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When we planned our road trip throughout the Southwest and up through Utah, I knew we had to stop at Arches National Park near Moab. I’d read blog posts and seen wonderful pictures, especially of Delicate Arch, that most famous of arches that is even pictured on the Utah license plate. As the planning progressed, we decided we needed three nights in Moab to experience all the things the area had to offer, including Canyonlands National Park. We made a cabin in the KOA campground our home base for our adventures in Moab. To read more about our stay at the campground, click here.
In the end, we came nowhere near experiencing all the great things in the area, and (spoiler) we failed to make the trek to Delicate Arch. If you’d like to learn some things about our experiences, get comfortable. I’ll share with you what went right and what went wrong.
All in the Timing
We made this trip in July. I don’t have to tell you it was hot, but I feel like saying it. It was HOT. Like my skin is on fire HOT. So, we made our plans like we do for a Disney trip in Florida. We explore in the morning, return to the room around noon, and then we head out again in the late afternoon. We decided to do Canyonlands in the mornings and Arches in the evenings, and I think we made a good choice. The sunset looks stunning from Arches.
We arrived at Arches National park at around 7:00 p.m. This was our first mistake. We should have shown up at least an hour earlier. Still, we pressed forward. Here is a look back at the visitor center as you make your ascent up into Arches National Park.
Here is the road upwards.
The Windows of Arches National Park
When we first started exploring on the first evening, the sun wasn’t quite going down as you can see from this picture of Balance Rock.
The sun was still pretty high when we explored the Windows, too. The Windows is an excellent area for family hiking that isn’t too strenuous yet has amazing rewards.
The Windows Arch Trail is completely worth it.
I could post pictures of the North Window Arch all day.
We had fun taking in all perspectives.
There are actually four arches on this trail. Below is a picture of Turret Arch.
It’s hard to describe the feelings I felt as we hiked in this area. The beauty is so majestic. It was like a spiritual experience to explore the area. So amazing.
Fiery Furnace Viewpoint Overlook
There is a ranger-led tour that goes into the Fiery Furnace area, but you can check out the area from the overlook. This viewpoint is not too far off the main road and it’s easy to access. This place was a favorite for our family.
The Second Evening at Arches National Park: Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers
Before I go into our Delicate Arch fail, I’d love to show you some pictures from the sunset of the second evening. The timeline is a little jumbled up in my story, but it will make sense in the end.
If you can catch the sunset from the Park Avenue Viewpoint in the Courthouse Towers area, you’re in for a gorgeous treat.
It’s simply a breathtaking experience.
The pictures don’t do it justice. Here is a formation known as Three Sheep.
I love how the sunset paints the La Sal Mountains red in the background of this one.
Here’s a closer shot of the La Sal Mountains.
This is a fun shot. You can see the Courthouse Towers area in the background.
Our Delicate Arch Fail
You know how you read about how long a trail is and you kind of skim over how long it should take? Am I the only one? So, Delicate Arch Trail is only 1.3 miles one-way. Easy-peasy, right? We should be able to knock that out at sunset. The problem was, my mind skimmed over the part in the description that said it was moderate to strenuous, and you should allow three hours to complete the hike. Oh, and a lot of it is uphill. And that makes sense when you see pictures of it. But in my mind I’m thinking–we got this.
On our first evening, I was ready to do this. We filled up our Hydro Flasks and I put flashlights and a blanket in the backpack.
I also kind of thought we might stay up there to stargaze. My husband, ten-year-old, and I set out. We passed the Wolfe Ranch, but we didn’t stop due to time. We also passed the Ute petroglyph trail, but again, we kept moving. We had one goal on our minds–Delicate Arch.
The first part of the trail isn’t bad. It’s mostly a gravel trail. The hard part is when the trail really starts to head upward. It gets vertical fast, and the trail becomes solid rock. The sun also continued to descend, and before long, we were hiking in this environment.
At this point, I’m realizing that my picture of Delicate Arch is going to be a silhouette, if I can see it at all. I was determined to finish the trail. After all, I’m not a quitter. Eventually, though, my husband and daughter talked me into letting this one go. We still had quite a bit of trail ahead of us, and it was straight up. I reluctantly headed back to the car.
By this time, it’s pitch black. The only light is our flashlights. There are some parts of the trail where you could accidentally get off track, so be careful in the dark. We drank all our water, and we were pretty sweaty when we got back.
After the Delicate Arch Fail
The next thing we did was find a secluded spot for stargazing. This was AMAZING! Be sure to make time for this. If you can find a place away from traffic, that is ideal so car lights won’t pollute your view. We found a great place where no one else was. We laid out our blanket and laid on our backs, looking upward. I’m not a photographer, so I don’t have the amazing star pictures, but I will never forget it. We saw more stars than I’d ever seen in my life, and we saw multiple shooting stars and made wishes on every one.
I’ll also throw this out there–if you can get a camping spot at Canyonlands National Park, especially for Island in the Sky, you could have a whole night of this. Dead Horse State Park is also nearby, and they have yurts to reserve if you don’t have a tent or a camper. I hope to camp in this area when we return.
The next evening, we decided to check out Delicate Arch from the observation point. That’s right. You can see Delicate Arch from a distance without making the trek. Yes, the trek is ideal, but my daughter really didn’t want to try the trail again. I can’t blame her, really.
If you have a bigger lens, you can get a decent shot of Delicate Arch from the observation point.
Getting to the observation point is not a difficult walk at all. My family was glad to do this one.
I would love to go back to this area. Arches National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list if you love the majesty of nature. If you can only do one park while in the area, I would do this one. Even though our hike to Delicate Arch was a fail, Arches National Park remains one of my favorite experiences in my life.
Read about our other experiences in the area: