1 Day at Arches National Park (What to Do and Where to Go)

Feb 23, 2022 | Arches National Park, Itineraries, National Parks, Simple Suit, United States, Utah

If you’re wondering what to do when you have only 1 day at Arches National Park, you’re not alone!

Before our 7-day southern Utah road trip, I was trying to figure out a one-day itinerary for Arches National Park in Moab.

Arches National Park covers 76,519 acres, making it one of the smaller national parks in Nothern America. However, there is plenty to do and see if you want to spend two to three days in the park. We only had one day to dedicate to the park, so we wanted to make the most of it.

After spending some time researching and looking at our schedule, I decided that it would make the most sense for us to spend an evening in the park, then come back the next day and spend a morning in the park.

Fortunately, Arches is located just outside the city of Moab, which was a mere 10-minute drive from our hotel.

Because we were visiting in July, we opted to spend our afternoons at the hotel pool, which still left plenty of time to get a good overview of the park and explore some areas in detail.

Stop By the Visitor’s Center

Whenever we visit a national park for the first time, we always like to stop by the Visitor’s Center. We are a family who loves learning, so the Visitor’s Center is always a great place to learn more about the park, its history, conservation efforts, wildlife, and more. 

The Visitor’s Center is also a great place to refill water bottles and ask questions about trails and activities.

Participate in the Junior Ranger Program

If you have younger kids, pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Visitor’s Center for them to complete as you make your way through the park. The Junior Ranger Program is a highlight for many young adventurers. When they complete their booklet, return it to the Visitor’s Center later in the day, share their discoveries with a ranger, recite the Junior Ranger pledge and receive a wooden Junior Ranger badge.

kids smiling while wind blows at courthouse towers viewing area in arches national park

Park Avenue & Courthouse Towers viewpoints

These gorgeous red walls will be one of the first sights you’ll see as you make your way into the park.  

A short, accessible trail will take you from the parking lot to the viewpoint.

Hike the Park Avenue Trail

Trail Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 2 miles, out and back

If you’re up for a little hike, follow the trail from the Park Avenue Viewpoint to Courthouse Towers.

This trail offers up-close views of these stunning, massive red rock walls.

north and south window at arches national park

Explore the Windows Section

We had heard how crowded the park was before our trip, but we were pleasantly surprised by the low crowd levels in this section of the park. The Windows Section of the park is a 25-30 minute drive from the park entrance and absolutely breathtaking.

The Windows Section of Arches National Park is kid-friendly and perfect for beginning hikers since all of the attractions are within a short walking distance from the parking lot.

If you have only 1 day at Arches National Park, the Windows Section is a must-visit area of the park.  You can see such a great variety of rock formations in a short amount of time!

Double Arch Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 0.3 mile trail (0.6 round trip)

Reaching 112 feet above the ground, Double Arch is the tallest arch in the park.

Primitive Loop Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 1.1 miles

The Primitive Loop Trail will take you around the entire Windows Section. However, if you’re not feeling up to a mile-long walk, you can skip the loop trail and hike directly to each viewpoint. Our kids just wanted to run around and climb up rocks, so we didn’t end up hiking the entire loop.

North and South Windows Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 0.3 mile trail

It’s one thing to see a picture of these massive rock formations and another thing to stand inside of them. It makes the world feel big and beautiful. The wind blows through the windows, creating natural air conditioning (which is a welcome reprieve from the blazing Utah sun…especially in July).

Turret Arch Trail

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Length: 0.1 mile trail (from South Window)

Turret Arch was the arch we visited the longest.  The kids enjoyed scrambling over the rocks leading up to the arch, and the lighting was just beautiful.  It also had relatively few visitors compared to the other arches and windows in this area of the park.

family running up path to turret arch in arches national park

See Balanced Rock

Located right off the main road, Balanced Rock is easy to spot, even from a distance. If you didn’t already stop and take pictures here before exploring the Windows Section, Balanced Rock has a picnic area which could be a great place to stop and enjoy a meal together before heading out on your next adventure. 

view of delicate arch through a rock window

Hike to Delicate Arch

Due to warm weather conditions and limited trailhead parking, we opted to hike to this incredibly famous arch first thing in the morning. Depending on the weather, this could also be a great hike on a summer evening, or during the day at other times of the year.

Delicate Arch Hike Details

Trail Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 3 miles round trip

Some people might consider this hike strenuous, but I think it’s mostly because shade is in limited supply on this trail (READ: non-existent!), which can make it unbearably hot during the summer. There is a steady rock incline and a narrow rock path with drop-offs towards the end of the trail. But certainly, it’s not in the same caliber as Angel’s Landing or Half Dome.

While this trail was challenging for our youngest, Claire, due to her muscle disorder, it was ranked as “easy to moderate” by the rest of the family.

Trailhead parking is limited, so if you’re coming during the summer, you’ll want to arrive before 7:30 am. If you opt to hike later in the day or evening, parking isn’t usually an issue.

There are vault toilets at the trailhead, but no other facilities.  

Delicate Arch is one of the most photographed arches in Utah and is worth a visit. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and just leaves you in wonder. For another great view of Delicate Arch, towards the end of the hike, you can climb up to a little window and view the arch through the window. 

hiker looking at petroglyph ute panel near Delicate Arch

View Ute Petroglyphs and Old Cabin

At the start of the Delicate Arch Trailhead is a panel of petroglyphs left by previous inhabitants. The panel art is typical of what is seen in Ute rock carvings. Archeologists estimate that the markings were made sometime between 1650 and 1850.

Nearby, you’ll also see a small, one-room cabin built by John Wesley Wolfe in the late 1800s. If I had my pick of the Wild West in the late 1800s, I’m not sure that this is the spot I would have chosen to live. If you like blazing hot temperatures in the summer, sans shade trees and air conditioning, it might be a good choice for you. For that reason, this small, non-descript cabin is extra intriguing.

three kids standing in front of a one room cabin on wolfe ranch in arches national park

Hike to Sand Dune Arch in Devil’s Garden

Trail Difficulty: Easy

.4 miles

This short hike is popular with families. It offers some shade during the summer…and plenty of sand to play in for the younger hikers.

have some Extra Time in Arches?

If you still have time to burn during your 1 day at Arches National Park, check out some of the other nearby arches in the Devil’s Garden area of the park. Broken Arch and Skyline Arch are both good choices! Or, head over to the Devil’s Garden Trailhead and hike to Landscape Arch or Double O Arch. For those who feel extra adventurous, a ranger-led tour through the Fiery Furnace might be a good option!

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