, steakhouse, on-site bar, and more.

Click here to check out the latest availability and pricing!

Element Moab – $$$

The Element Moab is where I stayed during my trip to Arches. Prices fluctuate a lot throughout the year; when we first researched our trip, it was about $130 a night, but then by the time we booked, it was closer to $250. It’s a great place to stay because of its close location to Arches, and it has an excellent complimentary breakfast in the morning!

Click here to check out the latest availability and pricing!

Where to Eat in Moab, Utah

Moab has a great deal to offer for foodies, with plenty of good restaurants and breweries which make the perfect stop after a long day exploring.

The best breakfast place is Moab Diner! Other great spots for breakfast include Moab Garage Co. and Sweet Cravings Bakery & Bistro.

For lunch and dinner, consider eating at local favorites like Desert Bistro, 98 Center Moab, or Sunset Grill, which offers incredible views of the area.

Visiting Arches National Park is an incredible experience. There’s so much to do and see, and it is truly beautiful! If you are looking for an adventure in the desert, make sure to visit Arches National Park.

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8 Comments

  1. So much detail thanks! A friend of mine went there a few years back and has been raving about how great the park was and I’ve always wondered what the fuss is about. The arches and other rock formations are so incredible. Can’t wait to visit myself someday.

    1. I feel like Arches is one of those places you don’t love until you visit! I was always confused by the hype too, but after visiting, I’m obsessed. It’s definitely one of my favorite parks, especially the trails where most people don’t opt to go!

  2. Gorgeous! I would looove to hike in Arches National Park, but these views are so cool, I feel like one day wouldn’t be quite enough! I think I’d need to stay in Moab, try some of that gorgeous food and get back up to hike again the next day. 🙂

  3. I would love to visit this national park when I’m back in the states again. The landscapes here are so unique and it looks perfect for a day trip!

  4. This looks like the best way to spend a day in Arches National Park! I’d love to visit one day – the landscape looks otherworldly! Thanks for the great guide!

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