We’ve never visited Arches National Park and thankfully after moving to Colorado it’s now only about a 5 hr drive from us here in the Boulder area. Late April is a perfect time to visit Arches & Canyonlands just outside Moab before it gets too damned hot in May.
Arches is beautiful but compared to other Western US national parks it’s quite small in terms of area. However, that small area is packed with beautiful scenery. We decided to tackle the most scenic long distance hike in the park, Devil’s Garden. Be warned in the spring time this park is busy and there are long waits at the entrance to the park and the parking lot for this hike can fill up early in the day. We chose an afternoon start after people were returning from their early morning hikes and were able to find a parking place without any hassle.
This is an excellent hike and you are able to get an up close view of many natural arches. Right off the bat you encounter a small spur trail to reach Tunnel and Pine Tree Arch on your right. Shortly after this spur trail you encounter a trail and we went right for a counter clockwise loop. This section of the hike is fairly exposed and can be very hot under the sun but given the late afternoon start we were able to find shade in many sections. It’s a fairly gradual climb on slickrock with the occassional dry wash crossing. There are great views to the east of several interesting rock formations.
To see all the arches requires taking many spur trails on this hike. After roughly 3 miles we took the spur to Private Arch which was difficult to find as some of these spur trails aren’t well marked. I’d recommend bringing a GPS or smartphone app to help find your way on this hike. It’s a bit of a scramble up the slick rock but eventually you reach the small span called Private Arch.
Next up my favorite arch of this hike Double “O” Arch. This is such a cool spot to take a break and enjoy the natural beauty. It’s worth the time to explore the beauty of Double O Arch from both sides. A short sunny detour will take you out to Dark Angle a large dark solitary monolithic rock. Despite the high temps it’s a worthwhile detour.
The journey back to the parking lot is quite fun as there are a few exposed sections riding the ridge of some ‘fin’ like rocks. Just before the big daddy of arches, Landscape Arch, don’t miss a short spur trail to Navajo and Partition Arch. After the quick detour it’s back on the trail and very quickly you reach Landscape Arch one of the longest natural stone arches in the world over 300 feet. Sadly the late afternoon shadows somewhat spoiled our pictures. We were rewarded with some nice landscape views near sunset time, however. If you’re looking to capture the beauty of Landscape Arch plan to get here early to shoot it. From here retrace your steps to the parking lot.
If you’re planning to do just one hike in Arches National Park make it Devil’s Garden where you can enjoy 7 arches along with a stunning desert landscape.
Distance: 8.43 miles
Elevation Gain: 1263 feet