Looking for an epic two days in Arches National Park itinerary? You have come to the right place!
The Moab, Utah, region is one of the most visited locations in all of the United States and it’s easy to see why. Vivid red sandstone create breathtaking formations as far as the eye can see, petroglyphs that date back hundreds and even thousands of years, and all the hiking, biking, climbing, and off-roading you could ever imagine make Moab a nature lover’s paradise. But what draws most people to the area is Arches National Park.
While one could spend weeks soaking in the magnificent beauty of Arches National Park, it can also be a wonderful place to spend a couple of days, especially as one stop in a larger overall trip to other Utah National parks such as Zion National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Bryce Canyon National Park.
With so much to see and do it’s easy to become overwhelmed, so let’s unpack a two day trip to Arches that will maximize your time and enjoyment. The best 48 Hours in Arches National Park here.
5 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO AT ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
1. Prepare for the Heat
Arches can get HOT. Most of the trails don’t provide a lot of shade and the composition of the red rock can turn the ground into an oven, with you as one being cooked. That means it is vital to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate again.
If you’re going on any level of hike, make sure to bring at least a gallon per person. Fortunately there are places to refill those bottles at the beginning of the more popular trails.
Other things you’ll need to beat the heat will be sunscreen, a sun hat, and snacks to keep the energy up.
Pro Tip: One things most people forget to bring is electrolyte packets. Athletes use them for a reason. You can drink all you want but if you’re sweating out all your electrolytes without replenishing them you’ll end up feeling miserable.
2. Get Your Timed Ticket:
With over 1.5 million people visiting each year, Arches is one of the most popular National Parks in the country. That means you’ll need to book your timed ticket (Recreation.gov) and get them early.
There are an increasing number of days that the Arches timed tickets sell out, especially during peak season (April-September). Each of the days we were in Moab we heard people complaining that they’d come all the way out only to be turned away because the park was sold out.
3. You Will Need a Car:
Unlike Arches’ neighbor Zion National Park, which requires you to ride the shuttle, Arches has yet to offer a shuttle system.
Driving from one end of the park to the other takes nearly an hour, so you are going to need a car. Also, please remember that there are no gas stations in Arches. Given the vast size of the park, you will put some miles on your vehicle, so make sure to fill that tank before you head in.
4. Parking Can Be A Problem:
Since everyone needs a car, it also means everyone needs to park that car. Needless to say, getting parking for the premiere hikes (Delicate Arch, Park Avenue, etc.) can be difficult.
There were multiple places we spent twenty to thirty minutes circling around waiting for a spot to open up or had to park at the next pull off down the road and walk up to a mile extra to begin our hikes. To help you combat this problem, in the itinerary I’ve provided I’ve put the parking lots most likely to fill up earlier in the day.
5. Cell Service is Unreliable:
This can come as a surprise to many of us who are used to being able to make a call, or look up the answer to a question, anywhere we go. While the cell service has improved in recent years, it is still spotty at best and shouldn’t be counted on if you are in a pinch.
Pro Tip: For those of you who use your phone to find your way everywhere, Google Maps has an off-line ability. You can download a region of the world to your phone and then use it when you either have no service or are on airplane mode.
It isn’t 100% as detailed as the online version, but it is extremely helpful in places like Arches. You do need your location services turned on for this feature to work.
Now that you’re prepared for Arches, let’s set a two day itinerary. The way I’ve set this up is for maximum impact. That means two things: First, I’ve cut out any of the hikes longer than 4 miles. While the longer hikes of Arches are a thrilling adventure to undertake, they are better if you have an extended stay, as many of them can be challenging and will eat up the better part of your day.
If you only have forty-eight hours, you’ll want to be able to get the most out of it. Second, I’ve put the best things earlier in the day in this Arches itinerary. That way you get that valuable parking spot, avoid the heat, and you can stop if you get worn out without missing the essentials.
Two days in Arches National Park Itinerary
In this guide we provide you with a Arches National Park two day itinerary but you can mix and match our suggestions if you only want a one day Arches National Park itinerary
One Day in Arches National Park Itinerary
Total = 5 Stops • 5.2 miles • 625 feet elevation
1. Double Arch • 0.6 miles • 95 feet elevation • Easy
Double Arch is a wonderful place to start your Arches experience. The road to Double Arch is stuffed full of smaller pull over and gawk stops; Pothole Arch, Adam and Eve, Owl Rock, etc.
Make sure to stop and enjoy a few of them along the way as it is very scenic. Once you get to the Double Arch you will find that if all you’re after is the perfect photo, you can get it from within a few feet of the parking lot. We certainly hope you don’t stop there because the real fun of Double Arch is up close. Under Double Arch is very climbable and you’ll see people finding their own paths up the stony slope.
Fortunately, that red rock gives amazing traction so if you have even relatively good hiking shoes, you can head up as far as you’d like.
If you are agile, and have a sense of adventure, you can scamper all the way up to the edge and peer over at the dizzying drop off.
2. Window’s Loop • 1.2 miles • 154 feet elevation • Easy
On the other side of the parking lot from Double Arch is the Window’s Loop Trail including Turret Arch. One of the best things about the Window’s Loop is that you can take the easy round trip path or the harder one.
The easy path walks you on a straight path right up the front to the two Window’s Arches, where you can stand in them and look at those hiking longer the path below.
However, if you’re up for a bit more, the full 1.2 mile loop is highly worthwhile. This is a pleasant trail that takes you around the back of the arches for some amazing photo opportunities. It also has a few fun places to scramble, if you like to play on rocks.
3. The Devil’s Garden Trio • 1.9-2.6 miles • 252 feet elevation • Easy/Moderate
Driving north to the furthest paved point of Arches you’ll find Devils Garden trail. One of the best things about Arches is that you can see nearly all of the highlights (Double Arch, Window Arch, Balanced Rock, Park Avenue, Delicate Arch, etc.) from the parking lot or from an observation platform that is within a few hundred yards of your car.
However, the Devils Garden Trio (Landscape Arch, Pinetree Arch, and Tunnel Arch) actually require you to hike to get a glimpse of their treasures, but it is well worth the effort.
The two smaller arches, Tunnel (adds .3 mile round trip) and Pinetree (adds .4 round trip), are quick side adventures you can take on your way to Landscape Arch.
While most hiking sites list the Landscape hike as an easy, we would still consider a couple of the short but steep spots moderate, as we noted a few people struggling to hike up the incline.
Don’t be intimidated by it, just take it slow and you should make it. Landscape is so thin and so large that the arch feels more delicate than Delicate Arch. Its size and frailty inspires gasps from more than a few of the hikers who have stopped to admire the massive marvel.
4. Sand Dune Arch • 0.3 miles • 124 feet elevation • Easy
Sand Dune Arch has a unique feature that is obvious from its name; it is quite a sandy hike to get to. The deep sand does mean that, despite it only being a short path, it will require a little more effort to manage.
Nestled in-between two towering cliffs, the entry feels very secluded. Once you’re in, there are multiple fun places to get the tight slot canyon photos you’ve been looking for without having to squeeze yourself through anything uncomfortable.
While the arch is smaller than most, there are also less people coming to view it, which means it may be your best chance to get that perfect family photo under the arch without a hundred other people in it.
Once you get back to the parking lot, you’ll be amazed how such a short hike can produce a seemingly endless supply of sand getting poured out of your shoes.
5. Enjoy the Arches Scenic Drive Back
Arches’ nonstop beauty means there is more than you could ever hope to hike in two days. Fortunately, you can take advantage of the dozens of pullovers the park has provided to drink in the scenery.
Take your time driving back to enjoy the spectacular views of areas such as Doc Williams Fiery Furnace, Salt Valley, the Petrified Dunes, Flatiron Arch, Schmidt Arch, and Panorama Point.
Arches National Park Two day Itinerary
Total = 5 Stops • 5.7 miles • 1082 feet elevation
1. Delicate Arch Hike • 3.4 miles round trip • 629 feet elevation • Moderate
Delicate Arch is the arch that defines Arches National Park. If it feels like seeing the arch is deja vu, it’s because Delicate Arch is the image on the Utah license plate.
Considering all the beauty that Utah has to hold, that’s saying something. Because of its iconic popularity, we can’t recommend strongly enough that, during peak season (April-October), you get to the Delicate Arch parking lot before the park officially opens.
We arrived in the Delicate Arch parking lot at 7am and got the second to last parking spot. Rangers were already putting up signs to say the lot was closed. You are not allowed to park on the side of the road and Delicate Arch’s alternative parking lot is over a mile away. That means if you don’t get there early you are adding an extra 2.2 miles on your hike.
This will be your longest hike of the trip and does rate as a moderate due to the incline and the distance. One thing to note is that there is a narrow pathway towards the end of the hike that has a couple hundred feet drop off on one side.
If you get nervous about heights, you will want to hug the wall because there is no rope or railing. Do your best not to turn back because once you’ve passed that area you have another small climb before you are to Delicate Arch.
You’ll likely find hundreds of people sitting round the bowl of the arch having a snack, climbing a few of the nearby rocks, and making their way up to take their own personal photos with the magnificent Delicate Arch.
After getting back to your car, make sure to take a left out of the parking lot and drive down to the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint. This will give you a good chance to see Delicate Arch from another perspective.
2. Balanced Rock • .3 miles • 55 feet elevation • Easy
While Balanced Rock may be your easiest hike of the trip, there is a pleasure in taking the short, flat, walk around the precariously placed rock to get the perfect angle for your photo collection.
The signs along the path also give helpful information as to the science of what you’re seeing.
3 & 4. Park Avenue and The Courthouse • 1.8 miles • 298 feet elevation • Easy
Much like the Double Arch and Windows Loop, Park Avenue has the easy option and the tougher option. The easy option is a few dozen feet to a platform where you can get your quintessential panoramic shot. Off to the side of the overlook is a set of stairs that takes you to the Avenue.
Once down on the ground level, you feel enveloped by the rocky towering walls. It is often eerily quiet as you work your way along the path, noticing how thin the stone is in certain places and seeing small arches here, there, and everywhere.
The end of the trail is something you’ve driven by a couple of times already but is a marvel up close; the Courthouse (#4 on today’s itinerary). If you decided not to take the hike, make sure to stop by the Courthouse on the way to Park Avenue.
BONUS – 5 Potash Road Dinosaur Tracks and Petroglyphs • .2 miles • 100 feet • Moderate
When you are heading back to Moab, take a detour onto 279/Potash Road for something that is truly unique. Once you are along the Colorado River you’ll find multiple pullovers with thousands of gorgeous petroglyphs.
These petroglyphs range from 700-1300 years old and are everywhere from a few feet off the ground to fifty feet up the cliff side. If you want to get closer BE CAREFUL CROSSING THE ROAD. Many of the drivers are also gawking at the petroglyphs and are not paying attention to those crossing the road.
Towards the end of the petroglyphs is a trail where you can see a large collection of dinosaur tracks (and more petroglyphs). The trail is short and steep, but the footprints are worth the effort.
If you struggle to find the footprints on your own there is a sign that shows you where to look. Something to note is, because of the color palate of the rock and the prints, the dinosaur tracks are easier to see in person than they are to photograph.
5 BEST PLACES TO STAY IN ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
Since Moab relies on the tourist industry, there are a bevy of choices to choose from, depending on your budget.
Moab is a camper’s dream, so we’ll put most our focus there. A couple of the highlights are:
Camping in Arches
1. Devil’s Garden Campground
It is a tough one to get, but if you can manage it, having your campground in Arches is the dream. The scenery is to die for.
Plus, you are going to beat the rush into the park every day. Do keep in mind that Devils Garden Campground is on the far side of Arches, so you’ll need to plan ahead for having the proper supplies as heading into town will take you 45 minutes.
You can see more information and book your spot on the National Park Service website.
2. The Colorado River Campgrounds
This isn’t just one, but multiple campgrounds that dot the Colorado river.
Granstaff Campground, Hal Canyon Campground, Oak Grove Campground, Goose Island Campground, and Big Bend Campground are gorgeous sites nestled right up to the river.
Much like Devil’s Garden Campground, the supply/demand means these are all tough to get, especially as many are walk-in only, but if you can grab one they will make for a memorable stay. See here on how to book.
3. Salt Flats Recreation Area
If the previous campgrounds are filled, with 140 spot Salt Flats Recreation Area is your best bet to find a place to camp. The benefit of Salt Flats is that the spaces are more spread out, it is at a higher elevation, and it is a bit out of town.
That means, if you take one of the sites further away from the entry booth, you’ll get a great view of the mountains during the day and the low light pollution means spectacular stargazing at night. You can book them here.
Other Accommodation & Hotels near Arches National Park
There are lots of great places to stay near Arches National Park if you don’t want to pitch a tent. Here are a few of our favorites:
4. Under Canvas Moab
If bringing the tent and all the necessary supplies isn’t your thing, you can still enjoy the camping/hotel experience by glamping in Moab with Under Canvas Moab.
These ‘tents’ come complete with en suite bathrooms and are decked out with all the amenities of a hotel, while still giving you the feel of the outdoors.
Book your stay here.
5. Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton or Springhill Suites by Marriott
If you’re going for a full on hotel, both of these have that mix of price, quality, and location. Each also boasts a robust outdoor area with pools and patios where you can relax after a long day’s hike.
Book your stay here.
BEST PLACES TO EAT NEAR ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
1. The Trailhead
Located right on Main St., The Trailhead provides you a place to kick back, enjoy brewery food with a flair.
A couple of fun twists you’ll see on the menu are pork green chili poutine, cheese curds with sriracha Utah sauce, and Bavarian cream filled churros.
2. Spitfire Smokehouse
If you think there is nothing better after burning up calories than a huge plate of BBQ, then Spitfire Smokehouse is the place for you.
Gorge yourself on massive pulled pork sandwiches with sauces from the region of your choice (Carolina Vinegar, Alabama White, Texas Hot, and Mustard BBQ) or go wild and choose them all!
3. Antica Forma
You can never go wrong with Italian and Antica Forma is the best in town.
Their wood fired Neapolitan pizzas are personal size, which is perfect for the family where each person wants to have something different. When pizza isn’t your thing, they also have a pasta menu for you to carb up on.
4. Sultan Mediterranean Grill
If you’re tired of the standard American fare, this low key place will hit the spot.
Not only does Sultan’s have the well known items like hummus, shawarma, and gyros, they also boast a nice collection of specialties such as stuffed eggplant, shakshuka, manakish, and za’atar bread.
A breakfast and lunch place, Doughbird delivers a delightful variety of donuts (strawberry cheesecake or rocky road fritter anyone?) and coffee options to get your day started.
Come a little later and nosh on a hearty hot fried chicken sandwich (with 5 levels ranging from ‘no heat’ to ‘melt your cluckin face off’) with waffle fries.
**Remember to check that the restaurant you are interested in is open. The days and times of many restaurants in Moab change based on the season.
READY FOR MORE ADVENTURES OR A LONGER ROAD TRIP?
If you enjoyed Arches and have a few more days available on your vacation, Utah has a myriad of spectacular parks with bucket list adventures you can add to your itinerary.
Here are five quick recommendations: Canyonlands National Park is less than an hour away from Moab and is a natural choice for an add on day or two. For further outdoor adventures consider heading on to Zion National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Dead Horse Point State Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.
Author: Nathan Kimbrough is passionate about Utah’s National Parks and loves to explore, hike and camp Utah.