Located in eastern Utah, Arches National Park features a stunning landscape that simply has to be seen to be believed. With more than 2000 arch-shaped rock formations, not to mention spiraling rock towers and rolling hills, Arches is amongst the most iconic and spectacular national parks in the entire U.S. Each year, it lures more than a million visitors through its gates, most of whom don't stray all that far from the roads and the parking lots. But venture out into the more than 119 square miles of open area that make up the park's boundaries and you'll find plenty of unique and interesting things to keep you occupied.
Here are our top ten things to see and do in Arches National Park
Hike to Delicate Arch
The most famous rock formation inside Arches National Park is without a doubt Delicate Arch. In fact, this might be the most famous arch in the entire world, and it even graces the license plate for the state of Utah. Visitors can view Delicate Arch from the 0.5-mile Delicate Arch Viewpoints trail that bears its name. The walk is accessible, and worth the effort, with great views along the entire route. The more difficult Delicate Arch trail is 3 miles and takes hikers to the arch.
Take the Arches Scenic Drive
The main road through Arches National Park is the Arches Scenic Drive, which runs for 18 miles past some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the entire park. Along the way, you'll be able to spot many of the park's namesake rock formations, and if you feel the need to stretch your legs, the road wanders close to a number of prominent trailheads too.
Explore Fiery Furnace
A narrow, twisty landscape filled with winding passages, Fiery Furnace is one of the more unique landscapes found inside the park. Visitors can join a guided trip led by a park ranger several times a day, or opt to get their own permit to enter this maze-like region that simply looks otherworldly, especially during sunrise and sunset.
Most national parks allow camping in some fashion, and Arches is no different. That said, there is only one campsite in the entire park, and it is best to make reservations before going. The Devils Garden Campgrounds allows visitors to truly connect with the wilderness that surrounds them, providing fantastic views of amazing rock formations and the night sky overhead. The campgrounds also sit close to several good hiking trails, rock climbing routes, and other points of interest as well. Devils Garden offers 51 individual campsites, which can accommodate up to 10 people each, for $25/night.
Take a Ride on a Bike
As with most other national parks, cyclists must stay on the road at all times, although Arches is a wonderful place to go for a ride. Head to Salt Valley or Willow Springs Road, which are both especially well suited for exploration on bike. Those routes offer a good blend of a physical workout as well as access to some of the best views in the entire park. You'll have to head to nearby Moab to truly get some trail time, but this is a great way to see the park from the seat of your bike too.
Visit the Backcountry on Horseback
While bikes aren't permitted off road in Arches National Park, horses are definitely welcome in the backcountry. If you prefer to travel in the saddle, you'll find a lot of wonderful places to ride and explore. For now, overnight horse-camping is not permitted, but you can spend the entire day wandering on equine trails that pass through the same iconic landscapes found in many western films.
Walk the Park Avenue Trail
Great hiking is plentiful in Arches National Park, but some of the routes can be a bit daunting to certain members of the family. Instead, head to the Park Avenue Trail, which is an easy hike that still offers incredible scenery to take in along the way. The trail is just one mile in length but runs through a canyon to the foot of some of the park's most famous features.
Hone Your Photography Skills
Whether you fancy yourself an aspiring photographer or you're a professional looking for landscapes that can inspire, Arches has you covered. The park is a fantastic location to take memorable photographs, in no small part due to its awe-inspiring landscapes, amazing light and shadows, and unique color patterns. There are so many things to capture images of that you can spend days within the park just peeking through the lens of your camera. The result will be fantastic photos that you'll want to print and hang on your walls when you get back home.
Go Rock Climbing
With all of its natural rock formations, Arches National Park is a veritable playground for rock climbers. Most of the rock arches and towers found inside the park are open to those climbers, with a few notable exceptions and the occasional temporary closure. With so many great routes to choose from, experienced climbers can spend days within the park itself, while newcomers to the sport will find plenty of options to begin learning the tools of the trade as well.
Arches isn't blessed with quite as much wildlife as Yellowstone for example, but it still has plenty of unique creatures to spot if you keep your eyes open. Many of those animals only come out at night, so keep your eyes peeled at dusk and dawn to catch a glimpse of them as they venture forth. If you're lucky, you might see bobcats, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, and eagles.