This May, my family and I spent a few days in Moab, Utah. Supposedly, my family has already been there when I was younger, however, I don’t remember it at all so I begged that we must go there again.
On the first day of our trip, we only had about 6 hours in Arches National Park since we drove that morning from Colorado. We decided to conquer the parks two most popular hikes: Delicate Arch and Landscape/Double O Arch.
Before you begin the park, here are two tips that are really crucial to know in order to get the most out of your Utah experience.
Tip 1: Hike slow, stop, and look.
This is a very difficult thing for my family and I to do especially with limited time. Whenever we travel, we like to always be busy, run around, and do as much as we possibly can in a small period of time so we don’t have time to stop to just look. We call it “the Halpert Way” and it can be exhausting. You cannot rush through this park, you have to take it SLOW. Every few minutes, stop, look, maybe even take a sip of water since you are going to be oh so hot, and enjoy!
Some of the most beautiful parts of the park are not the major landmarks, but the small things you stumble upon such as the bright-colored flowers that somehow survive in a desert or a small lizard basking in the sun. You will miss all these hidden gems if you try to hike too fast and don’t stop and look around.
Tip 2: EXPLORE
This is your time to find your inner Dora the Explorer. Take hold of it! What I loved about Arches is that you can really deviate from the trail as long as it is on rocks or in sandy washes. Do not walk on biological soil crust, but explore when you can and when it is allowed. If you see a cool location and you can climb to it, do it! Who knows, there might be a really cool view…normally there is, so explore:)
The hike to Delicate Arch and Landscape/Double O Arch were my top favorite hikes in Moab. and are also two of the most popular hikes in the park, so I highly recommend going on a week day so you can avoid crowds. On the weekends, these hikes can get very crowded and even long lines will form at the major landmarks just to get a picture. Fortunately, we arrived to the park on a Thursday so it ended up working out that it wasn’t too crowded.
Delicate Arch Hike
The hike to the Delicate Arch is a high traffic trail but a must do. There is a way to see the arch from farther away at a lower viewpoint but the hike is so worth it! It is not too strenuous or steep. Throughout the hike you get great views, plus at the end you get to be up close and personal with the arch.
You catch the trail by parking at Wolfe Ranch and it is about 3 miles round trip. There is a bathroom in the parking lot but there is no water fountain, so make sure you fill up your water bottle at the visitor center beforehand. Trust me, you will drink all your water! Also, there is not much shade along the trail, so bring a hat and wear sunscreen.
The trail starts off flat as you walk through the desert. There is a very small detour that you can walk through to see some petroglyphs from sometime between 1650 and 1850.The trail then gradually inclines as you walk up a giant rock. This is the steepest section of the trail and you overlook some beautiful formations with red, yellow, and green all over. We saw some people doing this hike in sandals but I highly recommend wearing hiking boots. You will need the good traction to go up some of the steeper vertical rocks.At the end of the steepest section, you now enter a brief period of flat desert then more rock. You feel like you are on Mars as you are surrounded by bright red stone. This area is a perfect place to explore. There is a small cave nearby and also a small eye-looking arch I highly recommend climbing up and look through for a spectacular view!
Right before getting to the arch, you hike along a short narrow rock ledge and then around the corner is the beautiful Delicate Arch. My family and I packed a lunch and ate our PB&Js there while we just looked around. Depending on what time a year it is, I would bring along a light jacket once you get to the arch because it can get pretty windy up there!
The hike back is the same way you came except it goes by way quicker 🙂 We ended the hike sweaty and sunburned in about 2.5 hours.
Landscape Arch and Double O Arch Hike
The next hike we explored was the Landscape Arch and Double O Arch Hike. These two arches are along the primitive trail loop. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to do the entire loop, but I will definitely do it the next time I visit.
I loved this hike because you get to climb on rocks a lot.
The beginning of the hike to the Landscape Arch is easy as it is along a gravel path. The Landscape Arch is fascinating. The whole time I was looking at it, I kept thinking it was going to break. It just looked so fragile!The rest of the hike to the Double O Arch is a lot more challenging and fun. You get to climb up steep rocks and the trail is less defined so you feel more like in the wilderness and not at a park. As you climb up on the rocks, make sure to turn around and look back at the snow capped La Sal mountains! I love me some snow capped mountains.You will reach the Double O Arch when the trail begins to descend. To be honest we almost missed it! We were busy taking pictures of what was in front of us and didn’t realize the Double O Arch was directly to our left. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it. The trail clearly shows how to get to the arches after you fully descend.
The Double O Arch is one of my favorite arches since it is so unique compared to the other arches in the park. This area was a great place to have a quick snack and enjoy some shade before we headed back.
Since we could not do the complete loop, we had to head back the same way we came. In total, the hike took us about 3.5 hours.
At the end of our 6 hour day, we crawled back to our car and eagerly took off our hiking boots. We were so impressed with how much we saw in such a short period of time and we never felt rushed.
Arches National Park is truly exquisite. As someone who has grown up around plentiful green trees, I could not get enough of this beautiful desert and I could not wait for our next day there in the Fiery Furnace.