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Hiking the Delicate Arch Trail in Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is one of the most popular arches in Arches National Park (how many times can I say “arches?”), and for good reason! It’s the largest free standing arch in the park, and with the La Sal Mountains behind it, the view really is beautiful. There are a few ways to see the arch – one is to look at Utah’s license plates, but to see it in person, you can hike the Delicate Arch Trail to see it up close, or head to a viewpoint for an easier, but less scenic, view. This guide will tell you how to see Delicate Arch, and about the Delicate Arch Trail, with everything you need to know – directions, what the trail is like, what to bring, and more!

Head’s up: some of these links are affiliate links, so I get a commission if you make a purchase (at no cost to you). But that’s great, because I was going to share anyway, and this helps me keep making free guides for you!

How to See Delicate Arch

If you’re in Arches National Park, Delicate Arch is one you absolutely shouldn’t miss. You have a few different options for viewing it, depending on how hard you want to work for the view!

Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint

This is the easiest viewpoint to reach. From the parking lot, you’ll walk a pretty flat 100 yards (91 m) to get to the lower viewpoint. From here, you can see Delicate Arch from a mile away.

Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint

To get a less obstructed view, you can do the short Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail. This hike is 1 mile (1.6 km) long – .5 miles each way – with 177 feet (54 m) of elevation gain. The trail is short, but a little steep. You’ll have another view of the arch, and this is a great trail for people who don’t have a lot of time, or don’t want to do the more strenuous trail.

Delicate Arch Trail

This is definitely the most scenic option, taking you right up close and personal to Delicate Arch! This trail is 3 miles (4.8 km) round trip, and climbs 480 feet (146m) – so while it’s doable for most people, it’s definitely more difficult, especially since you need to hike up on slickrock and have almost no shade. But, it’s so worth it for the view of Delicate Arch framing the La Sal Mountains.

About the Delicate Arch Trail

This hike is fairly steep, and exposed, so keep that in mind! But, it’s a doable trail for beginner hikers, as long as you bring enough water, and take breaks if needed.

Delicate Arch Trail Stats

  • Distance: 3.0 miles (4.8 kilometers) out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 480 feet (146 meters)
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Hike Time: I consider myself to be an average hiker, and this trail took me 1 hour and 50 minutes, including a break at the arch. You can check out my hike on Strava!

Leave No Trace on the Delicate Arch Trail

Anytime you’re outdoors, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the environment that will take the earth years, even decades to repair. This is a pretty popular hike, so it’s super important to make sure to prevent damage!

Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature, as much as it’s possible to do so. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you hike the Delicate Arch Trail!

  • Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you have the right gear, and bring extra water.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces – stay on the trail and don’t take any shortcuts, as this causes erosion, kills plant life, and damages trails.
  • Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. Pack it out!
  • Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the trail won’t be as pretty.
  • Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are not allowed on the trail.
  • Respect wildlife – don’t approach wild animals, and never feed them.
  • Be considerate of other visitors – yield to other hikers, and be respectful – no speakers or loud music.

The Best Time to Hike the Delicate Arch Trail

The best time to hike the Delicate Arch Trail is usually late spring or early fall.

Summers are very hot, and can be uncomfortable, and dangerous, for hiking – though you can definitely hit the trail early in the morning or late in the evening to beat the heat.

Winters get cold, but this can be a great time to hike the Delicate Arch Trail! There will be fewer people on the trail, and daytime temperatures usually range from the high 40s to low 50s. However, night time does get below freezing, and it does sometimes snow. One thing to keep in mind is that roads and trails can close in the winter due to ice or snow.

Don’t Forget Your Pass!

To hike the Delicate Arch Trail, you will need to pay the entrance fee for the park – and you’ll need to display your pass in your car anytime you park.

It costs $35 per car, but if you visit national parks often (or at least more than twice a year), I recommend getting an America the Beautiful Pass! It’s an annual pass that will get you into every national park in the country for an entire year, for just $80.

You can purchase either pass on your way into the park, or get an America the Beautiful pass online ahead of time!

What to Bring to Hike the Delicate Arch Trail

When you hike to Delicate Arch, here’s what you’ll need to bring! To see all of my favorite gear picks, you can check out my Rockporch.

What to Wear to Hike to Delicate Arch

What to Bring to Hike to Delicate Arch


Bonus Tip: A lot of these links are for my favorite place to buy outdoor gear – Backcountry. If you install the free Lolli extension on your browser, you can earn free Bitcoin when you shop online at certain retailers, including Backcountry. You can transfer it to a crypto wallet, or just cash out to your bank account.

Directions to the Delicate Arch Trail

The trailhead for the Delicate Arch hike is located in Arches National Park. If you’re flying in for your trip, the park is pretty remote, and a little far from major airports. The closest major airport is in Salt Lake City (230 miles from the park entrance), and there is the small Canyonlands Field Airpoirt (CFY) that’s just outside the park, and a regional airport in Grand Junction (GJT) that’s 109 miles from the park entance.

Expedia is a good way to find flights and rental cars, and I super recommend signing up for Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) – they send you amazing deals, so you can find cheap flights. The free account is great and totally worth the few minutes it takes to sign up, and I do recommend the premium account too!

You do need a car to get to the park. If you fly, you can rent a car through Discover Cars or Rental Cars. But, a great alternative to a rental car is a tiny home on wheels! With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option for vans is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb for campers – you can rent a van, RV, or trailer from a person in the area.

To get to Arches National Park from Salt Lake City, you’ll take I-15 S > US-6 E at Spanish Fork > US-191 S to the entrance.

From Grand Junction, you take I-70 W > US-191 S to the entrance.

From Moab, the park is a quick drive north on US-191.

Once you get to the park, you can drive right to the trailhead, which is about 13 miles from the entrance. This is a popular hike, so it can be hard to find parking. Getting there early helps!

Delicate Arch Trailhead Coordinates: 38.735624,-109.5207649

Hiking the Delicate Arch Trail

Once you’ve parked and are ready to start hiking, here’s what you can expect on the Delicate Arch Trail!

Delicate Arch Trailhead

This is a popular hike, and while the parking area is pretty big, it can occasionally be hard to find a spot. Getting there early in the morning can definitely help. There are trash cans and toilets at the trailhead.

Wolfe Ranch Cabin

The first thing you’ll see on the Delicate Arch Trail is the Wolfe Ranch Cabin. The tiny cabin was once inhabited, and you can take a peek inside.

Wolfe Ranch Cabin - a small log cabin close to the trailhead of the Delicate Arch Trail.

Petroglyphs

Shortly after the cabin, the trail comes to a junction, with a sign pointing left to the petroglyphs. This detour is definitely worth taking, as it comes back to the main trail pretty quickly, and the ancient petroglyphs are really cool to see.

Climbing the Slickrock Slab

Up until now, the trail has been pretty mild. But, when you get to the slab of slickrock, it definitely gets more difficult! You have to climb up the slab, so you’ll definitely want to make sure you have good shoes for this part. This can be dangerous in rainy weather, but in dry conditions, it’s not too hard – just steep, and exposed! The trail isn’t well defined here, but there are a few signs – so climb upwards, avoid stepping on vegetation, and have a map handy (though there are so many people on the trail, you can usually see where other hikers are going).

The slickrock portion of the Delicate Arch Trail.

Once you get to the top of this slab, you’ll head to the left, where the trail continues.

Delicate Arch

Just before you get to Delicate Arch, there’s a short section of trail where there is a steep drop off on the left. There’s a wall on your right, but this section can definitely be spooky if you’re afraid of heights! When you turn the corner, you’ll see Delicate Arch, which truly makes everything worth it. The arch framing the mountains behind it is absolutely beautiful.

The view from up here is great, but you can also walk down to the arch to stand right next to it! The descent down is on some more slickrock, so you’ll have to walk carefully so that you don’t slip.

Delicate Arch from the end of the trail, with the La Sal Mountains behind it.

Back to the Trailhead

Once you’ve enjoyed the view, you’ll head back the way you came, and back to the trailhead! The way back is all downhill, and much easier :).

Where to Stay Near the Delicate Arch Trail

You can turn your hike into a little getaway, and stay somewhere close by!

camping near the Delicate Arch Trail

For camping near Arches National Park, I recommend using The Dyrt – it’s the best way to find campsites. You can use the free version to find campsites, but with The Dyrt Pro you’ll also be able to see the boundaries of BLM Land around the national park. There’s one campground in the park – the Devil’s Garden Campground – but there are also options just outside the park. On BLM land, you can camp just about anywhere for free! You can try The Dyrt before you commit, so click here for a free trial.

There are plenty of options for free camping near Arches National Park – so check out this guide to learn how to find free campsites!

Try the Dirt Pro

Free for 30 days

Find campsites, plan road trips, and see the boundaries of national forest land where you can camp for free!

hotels near the Delicate Arch Trail

Hotels are always an easy, convenient option, and there are plenty of hotels, motels, and inns near Arches National Park! The town of Moab is just outside the park, and has plenty of lodging options.

Some options for places to stay:

  • Red Cliffs Lodge – a rustic but luxurious lodge gorgeous views of the Colorado River.
  • Hotel Moab Downtown – a hotel located right downtown, surrounded by red rock cliffs and views of the La Sal Mountains.
  • Big Horn Lodgea lodge style motel just 4 miles from Arches National Park.

For more options, check out this map of places to stay. Make sure to change the dates, and zoom out to see all of your options!

 

Cabins, Glamping, & Yurts

For a unique place to stay during your trip, check out Hipcamp! It’s like Airbnb for campsites – and you can find yurts, cabins (like this cabin near the Redwoods), glamping sites, and more. 

You can even get $10 off your first booking here!

A Camper van

With a camper van, you get a vehicle and a place to sleep, all in one! This is my favorite way to travel, and you can rent a fully decked out van with Escape Campervans. Another option is to use Outdoorsy, which is more like Airbnb – you can rent vans, RVs, and trailers from people who live nearby!

More Adventures Near the Delicate Arch Trail

Have you hiked this trail, or are you adding it to your bucket list? Let me know in a comment below!

There are so many more incredible hikes in Arches National Park, and Devil’s Garden is my favorite! You can also check out more of Utah’s national parks on your trip and visit Zion or Bryce Canyon.

Pin any of these photos to save this guide to the Delicate Arch Trail for later!

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