Are you planning on hiking Arches National Park? This hiking guide will walk you through where to find food, what trails to hike, and how to avoid crowds.
In the heart of Utah, there’s a stretch of land that is otherworldly– a rocky expanse that seems to be plucked from an alien planet and dropped where it does not belong.
Arches National Park is filled with massive, towering rocks inside a bright red desert. Over the past few years, the husband and I have visited this park twice, and (because it’s the husband’s favorite park), I’m sure we’ll be back.
Will you be hiking Arches National Park? Here are a few things I learned from our visits.
Food at (and Near) Arches National Park
Inside the Park
There is nowhere to buy food inside Arches. No grocery store, no cafe. I don’t even remember seeing a vending machine.
You will need food for fuel on your hikes. Plan on packing your food— bring trail mix, peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, dried fruit– whatever your favorite trail food is. We kept a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a bottle of honey in the car, and then added bags of trail mix to our daypacks.
Nearby in Moab, Utah
Moab also has a lot of food options– grocery stores, fast food chains, and cute, independently owned restaurants.
Want to try campground cooking? Check out these Camping Recipes for a Happy Glamper for cooking tips and recipe ideas.
How Much Water Should I Bring when Hiking Arches National Park?
A lot– especially if it’s a hot day.
The first time we visited Arches, it was during a heat wave, and the Park Service was recommending that everyone have at least 2 liters of water per person on hand for the longer trails.
There are free water bottle refilling stations outside the Visitor’s Center. Once you drive past the Visitor’s Center, there is no water available in the park. Bring water bottles, and fill them up on your way in.
Is Arches Overcrowded?
Yes. I’m sure it depends on when you visit, but both times we visited– the park was PACKED.
However, we learned from our first trip, and even though the park was actually MORE crowded on our second visit, we were able to avoid most of the crowds.
Tip 1: Go Early and Go Late
Each time we visited, we started our hikes before dawn, and ended hiking around 10am. Then, we left the park, got some lunch in Moab, relaxed, and drove back into the park around 3pm or 4pm, and stayed until dusk.
We still had plenty of time to hike, and avoided the bulk of the crowds.
Tip 2: Take the Trail Less Traveled
Arches has lots of sites to see near the road, such as Balanced Rock, Double Arch, and the North and South Windows.
These arches or rock formations are near the parking lots, with very short trails. These spots can be jam-packed with people during peak hours— and can get so crowded that you’ll spend your time hunting for a parking spot instead of hiking.
I like to visit these spots in the evening, when most people leave to go eat dinner.
But Arches also has other trails– longer trails with fewer hikers, such as the Devil’s Garden Primitive Trail, Tower Arch, and Park Ranger-guided tours of the Fiery Furnace. (Keep in mind that these strenuous trails are longer and more difficult than most of the other trails in the park, so be prepared with water and snacks.)
Want to see all of the trails? Click here to view a trail list for Arches.
Tip 3: Hike to Delicate Arch at Sunrise
Delicate Arch is the poster child of Arches National Park. It’s the “hike you can’t miss,” and quite honestly– it was the most strikingly beautiful place in the park.
And it seems like every single park visitor wants to come see it. And that means– crowds.
The first time we visited Arches, we started hiking to Delicate Arch at 8am– early, but not early enough. By the time we rounded the final corner of the trail, and were confronted with the massive arch– it was overflowing with people.
As someone who is nervous with heights, and doesn’t love crowds, this just wasn’t the experience I was hoping for. We stayed for a few minutes, and then turned around and hiked back down.
The second time, we started our hike at 4:30am. Yup– 4:30. And you know what? We were NOT ALONE.
We wound our way up the steep rocks, and up, up, up until we rounded the final corner to the arch– and we found ourselves sharing the view with a just handful of quiet, friendly hikers. We watched the sun rise, felt overwhelmed by nature, and sat in silent awe.
Later, more hikers slowly trickled in, and we turned to leave. I highly recommend watching the sunrise at Delicate Arch.
Do I Need Hiking Boots at Arches?
If you’ll be doing any of the longer hiking trails, I recommend either hiking boots or shoes with very good grip. Keep in mind that you’ll be walking on tilted sandstone rock, and your hike will go much more smoothly if your shoes grip to the rock.
I’m Afraid of Heights. Should I Plan on Hiking Arches National Park?
The trail list clearly marks which trails have “exposure to heights,” so if you’re very concerned, you can get a better idea about what you’re getting into. Personally, I’ve found that hiking with a trekking pole provided a little extra stability, and made me more comfortable on the trails at Arches.
Where Can I Camp at Arches?
There is one campground inside the park, and there are lots of campgrounds nearby in Moab. Hotels in the area are exceptionally expensive.
Planning on camping inside the park? Click here to learn more.
What Is there to Do Nearby?
Canyonlands National Park is about 30 minutes from Arches. The majority of the trails at Canyonlands are for off-roading ATVs or rock climbers, but there are also several short day hike options.
You can also check out Dead Horse Point State Park and hikes around Moab.
Hiking Arches National Park
Arches is one of the most unusual places I’ve been to, and the day hiking options are spectacular. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
- On holiday weekends, lines to enter the park can be hours (yes, hours) long. If you have to visit on a busy weekend, take my advice to go early and go late even more seriously.
- In the summer, the desert heat can be dangerous. If possible, visit in spring and fall.
Have you visited Arches? Let me know what your favorite trail was in the comments!
Want more hiking ideas? Check out this trail guide: Hiking the Grand Canyon: Food, Training, + the Best Trails