Arches National Park is located in the beautiful state of Utah. The park encompasses more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, dramatic canyons, and towering pinnacles.
The park offers 2 scenic drives and we did both of them. The drives were breathtaking with plenty of viewpoint stops along the way. The parking lots can get crowded, so set aside enough time to backtrack if you can’t find a spot at a particular viewpoint.
We did a few easy and family-friendly hikes inside the park, and we’ll share our experiences with you.
Park Avenue Trail
A 1.8-mile walk through a gorgeous canyon surrounded by some amazing rock formations. The trail begins at the Park Avenue parking lot with a fairly steep climb down but the incline is stepped making it relatively easy. We loved strolling through the canyon and stopped often to look up at the massive pinnacles (like skyscrapers on Park Avenue). It was a cool day, but I would imagine that the walk would be more challenging in direct sun as there was little shade on the trail. The trail ends at a formation called Courthouse Towers. If you are taking a shuttle, you can grab it at the Courthouse Towers parking lot or you can retrace your steps to get back to your car. Rich doubled back for the car, allowing the kids and I more time to explore and take photos.
Balanced Rock Trail
This was an easy, partially paved walk to see Balanced Rock. It only takes about 20 minutes and the paved part is wheelchair and stroller accessible. It’s a rock…balanced…on a tower. Great photo op!
Sand Dune Arch
Take an easy and scenic hike down Broken Arch Trailhead. First, take the first right turn to go see Sand Dune Arch. It’s only 0.2mi down a narrow slot canyon and has a lot of shade.
After that, return to the Broken Arch trail and head to Broken Arch. It’s not really broken, although it is cracked across the top. The views from the arch are magnificent. It’s an easy, flat 1.8-mile loop.
Delicate Arch Trail
Delicate Arch is one the most iconic arches within Arches National Park, figuring prominently on Utah state car plates, stamps and in tourist advertisements. It’s a beautiful arch on an exposed rock face, with scenic vistas behind it. It is, however, a 3.2 mile round trip from the nearest parking lot, and there is no water or shade, so it’s not for everyone. You’re advised to bring lots of water, and it’s best viewed at sunset.
This hike may be too much for kids or the elderly. No problem, just head to Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The viewpoint has a parking lot and is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
Fiery Furnace is one of the most challenging trails in Arches, and the park requires that hikers accompany a ranger-led hike. It is a labyrinth of bright red sandstone fins that even experienced hikers can get lost in, with identical looking passageways and no landmarks. You can view the exterior of the fins from the parking lot at the trailhead, and it is magical at sunset. We highly recommend you stop there if you can.
Arches National Park is a national treasure and the park service asks that visitors do their part to protect the park. It’s important to stay on marked trails to protect the soil. The sandstone has pot holes called “Ephemeral Pools” that tiny organisms live in. They should not be stepped in and if full of water should not be touched. The Arches themselves are fragile and should not be climbed or walked on.
Arches National Park also has a Junior Rangers Program. They offer booklets at the Visitor’s Center or you can download them before you go. The book is full of activities that can be completed to earn a badge and a certificate. The Visitor’s Center also offers Explorer’s Packs that can be checked out and returned at the Visitor’s Center. The packs include binoculars, a hand lens, a naturalist guide, a notebook, and activity ideas. The Junior Ranger badge can be earned with the pack.
Camping is available in the park at Devil’s Garden Campground. Due to construction, the campground is closed until November 30, 2017. Campsites will be first come, first served from Nov 30 until Feb 28th. For dates after Feb 28th, 2018 you can reserve a spot up to 6 months in advance.
The park is open 24 hours a day, and the visitor center is open daily (closed on Christmas Day) at 9 a.m. and closed at 5:30 in the summer.