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Exploring Arches National Park | 12 Tips for Visiting the Sandstone Rock Formations Near Moab, Utah

There’s nothing like being disconnected in a desert environment surrounded by awe-inspiring

rock formations.

It’s a humbling and beautiful experience that gives you an appreciation for the power

of nature.

Hey, how’s it going everyone?

It’s Ernest from Trip Astute.

In this video, we’re exploring Arches National Park in Moab, UT, and sharing our top hikes

and tips for this scenic and unique destination.

It’s no secret that Fiona and I love the national parks.

In fact, visiting every single US national park is a bucket list item for us.

We still have a ways to go, but we love the idea of visiting more of the US with the intention

of exploring the national parks in the area.

Arches National Park was one of the stops on our honeymoon road trip to six national

parks.

Arches is located in eastern Utah near the city of Moab, which is about 230 miles southeast

of Salt Lake City.

The park itself is about 120 square miles, which makes it a small to medium-sized park.

It’s home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, making it the highest density of natural

arches in the world.

That being said, you’ll likely want to spend one or two full days exploring the park since

there is a lot to see.

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When we first arrived at Arches National Park, I have to admit that it reminded me of Sedona,

Arizona, especially with the red rocks and desert environment.

However, it is a bit different.

There are many more arches and the rock formations are unique.

While Sedona is known for its large surrounding rocks, Arches has more detailed formations.

As with our other national park videos, I want to share some of our favorite hikes and

sites while visiting the park, as well as some tips in case you are planning a visit.

I’ll also include the difficulty rating for each hike, so you can gauge whether it’s

something you may want to do.

Here are some of our favorite landmarks and attractions in the park:

1.

Devils Garden: This is in the northern section of the national park.

What’s great about this location is that there are eight major arches in the area.

The most notable being Landscape Arch and Double O Arch.

The area offers multiple options for getting to these arches.

You’ll see signs for the normal hiking trails along with the primitive trails, which are

trails that are more difficult and require some scrambling.

The main trails are mostly sand and gravel, so keep in mind that it might be a slow hike.

Overall, I would rate the hike to Landscape Arch to be easy, while the hikes to the Double

O Arch are much more difficult.

To get to the Double O Arch, it’s about a 4.5-mile roundtrip hike.

The Landscape Arch is about 1.6 miles roundtrip, so is much more realistic if you’re limited

in time.

2.

The Windows Section: This is another area of the park with a concentration of arches.

I recommend parking in the area and doing the short and easy half-mile roundtrip hike

to Double Arch, then doing the 1-mile loop through the North Window, South Window, and

Turret Arch.

Overall, the trails in this area are flat and easy to navigate.

Keep in mind that the first 100 yards of the 1-mile loop is paved, so if you’re traveling

with a wheelchair or stroller, this might be a good option.

Also, you might recognize the Double Arch when you see it since it was featured in an

Indiana Jones movie.

3.

Fiery Furnace: The Fiery Furnace is a maze of narrow sandstone canyons and is a major

attraction in the park.

However, in order to explore the area, you either need to take a ranger-guided hike or

get a day-use permit at the visitor center.

The area less than half a mile in diameter, but it does require time to explore.

In order to get through certain areas, you’ll need to scramble through some areas and squeeze

through narrow passageways.

While I wouldn’t say that it’s strenuous, these obstacles make it a challenging hike.

The trail is marked, but you can easily get lost of disoriented while inside.

Since this is a permit or ranger-led hike area, you’ll want to book it several months

in advance.

We booked our tour about six months ahead of time, and it sounded like others on our

tour did the same.

Also, the parking lot for the fiery furnace is small, so I recommend getting there early.

I’ve included a link in the video description for the website where you can book tickets.

4.

Delicate Arch: This was our favorite hike in the park.

The trailhead for this hike is in the western section of the park.

To do the full three-mile roundtrip hike, you’ll start at the Wolfe Ranch trailhead.

The trail starts out flat, but then gets much more difficult as you scale the large rock

face.

This seems to be where a lot of people give up since it can be tiring.

Though if you persevere, you’ll continue onto a beautiful trail that takes you to the

arch.

I personally loved this arch since it’s not only a beautiful one, but the landscape

around it is stunning.

We did the hike in the late afternoon, and the lighting was incredible.

Since it does require a significant hike, you’ll find it a bit less crowded than some

of the other landmarks in the park.

There is also a short detour on the trail to see petroglyphs.

It’s worth checking out, especially on the way back toward the trailhead.

Additionally, if you’re unable to hike it or looking for a more accessible view, there

are two viewpoints available in the area.

One is wheel-chair accessible, while the other is a half-mile roundtrip hike.

There are obviously a lot more things to see when visiting the park.

There are viewpoints all over that provide incredible views.

However, these are the landmarks and hikes that we felt were more most memorable and

interesting.

In terms of transportation, you’ll need to drive to get to the landmarks and trailheads

in the park.

Some national parks have a shuttle or bus system, but in Arches, you’ll need a vehicle

to explore the area.

On that note, while there are off-road trails in the park, we found them to be fairly rough.

Also, to get to some of the more interesting trails, you need a 4X4 vehicle with a high-clearance.

We did see some jeeps that were damaged from the trail, so I personally wouldn’t attempt

these off-road trails unless you are an experienced driver and have a specialized vehicle.

And in case you’re wondering, ATVs or UTVs are not allowed in the park.

In terms of lodging, there are many choices in the city of Moab.

Most of the major hotel chains have a presence in the area.

Airbnb options are limited though since Moab passed some legislation restricting its use

in the city.

We opted to stay at the Hyatt Place in Moab.

In fact, when we booked it, we were able to get over 3.5 cents per point on our redemption,

which was an awesome deal.

We transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt to complete the booking.

The hotel is close to the park entrance and has an outdoor pool, laundry facility, and

offers free breakfast.

Though keep in mind that you have to book directly with Hyatt to get the free breakfast.

You can’t use a third party site or travel portal like Expedia or Hotels.com.

For dining, there are a lot of cool places in Moab.

For lunch, we highly recommend the Sweet Cravings Bakery.

They had a lot of interesting sandwich options and even offer a free sweet treat with every

lunch purchase.

For dinner, we recommend the La Sal House.

We actually went there twice during our trip since we loved it so much.

The food and ambiance are great!

Plus, we were able to make a reservation on Yelp, which made it very easy to book a table.

Lastly, if you’re planning a trip to Arches National Park, here are a few things to keep

in mind.

1.

Carry water and snacks: It probably goes without saying, but you’ll want to pack a lot of

water before visiting the park.

Also, since the temperature in the desert is often very high, I recommend using insulated

water bottles that can keep your water cold.

We did a notice a few water filling stations, but there weren’t any places outside of

the visitor center where you could purchase water or snacks.

We stopped at the City Market in Moab to pick up water and snacks before heading into the

park.

We also noticed the prices here were much more reasonable than the tourist stores, so

we stocked up on lots of supplies.

Our approach was to eat a large breakfast every morning at the hotel, snack throughout

the day, and treat ourselves to a nice dinner in the evening.

2.

Pack sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen: With the exception of the Fiery Furance, most of

the trails and hikes in the park offer little to no shade.

This means you’ll be getting a lot of sun exposure.

You’ll want to keep yourself protected and comfortable by wearing sunglasses and a hat,

and using sunscreen.

Also, if you’re wearing sunglasses with brown lenses, you may find it a bit disorienting.

Like in Sedona, the soil is red.

Since brown lenses can often add more contrast to your vision, it can make the environment

glow red.

If you have a pair of grey or more neutral colored lenses, I recommend using them instead.

3.

Start early: Many of the popular attractions get flooded by tourist buses during the day.

This was especially true of the Windows section of the park.

You can beat the crowds and enjoy the cooler temperatures by starting earlier in the day.

4.

Book a Fiery Furnace tour or permit early: As I mentioned earlier, the Fiery Furnance

requires either a ranger-led tour or a day-use permit.

Both of these must be booked far in advance.

If you’re planning a trip to Arches, then you’ll want to book this as soon as they

are released since they limit the number of visitors per day and sell out quickly.

5.

Wear appropriate attire: I saw a lot of people in the park who were wearing flip flops on

the trails.

That’s a really bad idea, especially when you’re trying to scramble up rocks.

It’s easy to get scraped up or twist your ankle, so you’ll want to wear footwear that

is grippy and supportive like hiking shoes or boots.

As an example, here’s a breakdown of what we wore during our trip in September 2019.

Along with hiking shoes and a hat, we wore merino wool and sport fabrics.

Merino wool clothing is especially useful with its natural mosture-wicking and odor-resistant

qualities.

For more information, check out our video on merino wool clothing.

6.

Consider nearby parks: There are several other national parks in the area.

If you have the time, consider exploring Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef for easy day

trips.

We’ve visited both as well, so we’ll do videos of each park in the future.

7.

Consider an adventure tour: One of the highlights of the trip didn’t involve the national

park.

We booked a canyoneering tour with a local company called Red River Adventures.

It was an incredible experience exploring the sandstone canyons of Moab, and even rappelling

down the canyon walls.

In case you’re interested, we did the Rock of Ages Canyoneering tour and highly recommend

it.

Our tour consisted of a 4-mile hike and three large rappels.

8.

Consider flying to Moab airport: The city of Moab does have a small airport north of

the city.

United Express does fly in and out of the airport, so it’s an option for those that

don’t want to fly to Salt Lake City and drive down.

Though you’re on a budget, then it’s probably going to be significantly less expensive to

find a flight to Salt Lake City, rent a car, and driving three and a half hours down to

Moab.

9.

Be careful of where you step: This is so important!

Arches, as well as the many of the national parks in the area, has biological soil crusts.

These areas are very noticeable as they often are darker and sometimes even have white spots

among the texture.

The soil in this area is alive and is home to organisms like fungi, algae, and bacteria.

The plants in the area are dependent on this soil crust, and it takes generations for it

to form.

You don’t want to step into it.

So stay on the trails and watch out for larger colors and textures on the ground.

Another thing to watch out for are ephemeral pools.

These can seem like potholes in the rock and can be either dry or filled with water.

These pools are filled with organisms like shrimps.

Even when dry, the organisms can become dormant until the next rainstorm.

This means that you’ll want to avoid stepping in these areas.

10.

Be aware of the weather: While the area is a desert, you’ll want to be especially careful

of lightning storms and rain.

The area is prone to flash flooding, especially along the canyons.

Also, sandstone can be slippery when wet, making it especially important to pack hiking

shoes with a good grip.

11.

Leave no trace: Sadly, you’ll see that many visitors have decided to leave their mark

in the rocks.

The National Parks are a precious resource that should be preserved for future generations.

This means not damaging or altering the environment, following safety precautions, avoid feeding

any wildlife, and always disposing of any trash or waste.

It probably goes without saying, but don’t climb onto the arches as well.

It’s not only dangerous but is also illegal.

12.

Consider a National Park annual pass: The admission fee for Arches is $30 per vehicle,

and lasts for seven days.

Though if you plan to visit more national parks, especially the ones nearby, then you’ll

want to consider an annual pass for $80.

It lasts for an entire year and can be shared with another person.

It’s also supporting a good cause, and can be used to access other federal recreational

lands.

Have you been to Arches National Park?

If so, do you have any other tips to share?

Let us know in the comment section below.

And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

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Until next time, travel safe and travel smart.