Delicate Arch Hike (Easily The Best Hike in Arches Nat Park)

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch at Arches National Park, Utah

Delicate Arch Hike is the flagship hike of Arches National Park. It is the most popular hike in the park and Delicate Arch is the largest free standing arch in the entire park.

This 3.2 mile out and back trail was my favorite hike in Arches and the others didn’t even come close. If you do one hike in the park, make it this one!

That hike is a little longer (5.1 km or 3.2 miles), but it is 100 percent with the extra effort it takes to get to.

Delicate Arch Hike Info:

  • Length: 3.2 miles (5.1 km) roundtrip
  • Elevation gain: 538 ft (164 m) all on the way up
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Trailhead: Delicate Arch Trailhead google maps link (30-35 minute drive from the visitors center)
  • Facilities: Bathrooms at the trailhead
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Kid Friendly: I think this trail is totally doable with children.

Delicate Arch Trailhead and Parking

I arrived around 8 am in November and there were plenty of spaces still available. When I finished the hike around 11am there were still a lot of spaces free. Im sure during peak season (Spring) it is very hard to get parking here so I would get here early.

There are bathrooms available at the trailhead. It is a 30 to 35 minute drive from the visitors center to the trailhead.

Delicate Arch Hike – What to Expect

There’s a reason this one, out of the 2,000+ arches in Arches National Park, this one is on the Utah license plate.

Make sure to take plenty of water, especially in the summer when the heat is nearly unbearable at midday. The number one cause of death at Arches Nat Park is the heat. Don’t underestimate it. Especially since there is not really any shade on this trail.

The trail is marked by cairns. but it would be pretty hard to lose your way since you most likely won’t have this trail all to yourself. If you go at night or before sunrise make sure to bring a head lamp.

Beginning of the hike

The beginning of the hike is pretty easy. The terrain is mostly smooth and easy to walk on. There is a slight incline but nothing difficult.

Middle of the Hike – The most difficult part

This is where the hike begins to get difficult.

The trail might not look super steep based off the photos below, but I had to stop so many times to catch my breath during this section of the hike, and I wasn’t the only one. It is so deceiving! Once you get past this massive rock features in the photos below the rest of the hike gets easier.

End of the hike

The end of the hike leading up to Delicate Arch is not that difficult, but, it does get very narrow and there is a drop off. If you are afraid of heights this section might be difficult for you. But it’s nothing terrible. I am afraid of heights and I wasn’t fazed.

I would just be very careful if you bring your kids.

This part of the trail can get really crowded since there is not enough room for two people to pass each other going opposite directions.

The day I did it it was actually a little bit of a zoo towards the top. I had to keep stepping off to the side to let others coming from the opposite direction pass and vice versa.

Reaching Delicate Arch

Once you arrive at the top you will be amazed at how beautiful and massive the arch is in person. The Arch is a whopping 46 ft tall (14 m) and 32 ft (10 m) wide.

I loved that you are able to walk around and explore freely at the top.

Photos by the Arch

In order to take photos with the Arch you will most likely have to wait in line for your turn.

I passed on getting a photo by the arch, mainly because I was alone and setting up the tripod seemed like more trouble than I had energy for. But also, it was FREEZING. I did this hike in November and you get so sweaty hiking up and then at the top you get so cold. It was windy and cold at the top. Keep that in mind and I recommend wearing layers and hiking boots for this one.

I have never hiked this one in the summer but I would imagine the heat is nearly unbearable. Make sure to bring more water than you think you need. Also a hat to provide some shade and sun protection.

The Terrain

The trail terrain is mostly sand, dirt and rock. Nothing too technical or difficult. The sand during parts will be like walking on the beach which can make the trail a little harder. But this section only lasts for a short period. It’s hardly worth mentioning.

I do recommend hiking boots or tennis shoes for this hike. Hiking sandals would be fine as well.

Delicate Arch – Taken on my Contax T3 film camera

The Crowds

Delicate Arch Hike is the most popular hike in Arches National Park. It most likely will be crowded no matter when you go or how early you get there.

I did this hike in November at 8 am and while I wouldn’t say it was super crowded yet, I was far from the first one there.

I would avoid doing this hike mid day if you can avoid it. I can’t even imagine how busy it gets during peak times.

Tip for avoiding the crowds

Arches Nat Park has the least amount of visitors in January and the most visitors in May. Hope that helps! If you have any additional tips for avoiding the crowds leave them in the comments below.

I spoke to a park ranger while there and he told me that Moab is a complete ghost town after Christmas.

Is Delicate Arch a Good Sunset Spot?

Yes! It won’t be as hot and the colors of the sky can be incredible during this time.

Things to know about Arches Nat Park before going

I had no idea how busy Arches Nat Park was before I went. Arches is one of the busiest parks in all of Utah. So busy that recently they have implemented a reservation system in order to get into the park in the summer and early fall. 

I had no idea about this before going but luckily I missed the cut off by a week. October 31st is the cut off for the off season. More on that below. 

Reservations Required!

If you are planning to visit Arches between the months of April and October a reservation will be required to enter the park. You will need a Timed Entry Ticket from from One ticket per vehicle will be required.

Cost of park entry

It costs $30 per vehicle to enter the park. If you walk into the park it is $15. I don’t recommend this unless you are training for a marathon. The park is huge and requires a lot of driving. 

There are some holidays where they do not require a fee to enter the park. Check here for details.

No dogs allowed. It’s a kid friendly but not a dog friendly park.

Conclusion: Is Delicate Arch Trail worth the hype?

In my opinion, it was definitely worth the hype it receives and the extra effort it will take to get there. What are your thoughts? For those that hiked it, do you think it lives up to the hype?

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