Arches National Park

History | Backpacking | Biking | Camping | Climbing | Hiking | Photography
Ranger Programs | Scenic Drives | Junior Ranger Program





Arches National Park preserves over two thousand natural sandstone arches, including the world-famous Delicate Arch, in addition to a variety of unique geological resources and formations. In some areas, faulting has exposed millions of years of geologic history. The extraordinary features of the park, including balanced rocks, fins and pinnacles, are highlighted by a striking environment of contrasting colors, landforms and textures.

Park Information

Operation Hours/Seasons:  The Park is open year-round. The visitor center is open daily from 8am to 4:30pm, with extended hours spring through fall. Visitor Center is closed on December 25th.

Directions:  The entrance to Arches is located 5 miles north of Moab along Highway 191.

Weather:  In summer, June through September, temperatures may exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter, December through February, temperatures often drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Individual - $5 - 7 Days
Vehicle - $10 - 7 Days
Fiery Furnace Permits - Varies
Local Passport - $25 - 1 year
Good for entrance to Arches, Canyonlands, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges



Human Prehistory
Rocks have attracted visitors to Arches National Park for thousands of years. However, sightseeing has not been the main activity for very long. Hunter-gatherers migrated into the area about 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. As they explored Courthouse Wash and other areas in what is now Arches, they found pockets of chert and chalcedony, microcrystalline quartz perfect for making stone tools. Chipping or knapping these rocks into dart points, knives, and scrapers, they created debris piles that are still visible to the trained eye.

Then, roughly two thousand years ago, the nomadic hunters and gatherers began cultivating certain plants and settled into the Four Corners region. These early agriculturalists, known as the ancestral Puebloan and Fremont people, raised domesticated maize, beans, and squash, and lived in villages like those preserved at Mesa Verde National Park.

While no dwellings have been found in Arches, the northern edge of ancestral Puebloan territory, there are rock inscription panels. Like earlier people, the ancestral Puebloans left lithic scatters, often overlooking waterholes where someone may have shaped tools while watching for game. People living in modern-day pueblos like Acoma, Cochiti, Santa Clara, Taos, and the Hopi Mesas are descendants of the ancestral Puebloans.

The Fremont were contemporaries of the ancestral Puebloans and lived in the same general area, so distinctions between the two cultures are blurry. However, Fremont rock inscriptions, pottery and other artifacts clearly demonstrate the existence of different technologies and traditions. Both the Fremont and the ancestral Puebloans left the region about 700 years ago.

As the ancestral Puebloan and Fre-mont peoples were leaving, nomadic Shoshonean peoples such as the Ute and Paiute entered the area and were here to meet the first Europeans in 1776. The petroglyph panel near Wolfe Ranch is believed to have some Ute images since it shows people on horseback, and horses were adopted by the Utes only after they were introduced by the Spanish.

European History
The first Europeans to explore the Southwest were Spaniards. As Spain’s New World empire expanded, they searched for travel routes across the deserts to their California missions. In fact, the Old Spanish Trail linking Santa Fe and Los Angeles ran along the same route, past the park visitor center, that the highway does today.

The first reliable date within Arches is an interesting one. Denis Julien, a French-American trapper with a habit of chiseling his name and the date onto rocks throughout the Southwest, left an inscription in this area: Denis Julien, June 9, 1844. If we only knew what he thought of the wonders he saw!

The first European settlement of Southern Utah arose from the colonizing efforts of the Mormon Church. The Mormons attempted to establish the Elk Mountain Mission in what is now Moab in June of 1855, but conflicts with the Utes caused them to abandon the effort. In the 1800s and 1890s, Moab was settled permanently by ranchers, prospectors, and farmers. One settler even found a beautiful spot within what is now Arches National Park. John Wesley Wolfe, a veteran of the Civil War, built the homestead known as Wolfe Ranch around 1898, seeking good fortune in the newly established State of Utah. It is located on Salt Wash, at the beginning of the Delicate Arch Trail. Wolfe and his family lived there a decade or more, then moved back to Ohio. The cabin remains, an echo of what must have been a remarkable experience.

One of the earliest settlers to describe the beauty of the red rock country around Arches was Loren “Bish” Taylor, who took over the Moab newspaper in 1911 when he was eighteen years old. Bish editorialized for years about the marvels of Moab, and loved exploring and describing the rock wonderland just north of the frontier town. Some of his journeys were with John “Doc” Williams, Moab’s first doctor. As Doc rode his horse north to ranches and other settlements, he often climbed out of Salt Valley to the spot now called Doc Williams Point, stopped to let his horse rest and looked back over the fabulously colored rock fins.

Word spread. Alexander Ringhoffer, a prospector, wrote the Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1923 in an effort to publicize the area and gain support for creating a national park. Ringhoffer led railroad executives interested in attracting more rail passengers into the formations; they were impressed, and the campaign began. The government sent research teams to investigate and gather evidence. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation creating Arches National Monument, to protect the arches, spires, balanced rocks, and other sandstone formations. In 1971 Congress changed the status of Arches to a National Park, recognizing over 10,000 years of cultural history that flourished in this now famous landscape of sandstone arches and canyons.




Arches is a relatively small park, with very few areas far enough from roads to qualify as backcountry. Outside the developed areas there are no designated trails, campsites, or reliable water sources.  In order to backpack in Arches, you must obtain a free backcountry permit at the visitor center. The maximum group size is twelve, but smaller groups are strongly recommended to reduce impacts. Permits may not be reserved in advance. Backpackers should know how to navigate with a topographic map, recognize safety hazards and practice low-impact camping specific to the high desert. Primary safety considerations include steep terrain, loose rock, lightning, flash floods, and dehydration.  Pets may not accompany groups in the backcountry.



In Arches, bicycles are permitted only on roads: there is no single track or trail riding within the park. Use caution when biking on the main road. Please ride single file and stay to the edge of the lane. Many of the dirt roads here are sandy or washboarded; however, the Willow Springs road offers an enjoyable two to three hour ride.




The Devils Garden campground is located eighteen miles from the park entrance and is open year-round. From mid-March to late October, a $10 per night fee is charged. From late October to mid-March, the fee is $5 per night.

Individual campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. From March to October, visitors must pre-register for campsites at the entrance station. Pre-registration begins at 7:30 a.m. (go to the visitor center if the entrance station is closed). During these months, the campground fills daily, often by 9 a.m.

Campground facilities include potable water, tables, grills as well as pit-style and flush toilets (water is turned off during the winter months). There are no showers. Bring your own wood or charcoal for the grills. Some sites will accommodate RV's up to 30 feet in length. Check at the visitor center for more information.

Group Sites

The campground has two sites for groups of eleven or more people. The Juniper Basin campsite will accommodate up to 55 people; the Canyon Wren campsite up to 35. The group camping fee is $3 per person per night, with a $33 per night minimum. No recreational vehicles or trailers are permitted in the group sites.

Group campsites may be reserved through NRRS year-round. Reservations must be made no less than 4 days and no more than 360 days in advance. Unreserved group campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of arrival. To make a reservation, visit


The rock at Arches offers excellent climbing opportunities, despite its sandy nature. Most climbing routes in the park require advanced techniques. Permits are not required, unless the trip involves an overnight stay in the backcountry.

It the responsibility of all climbers to know and obey park regulations and route closures (see left margin).


  1. Use of motorized drills is prohibited.
  2. Climbing is prohibited on any arch identified on current USGS 7.5 minute topographical maps; on Balanced Rock year-round; on Bubo from January 1st to June 30th; on Industrial Disease on the Devil Dog Spire from January 1st to June 30th.
  3. The use of chalk for climbing must be of a color which blends with the native rock.
  4. Climbers are encouraged to employ clean-climbing ethics, leave dull-colored webbing when recovery is impossible, and access climbing routes via established trails, slickrock or sandy washes.



Easy Trails

Balanced Rock
A loop trail around the base of a fragile, picturesque rock formation.
Starting Point:
Balanced Rock parking area
Length: 0.3 mile (0.5 km) round trip
Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Broken Arch
Starting Point: Sand Dune Arch parking area or Devils Garden campground across from campsite #40
Length: 1.2 miles (2 km) round trip; 2 miles (3.2 km) including the loop
Time: 30 to 60 minutes
From the Sand Dune Arch parking area, the trail cuts across a large meadow to the arch and continues to the campground. Loop trail leads through fin canyons with sand dunes and slickrock.

Delicate Arch Viewpoint
Starting Point: Delicate Arch Viewpoint parking area
Length: 100 yards (91 meters) round trip
Time: 10 to 15 minutes
In addition to the short accessible trail, another (moderately strenuous) hiking trail climbs one-half mile (0.8 km) toward Delicate Arch and ends at the rim of a steep canyon that separates the viewpoint from the arch. (This is not the popular trail to Delicate Arch, which starts at the Wolfe Ranch parking area.)

Desert Nature Trail
Starting Point: Arches Visitor Center
Length: 0.2 mile (0.3 km) round trip
Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Discover the adaptations of plants and animals in the desert on a self-guided nature walk. Trail guide available at the trailhead.

Double Arch
Starting Point: Double Arch parking area
Length: 0.5 mile (0.8 km) round trip
Time: 15 to 30 minutes
A relatively flat, sandy trail leads to the base of two giant arch spans which are joined at one end.

Landscape Arch
Starting Point: Devils Garden trailhead parking area
Length: 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip
Time: 30 to 60 minutes
A relatively flat, gravel-surfaced trail (usually heavily populated with hikers) leads to a spectacular ribbon of rock, whose span is more than a football field in length. Short side trips to Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. Trail guide available at trailhead.

Sand Dune Arch
Starting Point: Sand Dune Arch parking area
Length: 0.4 mile (0.6 km) round trip
Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Trail leads through deep sand to a secluded arch among sandstone fins.

Skyline Arch
Starting Point: Skyline Arch parking area
Length: 0.4 mile (0.6 km) round trip
Time: 10 to 20 minutes
A short hike on a flat, well-defined trail. On a cold November night in 1940, a large chunk fell out of the arch, instantly doubling the size of its opening.

The Windows
Starting Point: Windows parking area
Length: 1 mile (1.6 km) round trip
Time: 30 to 60 minutes
A gentle climb up a gravel loop trail leads to three massive arches (North and South Windows and Turret Arch). An alternate return, slightly longer, is by way of the primitive loop around the back of the two Windows. The primitive loop trail starts at the South Window viewpoint.


Moderate Trails

Park Avenue Trail
Starting Point: Park Avenue parking area
Ending Point: Courthouse Towers parking area
Length: 1 mile (1.6 km) one way
Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Elevation change: 320 feet (98 meters)
From Park Avenue parking area, the trail descends steeply into a spectacular canyon and continues down the wash to Courthouse Towers. If you have a shuttle driver, you can begin at one point and be picked up at the other. For round-trip hiking, retrace your steps along the trail rather than walk along the park road.

Tower Arch
Starting Point: Klondike Bluffs parking area, via the Salt Valley road
Length: 3.4 miles (5.6 km) round trip
Time: 2 to 3 hours
The trail climbs a steep, but short, rock wall, cuts across a valley and then meanders through sandstone fins and sand dunes. An alternate, shorter trail (0.3 mile [0.4 km] one way), begins at the end of the four-wheel-drive road on the west side of Tower Arch. This unpaved road washes out quickly in rainstorms; inquire at the visitor center about road conditions before heading out.


Long Trails

Delicate Arch
Starting Point: Wolfe Ranch parking area
Length: 3 miles (4.8 km) round trip
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Elevation change: 480 feet (146 meters)
Take at least 1 quart (1 liter) of water per person! There is no shade. Open slickrock with some exposure to heights. The first half-mile is a wide, well-defined trail. Upon reaching the slickrock, follow the rock cairns. The trail climbs gradually and levels out toward the top of this rock face. Just before you get to Delicate Arch, the trail goes along a rock ledge for about 200 yards.

Devils Garden Primitive Loop
Starting Point: Devils Garden Trailhead parking area
Length: 7.2 miles (11.5 km) round trip, including all points of interest
Time: 3 to 5 hours
Longest of the maintained trails in the park, the Devils Garden Trail leads to eight awe-inspiring arches. Expect narrow ledges with rocky surface hiking and scrambling on slickrock. Not recommended when rock is wet or snowy. Trail guide available at trailhead.

Double O Arch
Starting Point: Devils Garden Trailhead parking area
Length: 4 miles (6.4 km) round trip
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Beyond Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more challenging as it climbs over sandstone slabs; footing is rocky; there are narrow ledges with exposure to heights. Spur trails lead to Partition and Navajo Arches. Dark Angel is one-half mile (0.8 km) farther. Trail guide available at trailhead.

Fiery Furnace
The Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons and fins. There are no marked trails and the area has suffered resource damage due to increased visitation.  Visitors who want to explore the Fiery Furnace must obtain a hiking permit at the visitor center (fee charged) and watch a minimum impact video. All groups are encouraged to sign up for a ranger-guided hike.



Arches is a photographer's paradise. The combination of brilliant colors and unique landforms (many close to the scenic drive), lends itself to picture-taking. In fact, many features of Arches, especially Delicate Arch, can be seen on posters and advertisements around the world.  Though there are great spots throughout the park, here are some recommended locations for visitors who like to leave the scouting to someone else:

Early Morning
Moab Fault, The Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, The Great Wall, Turret Arch, The Spectacles, Double Arch, Cache Valley, Wolfe Ranch, Double O Arch, Landscape Arch.

Late Afternoon
Park Avenue, Courthouse Towers, Petrified Dunes, Balanced Rock, The Garden of Eden, North and South Windows, Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Skyline Arch, Fins in Devils Garden, Tower Arch.


Ranger Programs

Fiery Furnace Walks
Rangers lead walks into the Fiery Furnace twice each day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. These 2.5 to 3 hour hikes are moderately strenuous, requiring the occasional use of hands to scramble through narrow cracks and along narrow ledges. Visitors are encouraged to accompany a ranger for safety and to reduce impacts. In order to visit the Fiery Furnace without a ranger, visitors must obtain a permit (fee charged) at the visitor center.

In order to support the program, fees are now charged for Fiery Furnace walks. The cost is $6 for adults; $3 for children six to twelve years old and adults sixty-two or older. Group size is limited, and these popular walks often fill a day or two in advance. Make your reservation and pay your fee at the visitor center up to seven days in advance of the walk, and for groups of no more than ten people. Larger groups can request a special tour by contacting the park; a minimum of four weeks' notice is advised.

Other Guided Walks

Rangers lead easy, one-hour walks each day at different locations throughout the park.

Evening Programs

Join a ranger at the Devils Garden campground amphitheater (next to Canyon Wren group campsite and across the road from campsite #25) nightly. Programs last about forty-five minutes.


Scenic Drive

The road system in Arches passes many outstanding natural features. As Arches' popularity has increased, people have begun to park in areas that damage plants and sometimes endanger other visitors. Please park in established lots only. Generally, parking spaces are easier to find before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

Drive to the Windows Section and see some of the park's largest arches. (Add one-half hour to stroll beneath either North Window or Double Arch.).
Drive to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint and see the world's most famous arch, a mile distant. Stop at Wolfe Ranch on your way back and imagine what it would have been like to homestead this relatively barren area in the late 1800s.


Junior Ranger Program

Hey Kids!  Tired of just sitting in the car, looking at that stuff adults call scenery? Do you want to know more about Arches and help protect the park?  Then the Junior Ranger program is for you!  If you are between the ages of six and twelve, and you are planning to spend at least one day in Arches, pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor center.
You must complete several activities in the booklet, like word games, drawings and fill-in-the-blanks about why you shouldn't chase or catch lizards. You must also gather a bag of litter or bring twenty aluminum cans to be recycled and attend a ranger program or watch the slide program at the visitor center.
  It's that simple!  Once you're finished, you can pick up your badge at the visitor center.
Becoming a Junior Ranger is a serious and important task, but it's lots of fun too! Check it out!




For Additional Information Contact:

Arches National Park
PO Box 907
Moab, UT 84532-0907
(435) 719-2299



For more information visit the National Park Service website