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Explore Arches National Park: Flexible Itineraries for 1, 2, or 3 Days

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Nestled in the mesmerizing high desert of southeastern Utah, Arches National Park boasts over 2,000 natural stone arches, towering pinnacles, and wild rock fins. It’s mind-blowing on so many different levels. I can truthfully say, it’s one of the most amazing places in Utah. If you’re planning a Utah desert trip, this Arches National Park itinerary will help you make the most of your time without missing any of the most iconic places in the park.

moab utah with kids

As a Utah local, I’ve spent years exploring this breathtaking landscape with my family, and it holds a special place in my hearts. I’ve been to Arches more times than I can count and every time I discover something new and amazing. With nearly two decades of adventuring in this region, I’ll share my best tips to help families craft an unforgettable journey filled with iconic sights, insider secrets, and practical advice that only a Utah local can share.

arches national park hike

The Best Time to Visit Arches National Park

Choosing the right time to visit Arches can make a world of difference, especially when traveling with kids. Spring (March-April) and fall (mid-September-October) provide ideal weather conditions for exploration. Temperatures during these seasons are more mild, letting your family comfortably hike and explore the stunning landscape. In spring, wildflowers and cactus blooms dot the terrain, adding vibrant color to the red rock backdrop, while autumn brings a palette of golden hues against the iconic rock formations.

arches national park moab

Summer can be scorching, with temperatures reaching over 105°F regularly, making mid-afternoon hikes challenging and often dangerous. However, you can still enjoy the park by starting activities early in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler. Remember to carry ample water (1 gallon/person/day), wear sun protective clothing, and apply sunscreen generously. Grab my Arches Packing List to simplify your trip!

Winter, while significantly cooler and often dropping below freezing at night, can be an incredible time to visit. The low crowds, serene landscapes, and occasional snowfall create an otherworldly atmosphere. But be prepared for icy trails, and plan to layer up to stay warm.

arches national park delicate arch hike winter

1 Day in Arches National Park

Even with just one day to spend, Arches National Park promises a thrilling adventure and beautiful scenery for all ages. The key is planning an itinerary that balances excitement, safety, fun, and time to soak in the views. Here’s how to make the most of your 1 day in Arches:

arches national park park avenue
Park Avenue

Morning Itinerary:

  1. Park Avenue Trail: Start the morning with a gentle 1-mile (one-way) walk through Park Avenue. The towering monoliths and rock fins that line this natural corridor will captivate you, especially as the morning light dances across the formations. Encourage your kids to spot the various shapes the rocks take on—a fun way to keep them engaged. Don’t forget to bring your camera; the shadows cast during this time of day offer ideal photo opportunities.
    Local Tip: This trail is often done as a 1-way trail, so plan on having someone pick you up at the bottom of Park Avenue or to hike back up once you reach the end.
  2. Balanced Rock: Head to Balanced Rock next, one of the park’s most iconic formations. A short, easy walk from the parking lot brings you up close to this colossal rock, as tall as three school buses. Your kids will love trying to figure out how this massive boulder stays perched atop its base. It’s also a great place to pause for a snack or quick family photo.
  3. Windows Section: Dedicate the rest of your morning to the Windows area, home to Turret Arch, North and South Windows, and Double Arch. These arches are easy to access with relatively short trails, giving everyone a chance to stretch their legs without major mileage. The Windows Section provides incredible views and photo opportunities, showing you why Arches National Park is a geological marvel.
    Local Tip: The parking lot at the Windows fills quickly, but because of how short the hikes are, it also turns over quickly. If there are no open spaces, keep trying since something usually opens up in about 5-10 minutes.
arches national park double arch
Double Arch

Afternoon Itinerary for Arches:

  1. Delicate Arch Hike: Tackle the park’s most famous trail, a 3-mile round-trip hike to Delicate Arch. Although the hike is moderately challenging, it’s worth every step once you reach this freestanding natural wonder. Ensure your family is prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and snacks. It’s also a good idea to wear hats and lightweight, long-sleeved shirts for sun protection (a good sun shirt will keep you much cooler than a tank top). Reaching Delicate Arch is a breathtaking experience that will leave a lasting impression on your memory. Plan to start this hike mid to late afternoon to capture the warm afternoon light on the arch.
    READ: The Complete Guide to Hiking Delicate Arch
arches national park delicate arch
Delicate Arch

Evening at Garden of Eden:

  1. Sunset at Garden of Eden: Conclude your one-day journey at Garden of Eden, an area known for its panoramic sunset views and dramatic rock formations that glow beautifully in the fading light. This lesser-known gem is often less crowded, providing a more intimate way to wrap up your visit. Depending on the season and how late the sun sets, it’s also a great place to enjoy a picnic dinner while the sun goes down.
arches national park garden of eden
Garden of Eden

Arches National Park 2 Day Itinerary

With two days to spend, you’ll have the opportunity to uncover more hidden gems and tackle longer trails. For the first day of your trip, follow our day 1 itinerary.

Day Two in Arches Morning Itinerary:

  1. Devils Garden Trailhead: Start your second day at the Devils Garden Trailhead, where you’ll find nine arches accessible from a single starting point. For a simple, accessible hike, follow the trail to Landscape Arch, North America’s longest natural arch. The 2-mile round trip passes Pinetree and Tunnel Arches and is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.
  2. Extended Devils Garden Hike: Adventurous hikers can continue past Landscape Arch on an 8-mile trek to see all the arches in the Devils Garden area, such as Double O Arch and Private Arch. The further you go, the quieter it gets, offering a peaceful retreat away from the crowds. The route is surrounded by fascinating geological features like spires and fins that make this region truly unique.

Day Two Afternoon:

  1. Sand Dune Arch: Enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch at the Devils Garden picnic area before heading south to Sand Dune Arch. Kids and adults will both love playing in the soft sand beneath this shaded arch, a natural playground where they can dig with shovels, build sandcastles, or simply run around and have fun.
  2. Broken Arch: From Sand Dune Arch, take the trail to Broken Arch. Contrary to its name, this arch is still intact, offering a straightforward hike through juniper trees. It’s a perfect spot for a calm walk while soaking up the landscape’s natural beauty.
arches national park sand dune
Hiking to Sand Dune Arch

Sunset at Balanced Rock or Park Avenue: After a long day of hiking and exploring, wind down by catching the sunset at Balanced Rock or Park Avenue. Both locations offer easy, low-energy ways to enjoy the final rays of the day.

A Three-Day Arches National Park Itinerary

Three days allow you to explore Arches in-depth and experience my absolute favorite hike and place to explore in Arches National Park.

Day One in Arches: Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, the Windows, Delicate Arch
Day Town in Arches: Devils Garden, Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch

arches national park fiery furnace
Fiery Furnace

Day Three: Fiery Furnace Adventure

  1. Fiery Furnace Labyrinth: The Fiery Furnace is a labyrinth of narrow sandstone canyons, towering spires, and hidden arches that offer a unique, adventurous experience for active families. Access is limited to guided tours or permits, which cost $10 per person and require safety training advance. The maze-like environment provides a challenge for all ages, and first-timers should go with a guide to ensure they can navigate the twisting canyons and slot passages, since getting lost is a very real possibility here (and GPS and phones don’t work reliably inside here). You will love the scramble over slick rock, the thrill of finding hidden arches, and the magical feeling of this natural playground. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do in Arches National Park and the best way to escape the crowds at Arches.
    READ: Everything You Need to Know About Hiking the Fiery Furnace in Arches
arches national park fiery furnace

Day Three Evening:

  1. Skyline Arch: Finish your day—and your Arches adventure—by watching the sunset at Skyline Arch. It’s a relatively easy spot to reach, offering incredible views as the sun dips below the horizon.

Best Activities Outside of Arches

Arches National park is located just outside of Moab Utah, and down the road from Canyonlands National Park and Deadhorse Point State Park. To say that there are a lot of things to do in the area would be an understatement. Here are some of our other articles with good ideas for things to do in the area:

Best Moab Hikes with Kids
17 Amazing Moab Adventures with Kids
Best Moab Hotels for Families
Biking Canyonlands White Rim
Canyonlands Itinerary
Best Easy Moab Bike Trails
Arches and Canyonlands Bucket List
Best Moab Parks and Playgrounds for Kids

Arches Timed Entry Reservation System

To ensure all visitors enjoy Arches without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, the park implemented a timed entry system. From April 1 to October 31, between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., visitors must have a reservation to enter. Reservations are made through Recreation.gov three months in advance. A limited number of tickets are released at 7 p.m. MDT the day before, but these sell out quickly. While the Arches timed entry system can feel like a pain, the process ensures you’ll have plenty of time to explore at your own pace while keeping the park’s trails serene and accessible without overcrowding.

arches national park

Tips for an Unforgettable Trip to Arches National Park

Preparation Is Key:

  • Hydration: Ensure everyone in your family has their own water bottle, and carry extra in your daypack. A hydration system with a hose allows kids to sip while walking, which we’ve found is one of the best ways to keep kids hydrated in the desert.
  • Sunscreen and Protective Gear: The high desert sun can be intense, so don’t skimp on sunscreen and protective clothing. Hats, lightweight long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses are must-haves.
  • Food: Bring high-energy snacks like trail mix, dried fruit, or granola bars to keep energy levels up. There is nowhere to get food and water in most of the park.
arches national park

Respect the Ecosystem:

  • Leave No Trace: Stay on marked trails, carry out all your trash, and avoid disturbing the delicate ecosystem. Children can participate by learning about the park’s plants and animals and understanding why it’s important to protect their habitats by participating in the Junior Ranger Program at Arches.
  • Resource Conservation: Use water sparingly, and encourage your kids to do the same. Shorter showers and turning off taps are small steps that help preserve this desert environment.

Plan for Adventure and Safety:

  • Layering Up: Weather conditions can change quickly, especially in the evening. Make sure your family is prepared with layers they can add or remove as needed.
  • Park Maps: Even with marked trails, it’s important to carry a physical map to guide you through the park. Teach older kids how to read it, making them feel like active participants in planning.

Tips for Taking Kids to Arches National Park

Taking the kids to Arches National Park? You’re in for a treat! We take our kids here often, and whether they’re toddlers or teens, it’s one of their favorite places to explore, since the whole place feels like a giant playground. You absolutely will need this guide to all of the kid friendly hikes in Arches.

arches national park delicate arch

First things first: grab those timed entry reservations ahead of time on Recreation.gov. During peak season, you won’t get in without one, so mark your calendar when tickets become available, so you can grab a time that works with your kids schedules.

Next, you’ll need to prepare for the desert heat. Make sure everyone has their own water bottle (so you can track how much they drink), and consider hydration packs for the kids—it keeps their hands free and makes drinking water fun and always make my kids drink MORE! If your kids don’t like to drink a lot of water, grab some of these little electrolyte mixes to keep them hydrated better and add some flavor to their drink. Sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses are must-haves because the sun can be brutal out here.

arches national park hike

The best time to hike in Arches is in the winter, spring, and fall when it’s cooler. Temperatures can still get really hot in late spring and early fall, so use good judgment. During the summer, only plan on hiking early in the day or in the evening. We recommend being off the trail between 10am-5pm. Exerting yourself in really high temperatures is very dangerous and lots of visitors to the area suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

The Junior Ranger Program at Arches is really great and does a fantastic job of teaching kids how to protect the desert ecosystem. I highly recommend it for all ages (even my 14-year-old enjoyed it on our recent trip!)

For hikes with little kids, you’ll want to stick with the ones that’ll thrill the kids without wearing them out. Balanced Rock, the Windows Section, and Sand Dune Arch are winners: short trails but big on impact. They’ll love climbing around these unique rock formations while you all marvel at the natural wonders. Sand Dune Arch even has soft sand for them to play in!

arches national park sand dune
Soft Sand at Sand Dune Arch and plenty of SHADE!

Snacks are a lifesaver in the park and since there is nowhere to buy anything past the visitors center, you’ll want to have plenty on hand, as well was a packed lunch and/or dinner. Pack plenty of trail mix, granola bars, and fruit to keep everyone’s energy up. Start your hikes early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the midday heat and to score quieter trails. And hey, it’s totally fine to take it slow. Plan some downtime with a picnic at Devil’s Garden or the Garden of Eden while you soak up those stunning views together.

arches national park sand dune

If your older kids are up for an adventure, book a ranger-guided tour through the Fiery Furnace. It’s a maze-like labyrinth that’s fun to navigate with a guide who knows all the cool facts about the geology. Make sure you book this one in advance—it’s a popular tour, and spaces fill up fast. Note: this hike is only for kids age 6 and older.

At the end of the day, don’t sweat about cramming everything in. Take your time exploring, let the kids dig in the sand, and just enjoy this time together. You’re sure to create some incredible family memories in one of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth!

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

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